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
Yes, he had his own chair
This nap taken by a professional. Do not try this at home