Zeus was a black lab, adopted as a pup as part of a litter left at the animal shelter. He was 11 years old when I met him; it was my first date with his mom. Zeus was a great chaperone on our picnic at the park. He didn’t really form his impression on me until a few more dates, then he issued his approval.
I might have fallen in love with him before I did with his mom; it was close. We’ll say it was a tie.
Zeus was a gentle, loving dog, who only barked when someone came to the door. A sweeter dog never lived. He lived with several cats in his life and accepted them all; they loved him. He always deferred to them at the water bowl, and tolerated them constantly loving on him. I doubt he ever knew he was a large dog, certainly not by his personality.
Zeus was a senior dog by the time our lives crossed. He was white in the face and took life at a leisurely pace, two things we had in common. He walked with a sashay movement of his back legs, somewhat like how comedians imitate John Wayne walking. Zeus had both legs rebuilt after torn tendons. His mom said he never cried or complained when his legs were injured. Zeus had numerous hospital stays in the past two years and every vet and technician said he was a great patient and the sweetest boy. That’s how he was, always.
We all love our pets and consider them the best pet ever. Zeus wasn’t my dog, but he was a big part of my life. I cared for him as if I was his dad, and I have shed many tears over him.
Zeus passed away a few days ago, he had terminal liver cancer. We hoped that a recent surgery to remove his spleen had bought him a few good months, but that wasn’t the case. His family surrounded him with love as he crossed the rainbow bridge.
He was just a dog, right? Nope. He was a cornerstone of the family, a part of every major event and a constant companion for his mom, brother and sister. Zeus went everywhere with them, including annual trips to Colorado, his favorite place. We were planning on taking him there next month, hoping his health held that long.
Zeus was the first dog I ever loved. He filled a hole I didn’t even know that I had. He was my best friend. I told him everything, and he listened contentedly. He looked at me like he understood and the advice he occasionally gave me was always spot-on. Mostly, he modeled life.
During the last year, I walked him daily, sometimes several times a day. Until he got sick, Zeus would met me at the door, that smile on his face and wagging his tail. He was always excited for his walk. When we returned to the house, he then wanted to go out to the backyard so he could lay in the sun and look over his kingdom. He wouldn’t go out unless I came with him.
Newly retired, I planned my day around coming over to walk and spend time with him. He was that structure that I needed, but didn’t know it. When I walked him on his leash, he thought it was to keep him close to me, but it was to keep me tethered. Either on our walks or laying about enjoying nature, Zeusy and I bonded and we developed a deep trust.
I only went on one trip with Zeus, but he was a great traveler. Zeus sat quietly in the backseat of the car during our drives. Of course he wanted the window down whenever possible, so his head was always sticking out in the wind. Traveling, Zeus was well-behaved and never anxious or demanding. He was a better traveling companion than I am.
Zeus taught me patience, something I needed to improve. He showed unconditional love, once he trusted me. In the last months of his life, I took him to some of his vet visits and saw how anxious he was when we arrived. I did my best to comfort him; he looked at me with those sad eyes, wanting me to take away his fear. I hugged him and said I loved him.
The last day of his life, we spent the entire day together. The sadness wells up as I think about that day. On the floor, I spent most of the time stroking and talking to him. My stomach was on fire, the emotion burning a hole right through me. I’ve sat with people as they’ve taken their last breath, holding a hand, talking to them as they departed this world. Zeus looked at me with loving eyes as I loved him in his last hours. I told him that I loved him and thanked him for all he had given me, but he had one last gift for me: look after his people.
Not to worry Zeus, I got this one. ❤️
3 thoughts on “Life With Zeusy: The Dog That Taught Me About My Life”
They do become the cornerstone of our lives, just as children do. My wife and I had our Winnie for almost 15 years, from a 6 week old puppy. French Bulldogs aren’t supposed to live that long, but our love and caring for her extended her life by years. We miss her everyday, and talk of her the same. You are thankful to have shared your time with Zeus, and I’m sure he felt the same. If the Bible is right, we will reunite with our loved ones in heaven, human and animal. Good post.
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