Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Our dear, sweet dog, friend and companion died today. Last week a friend of mine from high school died after a painful struggle with cancer. I am so grateful that I just recently read Jill Bolte Taylor's book My Stroke of Insight. She had a talk at the TED conference that was popular on YouTube. She is a neuroanatomist who had a stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. She writes and talks about how it was hard for her to choose to recover her lost brain function because she found that "living" in her right hemisphere - the place where you *know* all is well and you are one with the universe and there is no death for this immense spirit that has just chosen to manifest in a fluid-filled sack for a short time - was so ecstatic. I am deeply sorry that I won't get to be with Andrew or Zoe in their physical forms again, but I am truly glad to know that they are no longer in pain and I take great comfort in knowing that they are having an ecstatic experience as non-physical spirit. They are with us always.

I will start scanning and posting photos of Zoe and sharing stories along with them. I will just post this now so that friends can start sharing their memories of Zoe. I'd love to come here and have a place where Zoe is celebrated and honored. Thank you already - so many of you have offered us so much support and love through my Facebook page and email. It means so much to us.

Zoe was born 10 years ago today. I anxiously anticipated her birth: a friend raised her mom and dad as puppies and her love for them and their puppies was so great I knew I wanted a part of that. D was always a cat person - never had a dog - and brought 2 cats into our relationship, so he had never been interested in having a dog. I had always had dogs growing up and used every day during Zoe's gestation to convince Doug that our family could and *should* include a puppy. I prevailed and we met all of the puppies just a few days after their births. I read everything I could on raising a puppy and my favorite book was "The Art of Raising a Puppy" by the Monks of New Skete. They talked about the importance of "natural disposition" (or something like that) and even provided tests to put your prospective puppies through. At 4 weeks of age when the puppies were really getting around and I could see how different they were - of the six her golden red coloring most resembled her mom's and I was smitten. At just a few weeks old, our friend gave us the "pick of the litter" and we put her first through the tests - rolling her on her back to see if she could be submissive, throwing her a small ball to see if she would go after it, things like that. She didn't do very well, seemingly more interested in nursing than performing, so we went to her other siblings. Some of them did quite well, and then Zoe seemed to take more interest, as if to say, "Oh, this is so important to you? You're really going to use these silly tests to choose who goes home with you? Well, then, bring it!" and she nailed every test. This picture is of us after I put her collar on to identify her as ours. We would bring her home about 8 weeks later so that she could get her fill of mommy milk - but we came to visit her often.

When we got her home it took all my will not to bring her into bed with us – something the monks warned against – and considering the 10 pound puppy grew to be almost 90 pounds, I am glad she never developed that habit. Although, I will say, when we stayed at my parent’s home or went on vacation with her, she was always allowed in bed with us – hey, it was her vacation, too!

We were delighted to find that our next-door neighbors adopted a puppy, Lainey, at the same time as Zoe. They became best friends and delighted us every day with their antics.

Her first snow! How she loved to burrow her nose in the stuff!

In her first Spring a tornado tore through our neighborhood and ripped a 100+ year old oak tree in our backyard out of the ground. Zoe claimed the cavernous hole below the root ball as her own and named it Fort Zoe.

Our gangly pre-adolescent. Never happier than when she had chased after a ball.
Until, that is, she learned to swim. She could never get enough of the water.

She also loved getting "airplane" rides.
Zoe was so full of joy - it was always a celebration when she was in the room.

For years, every May, we'd hike a section of the Appalachian Trail and camp for the weekend. Zoe loved it as much as we did.

Around the campfire.

She'd sleep in the tent with us - and it was a tent barely big enough to sleep two people. D would grumble good-naturedly, "My pillow is kicking me."

Zoe taught me to run. She was always so spirited that we would take her for long walks and she would still be full of energy. The monks recommended something called “road work” where you get the dog to follow behind your car as you drive along for miles. I thought maybe that might work on the quiet country roads where the monks live, but that clearly was not going to work on our busy streets, so I started to run with her. I had never been a runner, but once I started I learned that I loved it. I found beautiful mountain trails for us to run on and we both enjoyed those times – at least 3 times a week - immensely. A friend, learning that I enjoyed running, invited me to join her in a street race. I ended up winning in my age group, learning that I not only loved to run, but that I was very fast, too. You see, Zoe made me fast - she wasn't going to truck with no slow-poke. She always ran twice as far as I did - she'd dash ahead, sniff around and then come back to cheer me on. I know for sure that started me on the path to completing 4 marathons – Zoe by my side for the training of every one. She ran with me in rain, sleet and snow – the uglier the conditions the better, it seemed to Zoe. She loved coming up on water-filled trenches to slosh through the mud. I remember once it was so cold and wet that my eyelashes froze together as I ran and icicles formed on Zoe’s fur. I thought, "This is insane! Why I am doing this!?!", until I looked at Zoe and realized that she was sublimely happy. It was at that moment that I decided to cultivate the “Be Like Zoe” attitude. I learned from her that no matter what the conditions, you can be happy.

I mentioned that Zoe was never allowed on furniture - unless of course we were at Papa's house. I never encouraged it, but I'd come into the family room and there she'd be, by Papa's side.
Zoe loved the ocean. I can't find any of the many pictures we have of her riding waves - the heavier the surf the better. We'd have to hold her in the ocean to give her a break from swimming - there was no getting her out of the water until she was thoroughly exhausted. Here she is looking longingly out at the beach with my nephew who was then about 2. He's 8 now and was always so sweet with her.
Zoe just made every picture more beautiful. Here are the gorgeous rhododendrons at my mom's house and yet she was the star.
She just made everything, every day, better with her presence.

Zoe had so many wonderful puppy friends/brothers. Her closest running buddy was Zak, my parents' dear dog for 13 years. He was with us the day we brought Zoe home and he understandably mistook her for a tasty snack - until she squealed in protest. You would think she would have kept her distance after that, but they were inseparable. There is a tree on my parents' property that is the Zak and Zoe Tree - they would run around it, chasing each other endlessly. My mom says she has a picture of them playing there and will put it up as soon as I get it. After Zak passed away my parent's got a new puppy, Xano, and we were thrilled that she also taught him the tree game.
My dear friend's dog, Skyler, stayed with us while she was on her honeymoon. Skyler was a bit old and arthritic and we only had one dog bed and otherwise hard floors. Zoe didn't always love to share, but she seemed happy to in this case. Sky would lay down first and then Zoe would "spoon" him.

Two things Zoe was not at all likely to share were her favorite chew toys: Monkey Boy and Monkey Boy, Jr. She was happiest when she had them both by her side.
So, as you can tell, she was a bit of a treasured only-child, always reveling in her center-stage status. Then came the belly.
And then the baby. Zoe was the one who first knew I was in labor. The night before I gave birth she would *not* leave my side. When I went to the bathroom I thought it was a bit much - like, "I'd like some privacy, please!" I hadn't had one contraction and I was 2 weeks before my due date, but I realized then - because of Zoe's heightened alertness and protectiveness - that it was time. I labored at home and when Zoe tried to climb into the tub with me we decided it would be best if she spent the day at a friend's house. I gave birth at home a few hours later and she was right back with us - and immediately extended her great big love to G from the first moment. As you can see from the next picture, the love wasn't exactly mutual. The picture was taken right after she had given him a very wet kiss. (Can't you just hear Lucy (from Peanut's fame) saying, "Eww, I've just been kissed by a dog! Get the alcohol! Get the iodine!")
G warmed up to her quickly, though, and they became best friends.

For me one of the hardest aspects of losing Zoe is that G won't have the many years with her that D and I had. But in their short time together they had a BIG love. It has been fascinating and heartbreaking to see him cope with her death. The night before she died he said, "I'm worried about Zoe. I love Zoe so much. I don't want Zoe to go. I want to give him a treat." (He doesn't have his personal pronouns quite down yet.)

My parents were with us - they came especially to say goodbye to her - and G asked them to take her with them back to their home and make her all better. He knew she had gotten better when we went to California and she had been with my parents. We knew she wasn't well when we went to CA, but we didn't think she was as sick as she was. A few days after we left my parents were so worried about her that they took her to their vet and tests revealed that she had such severe anemia that she wouldn't survive unless she got a transfusion. They had no blood banked at the animal hospital and so my parents suggested that they use their puppy, Xano, as the donor and his blood was directly transfused into Zoe. This saved her life at the time, but unfortunately, her condition could not be cured.

G came into the room shortly after she died and we told him she was gone. He bent down close to her, looked at her and then at us and said, "She's not gone. She's right here." and then he knocked on the floor and said, "Wake up, Zoe." I told him it was like she had been wearing a costume and she left her costume with us, but her spirit was no longer in the costume. A couple of hours later when we buried her he looked down at her and said, "That's her sad costume. Her happy costume is at Grammy and Papa's." We keep telling him that she left her costume but her spirit is still with us, but this is obviously a tough concept to wrap one's mind around.

My mom was the person Zoe adored the most. And what was not to adore? My mom always showered Zoe with love and affection, and dog treats, and hot dogs...and I could go on and on. A wonderful testament to my mom's love for Zoe is that she spent days after her death doing nothing else but collecting photos for a beautiful scrapbook for D and I and a separate photo album just for G. I've scanned some of the photos from the scrapbook below.

That's Zoe with my mom in the corner. I'm so grateful for that picture because my mom is in so few with Zoe - she was always the one making sure the pictures were being taken, the one behind the camera.

That's Zoe after she's sloshed through one of those mud-filled ravines. And then taking a bath in a stream after.

And here she is with my dad and D. I love that photo of D with Zoe so much. She loved getting those belly rubs!
No one could resist this face.

And this is how I love to remember her. She and I on the trails at Bent Creek. Our little slice of Heaven.


Debby said...

I know Zoe was dearly loved, and Zoe knows this too. Her sweet, open affection was so perfectly matched by her whole family. Thinking of all of you.

Anna, David, Afton and Raelin said...

((((HUGS))))) I just told the girls and we all send our love. I hope you can find the picture of Zoe as a puppy with the dog bed in her mouth. That is the first picture you sent me of your new baby and I can see it so clearly in my mind. She was so full of love and energy. It's hard to even imagine you all without Zoe, she has brought so much to this world. We love you! Anna, Afton and Raelin

AI 2008 said...

Our thoughts are with you and i swear Lainey teared up as much as I did when I told her. What memories should we pick? There are so many to think about -- the slumber parties during the work days that lainey and zoe shared in the small garage apartment -- oh the days -- there was nothing better than seeing those two puppy faces staring out the window as we cam home from a days work... both excited to get outside and play ball! And oh the fun they had chasing each other all over! I also cannot forget the time Zoe was accousted by a man at the arboritum and ran off... we all came out in masses to help find her! Perhaps it was Lainey's whines and bark that brought her back -- but I am pretty sure it was the shaking of the dog food can that really brought her back.. I could go on and on! Much love to you all! Nikki, Leo, Amelia and Lainey!

Gourmet Grrl said...

Zoe was so strong, and practically knocked me over every time I'd come over. She friendly, calm and content. A great dog with a great life. I'm so sorry to hear of her passing, but glad she enjoyed her life with you and your family!

Bobby said...

here is no doubt about it: Zoe could be a pest. Often when I would take her for walks as a puppy, she would immediately run circles around me, effectively tying me up in the leash. There were the many mornings that I would wake up to a wet nose in my face, my socks firmly locked in the jaw beneath it, while the famous Zoe yodel entreated me to retrieve the foot garments that were rightfully mine. Or there were the "pre-washes" Zoe would give the plates and bowls while I tried to load the washing machine. I remember the times when I was walking down a narrow hallway in a hurry, with Zoe walking ahead of me, until she decided to stop and block the passage and look up at me as if to say "Now is a good time for petting?" I think on most of these occasions I could be heard grumbling "Zoe, c'mon!"

Yet I would almost always proceed to give Zoe a pet or a hug, because it was always abundantly clear that any small pestiness came from a place of pure love, warmth and friendship. Zoe was a dog who loved to play in the water, steal some food, but most of all be around her family. For the past ten years, Zoe's intelligence, feistiness, and loyalty have been an important and wonderful part of our family. She will be greatly missed, but also greatly remembered in our hearts.

Today I will be a little saddened by the ease with which I retrieve my socks.

Bobby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
daniel Nevins said...

Oh man, I'm sooo sorry!
I had no idea she was that sick.
She was such a good dog... the very definition of enthusiasm.
Zoe Zoe always wanted to be in on what was happening... no wallflower, she.

She is in Dog Heaven now, where God throws tennis balls all day.

Love ~ Daniel

Gail said...

Hi Stacey, I am so sorry to hear about sweet Zoe. She lived a wonderful life with you and Doug and Griffin. I loved your photo documentary of all her wonderful times in physical form that you posted on your blog. Even in her last days, when it was obvious she was struggling physically, Zoe still seemed joyful just to be around her beloved family.

Having lost quite a few beloved cats, I can identify with your sorrow at losing a family member who truly loved you unconditionally. When you are ready, there are always so many other lovely animals out there ready to receive your love and care. Zoe has made way for another lucky canine or feline or reptile or whatever to enter your life.

I will be thinking of you!

FOO said...

Our dear friend Alisa sent us this letter this week and I wanted to post it here so that it would be included in this lovely memorial to Zoe:

My thoughts are with you all today and in the weeks and months to come. How strange it must feel to have such happy times and such a sad time happen all at once. I believe "pet love" to be the purest form of love there is in this world. My little Mambo is a bright light, even in the darkest of days, so I honestly can't imagine the space left in Zoe's absence. Meg and I both will be thinking of you and wishing you can remember the JOY and that fills up your souls. No one can ever take away how much you LOVE ZOE. Many hugs, loves and kisses and a special thought for your little big man. Alisa and Meg and Mister Mambo :)

Theresa said...

Beautiful pictures! I remember our first visit to your house and seeing her tiny self in the big dog bed in the corner. So cute. She was a wonderful dog and so lucky to have parents that thought of her needs constantly. Our dog must never know that it is a possiblity to be walked every day! :) We will miss Zoe very much.

Randy said...

I had forgotten that pic with Ryan at the Beach, the fact that Zoe got you into running, and those Monks (with their flawless techniques).

And lets not forget the time I tried to race Zoe on the beach and badly pulled my hamstring (a man in late thirties vs. 4 year old lab dog stallion... yeah, the dog won). I suspect I should have waited until she was a little older (or I was a little wiser).

I am so glad I was able to share some time with such a wonderful member of the family...

Aurelio e Wendy said...

I have some very sweet memories of Zoe and I will always link her with happy times in our old neighborhood in West Asheville. I'd be sitting in our living room, reading a book, or outside mowing the lawn, and there Zoe would come, swinging her "hips" and smiling the way dogs do and it was a comfort for me to see her coming down the street, I loved having that continuity and being able to pet her and have a chat with whoever was walking her, whether Doug or Stacey.
I have never had a dog but I know that my cats have given me an understanding of life that only they can give. Their sweet and tender companionship is a precious gift. Thanks Stacey so much for sharing Zoe's life story and blessings on her spirit. Love you, Wendy

Ru said...

What a beautiful testament to your love and Zoe's spirit, Stacey. It has taken me so long to post my entry, because (for some things) an "imperfect hello" just won't do. And tonight is the night when I can seek perfection (or at least a semblance of a thoughtful reply).

I have just returned from a long full-moon-lit romp on the beach with Ginger...just a girl and her dog. My heart soared with her as she frolicked and romped and frolicked some more...and my thoughts turned to Zoe. They tumbled from memories of Zoe and Skyler romping down the trails of Bent Creek (Zoe, the sweet, young thing; Skyler, the sweet arthritic one) to memories of losing Skyler to the joy that I have found in life with Ginger. I marveled at our unending capacity for love and our ability to heal...and I was filled with gratitude to our canine companions who help us tap into our best selves by always being theirs.

Again tonight, Ginger reminded me so much of Sky that they both were right there with me...his energy released years ago traveling at my side once more. She is always with you!!