Believing: Radvent December 25

(If you don’t know what Radvent is, check out Princess Lasertron’s Blog. Also note that I am about a week behind. Natch!)

In her last Radvent blog, PL did a very nice detail of some of her beliefs, and in the meantime talked about her dog, Scout, who had recently passed away– and who she thinks has been visiting her.

It made me think about my childhood dog– who passed away several years ago– and how I think she visited me last year.

This is Zoe (and my brother, Vinnie):

This picture was taken in 2006 at my house in Omaha– and if I’m not mistaken, I belive it was Zoe’s last Christmas.

The neighborhood I grew up in was like a quintessential small-town Nebraska neighborhood, complete with the crazy old lady down the way, the well-to-do fiercely proud Irish family across the street, the spoiled little girl who had all the nice toys, the neighborhood bullies, and the people with tons of kids and tons of pets (that would be us).

Also across the street was a family that tried their hand at breeding huntin’ dogs. And yes, it is pronounced huntin’. Just be happy that I at least included an apostrophe.

I think I was in first grade when they had their first litter, and I remember the day they were born. They looked like oversized peanuts or earth worms, nuzzling their mom. And there were TONS of them– I can’t remember the exact number, but it was a HUGE litter. The family had to take several of the puppies to the vet– I assume to be put down, although no one told us that– and sold the rest.

A few weeks went by, with us begging and begging and begging to get a puppy. We had a dog, Trinket, who may have been the world’s oldest dog by that point. Trinket, by all reports, used to be a great little dog, but all I remember is her being old, blind, and cranky.

After all the puppies had been sold, one of the boys from across the street came over with a tiny honey colored puppy. He explained to my mom that this was the runt of the litter, no one wanted her, and asked if we would take her. We named her Zoe, which means ‘Life!’

Dudes– Zoe was the BEST DOG EVER. She thought she was one of the kids. She wanted to play with us all the time. She let us dress her up, and didn’t act all humiliated. When we were really young, my little sister could ride her around like a pony. When we went sledding, she would chase us down the hill, and then bite our snow pants and drag us around. We would be screaming with happiness that was nearing delirium. 

She was always happy to see us. Whenever we came to the door– whether I was eight, eighteen, or twenty-two, she wagged her tail so hard her butt got to wagging, too. We loved her intensely.

When you grow up with lots of animals, you get used to mortality. We had a graveyard of goldfish in our backyard, and the goldfish were exhumed several times so we could check on the rate of deterioration. We have a small graveyard of cats as well, by my Mom’s chair in the backyard.

So I think it surprised us all by how sad it was when it became clear that it was time to let Zoe pass. I was in college– so she had to be in her mid to late teens. She could barely walk and was having a hard time with solid food. My mom called us to let us know they had decided to put her to sleep, and I cried. My mom fretted about having to tell Vinnie, who was clearly Zoe’s favorite person in the world, and I’m pretty sure that Vinnie cried, too. I came home a few days before their appointment and put my hand on Zoe’s head. She lifted her eyes and looked at me, one eye cloudy and wandering, and gave one wag of her tail. Then she put her head back down on her paws.

In 2008, at least a year after Zoe passed, I was working part time at Scooter’s Coffeehouse. At Scooter’s, one of the things that sets them apart is that they will hand out little doggie treats through the drive thru if the customer has a dog in the car– so we attract a lot of dog people.

One day I was handing out a coffee and nearly had it knocked down my top when a yellow lab LUNGED at me from the passenger seat and happily licked my face. I laughed and put the coffee down, pat the dog’s head and said, “Well you are a friendly dog aren’t you?”

The owner was mortified. “I am so sorry.” She said, “Usually she is NEVER like this– she’s a very well behaved dog normally. Zoe— get down!

I was struck dumb as I handed out the coffee and the doggie treat, as the lab struggled against its owner’s arm and grinned at me in the way that only dogs can. I assured the owner that I am a dog person, myself, and come from a long line of dog people, and that this was no problem.

As she drove away, I thought– That’s my DOG!!!

I know, I know. Probably a total coincidence, probably just one of those things. But even now, years later, thinking about it makes me tear up a little bit. I happened to marry a man who is not particularly an animal lover, so it will probably be a very long time– if ever– before I get to have another dog.

Do you ever think about heaven– or where you’re going, or what it will be like? Whenever a loved one passes from my life, I spend a little time thinking about what I imagine to be the happiest time in their life, and I hope that when they open their eyes in the Next Place, they find themselves in that moment.

Zoe was a total dog-brain. So probably her happiest moment was like, stealing a half-eaten hamburger out of the trash or the time that my Mom let her sit in the front seat of the car, or something like that. But since I don’t know– and it’s my dream sequence anyway– I always like to think that she closed her eyes at the vets office, and opened them on a snowy hill, galloping fast after three laughing children.



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2 responses to “Believing: Radvent December 25

  1. lindsay heard

    This is so moving…..what an amazing experience! Wow! And it’s incredible to hear you recount your memories of Zoe….so touching. I’m not a dog person myself but my family is intrigued with the thought of getting a dog. This helps their case …a little. 🙂

    • WHEN you get a dog, get a BIG dog. They’re only a little more work, and they’re so much better. Little dogs are basically just cats, which is fine, if you like cats. But if you want a dog, get a DOG. 🙂

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