Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Hound Blogging

I write today in praise of friends. Particularly the four legged  kind, which in certain ways are superior to the human version as they never ask to borrow money, or want us to help them move. Oh sure, my human friends seldom throw up on the rug, but all in all I find much to recommend in having canis familiaris as a boon companion.

Which brings me to the subject of this little missive, my friend Zeus. This was a dog who it could be said had a troubled childhood. He came to the marbled halls of IM Central after having been thrown out of two foster homes because, as it was told to us, he had issues.

And issues he did have, with a capital I. Fear aggression mostly, as a result of his time in the care of the benevolent overlords who abandoned him to the streets without so much as a sorry it didn't work out fella, take care.

If you frightened him by doing something threatening, say walking into the room, he would charge you in full bark mode. But here's the odd thing: He would storm right up to you in all his fake fury, then stop and sit quietly at your feet looking up as if to say, "I know this isn't right, but it's all I have right now."

It was obvious there was something going on in that brindle noggin of his, so we set out to see if we could bring the guy back into polite society. My first thought was doggy Prozac, but luckily our Vet was a wise and knowledgeable person. He suggested a training protocol developed by Dr. Karen Overall at the University of Pennsylvania, and so, procedure in hand I set off to be Professor Higgins to Zeus' Eliza.

It was during this training period that we learned how truly smart Zeus was. One of the aspects of the training was simply to learn to walk on a leash properly and sit whenever we stopped. Zeus picked this up almost immediately and of course I assumed it was due to my talents as a trainer. We had a regular route that we used for these sessions and I usually paid strict attention to where we were and what we were doing as the protocol suggested. But one day for some reason or other I was distracted and as we rounded a corner the leash suddenly tightened in my hand. I turned and saw Zeus was sitting. At first I was confused, but then it hit me. On all our training walks I had always stopped in the same places for Zeus to practice his sit. Zeus had learned that and knew it was time to stop and sit here, even though I hadn't been paying attention. He was better at his protocol than I was.

It took two years, but we managed to rid Zeus of almost all of the fears he brought with him from his days with the overlords. He became a greyhound ambassador, went to meet and greets, pet stores, parades, and a host of other activities. He would still occasionally get nervous and I could always tell because he would lean against me a little harder, I would give him a scratch and an encouraging word, then he would be ready to go on.

I like to think he became the dog he should have been despite his troubled start and I'm certain he was thankful to put those days behind him because some times he would just burst spontaneously into what we called happy attacks where he would suddenly, without warning just leap up and bound through the house bouncing off the furniture, or racing up and down the stairs until he ended up, panting on his favorite pillow looking at us as if to say, this is the life!

Well, I could tell you stories like that all day and believe me I'm tempted to, because what I have to tell you now is the last thing I want to write. Last Friday I lost my friend. Surrounded by those who loved him and just a few months shy of his 15th birthday, Zeus passed peacefully away at the MSU Veterinary hospital after a short illness.

There's really nothing more to say, except we miss you, and we'll never forget.

When we still thought he was just a foster. Silly us

Sun worshiper

Yes, he had his own chair

This nap taken by a professional. Do not try this at home


Coco Chanel's Therapy Dog Blog said...

I'm so sorry you lost Zeus. It's clear that you gave him the happy life he deserved. The story you told of him was lovely.

Caryn Wood said...

What a lovely tribute to Zeus. Very sorry for your loss.

James Brush said...

I'm sorry to read about Zeus. It takes a special human to take in the special needs dogs like and help them be the dogs they were meant to be, and I think they know that.

Karyn Zoldan said...

You and Zeus were so fortunate to have found each other. Zeus will live on forever in your heart and to all who ever had the pleasure of meeting him.

CTheil said...

Fred, your courage and commitment in rescuing Zeus from his past is beyond words. Thank you! And thank you for having the strength to tell his story .... RIP Dear Zeus.


greygarious said...

It's so unfair,isn't it,that unbreachable gulf between a dog's lifespan and our own? You did well, getting him near 15. None of mine - six of them so far - has made it to 13, though 2 came close.
It's never easy, no matter the measure.

Ruth Moser Real Estate said...

Wonderful story of Zeus. I lost my beautiful 85 lb. Boy-Boy in March due to hip problems and he could not walk.
He also started with issues. Terrified of everything was the main one. Eventually he became a Therapy Dog and was taken to Adult Homes, Nursing homes and Veterans Retreat.
He never really got over being scared but he loved going and the people loved him. Boy-Boy was ll.

Seth Webster said...

SO sad for your loss. What a beautiful tribute. I thought you'd like that there is a community of folks who understand here:

Hundreds of tribute letters... it's beautiful, like yours.

Zeus was beautiful... It's so hard to lose a companion animal; they're family.

Ruth Moser Real Estate said...

Wonderful story of Zeus. So Sorry for your loss. I lost my great big GH Boy-Boy in March due to hip problems that got so bad he could not walk. Boy-Boy had become a Therapy Dog and loved going to various places where the people loved him. He started out being afraid of everything and also had been in two homes before mine/ours.
A sweet beautiful 85lb love.

MotorCity Begonia said...

Condolences. He was a very fortunate boy to have found a home with you. You were fortunate to have found such a terrific friend, and wise enough to have stuck it out long enough for him to emerge as the dog he really was.

Ironicus Maximus said...

Thanks for your kind words and thoughts, everyone. Much appreciated

REGAP Gail F said...

Sympathies on the passing of Zeus. The only thing harder than losing them, would be to not have ever known them. It's an honor and a privilege to love and be loved by these wonderful beasts.

GreyAdvocateMom said...

I am so sorry for your loss. No words can fill the hole in your heart left by Zeus. You story of how Zeus came in to his own with you was not only heartwarming, but brought back many memories of my Bandit. He was yet another greyhound who was rescued from the overlords and left with "issues". He was also returned by his first adopters. When I met him he was a shadow of what a dog should be. I decided the day I met him that I would show him that the world could be a safe and loving place. Like Zeus, it took years for Bandit to learn to trust humans. He tested us again and again, but I persevered and in the end it was me who learned so much from him. I'm so glad you went the extra mile to help Zeus. As you well know, it takes time and immense patience, but the payoff is tenfold. Greyhounds are amazingly smart and sensitive creatures, despite the cruel world of racing that they are born in to. Zeus was very lucky that he overcame the terrors of his young life, and that he got to spend the best years of his life being loved by you.