Once upon a time our daughter brought home a little bundle of fur that someone offered her on a beach somewhere. After a feeble attempt of trying to explain to her that having 2 larger and older bundles of fur already living with us, it wouldn't make sense, I came to my senses (or maybe lost them) and we called our new treasure Zak.
Let me tell you about this little creature and how he changed my life and my outlook about it.
I should begin by explaining his personality, one that I'd never seen in all the rescues we got ourselves involved in reluctantly or not. More human than all too many people I know, he was a polite guy. That may seem strange to say about a dog but Zak was no ordinary dog. We had our own special language that only he and I shared. And we liked it that way.
Although hated by our large and vicious looking alpha dog, Bandit whose only aim in life at that point was to deal with this "new problem" called Zak by doing him in every chance he got, Zak persevered with kindness. He kept befriending Bandit and licking this towering face about a foot higher than the highest part of himself.
Patches, our other rescue was just a happy go lucky gal who had long before, resigned herself to be second in line to the big, black 4 legged creature. She and Zak had happy times rolling and play fighting all over the house.
One day when I wasn't looking, all the kids grew up and moved out, Bandit and Patches were no more and we suddenly became a family of 3. My husband, I and Zak and the 3 of us decided it was time to travel and see the country we inhabited.
We took off on an adventure that would last us til the end of my beautiful Zak's life. And what an adventure it was.
We began on a beautiful fall day very much like the weather here today. Vermont sounded like a good idea, covered bridges, falling leaves, and green mountains. We planned a picnic and eventually found a perfect spot with a brook. Zak took off like a bat, ran down to the water, took a few steps in and immediately rethought it. Too cold. So he sat down to watch a canoe rolling by with some Vermonters enjoying the day. I was busy spreading out our blanket, our sandwiches and his treats. By this time Zak had visited every available tree and was as happy as a youthful teenager without a care in the world with that huge smile he had from ear to ear. I called him and he turned on a dime and oh so carefully sat down on the blanket making very sure his bottom half only touched the grass and we proceeded to enjoy our goodies. My proper little Zak.
I remember walks with him. He always liked to walk between us. Maybe he felt secure flanked by each of us, he must have because I remember thinking how his tush and tail became more of a swagger like saying "look at me, I'm safe in the care of my best friends and they won't let anything hurt me". And he was right.
Eventually, we sold that big old house and decided to head south, a move we rethought not much later.
But during the time we were there, we made many, many trips back north usually taking scenic routes. And I have to say I could never decide who enjoyed the scenery more, me or my furry friend. I remember a time we were driving at sunset and the scene was spectacular so much so we just pulled over to take it all in. We watched and talked all the while never taking notice of the "occupant" in the back seat doing exactly the same thing, his chin resting on the door with the open window and just staring intently at the same scene. He never even noticed when we turned around to talk about what he was doing and how amazing it all seemed. But that's who he was, my personal treasure.
As the years rolled by and we all began to feel the affects of aging, we began a ritual of gravitating at the end of each day to the den to watch TV and talk about the day's events. Zak would soon follow and since my husband always loved the center of the sofa and I, the big comfy chair, Zak inevitably had to resolve the issue of where did he fit into this picture. He thought about a second or two, stood in front of me, caught my attention and when he was sure our eyes made contact, he'd look at "daddy", looked back at me and looked at the spot at the end of the sofa he wanted to occupy. This of course, caused me to tell my husband to move closer to the end so that Zak had a place and in a flash, he was in that place. That ritual continued for all time.
More years passed and one day I noticed Zak limping and keeping one leg up. We took a ride to the vet and then to the surgeon who told us that he was an older dog who might not survive the surgery but if we wanted to proceed, he'd give it his best shot. Needless to say, he was in surgery the next morning. And after what seemed an eternity of lifting him into the car and upstairs at night over a period of a number of months, Zak was back in all his glory and to our joy for several more years.
As those of us who know and love our wonderful pets, eventually the day comes when you have to make a heart wrenching decision that none of us want to make. Well, that day came very close to what would have been Zak's 13th birthday. The vet said it was time. Zak told me as well with our private language that only he and I shared. He looked at me with his eyes and said help me, my friend.
I remembered seeing a plaque on the surgeon's desk when we had brought him in for that surgery years before that talked about the Rainbow Bridge. I tried to push it out of my thoughts but it kept returning. And so I sat in a room with my best friend, we talked of all our adventures and the happy times we'd enjoyed together and while the vet did what he needed to do, Zak and I held each other tightly until he put his head gently in my lap and it was over.
For those of you that are worthy, I wish you the joy of finding your Zak. I read somewhere that if you're very lucky in this life, you'll meet up with a perfect dog, one that will change your life forever. I was very lucky indeed. Zak taught me more about life than I could possibly have learned had I not had the privilege of knowing him for those wonderful years.
Now I'm left with his ashes and my memories and he lives on in a special place where only those who've impacted my life live, in my heart. And one day he and I will continue our travels together again for all eternity.