Elegy for Zoe

Random pic from a walk last week.
Zoe on a walk last week.

Zoe was discovered at Charlie Trotter’s. She was two and a half, and on display out front at a PAWS adoption event. “She was just watching everyone walk by,” Ruth says tonight, at the emergency vet. Ruth imitates Zoe’s confident tilt of the head. “She was so much furrier than I’d imagined.”

The emergency vet asks if Zoe has ever been here before. “Just once,” Ruth says, “twelve or thirteen years ago.” It’s hard to explain, because the vet is worried about Zoe now, suddenly weak and listless, unable to walk. Can she know how unusual that is for this particular fifteen year-old? Just yesterday she was bounding up the stairs, so inexplicably excited about every next thing she was about to do—get a treat, eat a tennis ball, walk through a doorway.

That first trip here was after one of Elaine’s first walks to the park with Zoe. She was still getting used to this bundle of energy whose name they’d changed from Daisy. The newly named Zoe bounded into the street and a car hit her. The car kept going. Zoe kept going too. Elaine walked her home, in fact, but then the sisters put her in the car and took her to the vet. “She had a little tear on one ear,” Ruth recalled. “Other than that she was fine.”

That would have been around the time Django and I met Elaine, the Katherine Hepburn of Horner Park, with her unruly dog who was so silky and beautiful and always running across the park to eat garbage. Zoe is still silky smooth, and we stroke her head as she lays on the gurney. She has a tumor on her spleen, the vet explains, and it has ruptured. “I think it’s time for you to let her go,” she says.

After the decision is made, the doctor leaves to prepare the injections. Ruth is quiet. Her family and friends try to make sense of this. We try to get Ruth to sit down, to drink some water, but she continues to stand, slight and strong in the middle of the small examination room.

A tech comes in and gently asks if Ruth would like to use the cremation service that the hospital usually works with. “Can you speak louder,” Ruth asks, “I’m hard of hearing.”

“Would you like Zoe to be cremated?” I can’t believe they’re already asking this.

“Yes,” Ruth says.

“And would you like a plaster cast of her paw?”

“A what?”

“We can do a plaster paw print.” I want to explain it in louder terms for Ruth but I can’t quite figure out what he means. Like one of those clay things we used to make of our hands in kindergarten? Would he do it while Zoe is still alive, and would that feel weird to her, sticking her paw in some clay? Or would they do it after, and what would that mean, emotionally?

“No, no,” says Ruth, shaking her head. “How ghoulish.”

We all laugh uncontrollably for too long.

The vet comes back, with two injections. She explains how the first one will relax Zoe, and then the second one will be very quick. “Yes, I know,” says Ruth. “I’ve done this before.” With Jenny, I remember, the dog they had before I met them, the perfect dog whom Zoe can thank for having landed her in their wonderful home.

Jenny probably set them up to think their next dog would also be perfect in time, would stop galloping through life with the energy and curiosity of a puppy, would become a proper adult dog suitable for two elderly ladies, and then for one of them after Katherine Hepburn passed. But if Zoe had aged appropriately, we would not all be there. Dave and I never would have met Ruth, who has become one of our finest friends. Django would not pull to go into Ruth’s gangway on our way to the park. I would not have learned how to throw the ball for Django, throw one treat into Zoe’s mouth, and then have two more treats ready when Django returned, one for her and the other for Zoe, who had completely forgotten she’d just had one a second ago.

Sometimes we’d let Zoe chase the ball too, which never resulted in fights over the ball because Zoe had learned that all she had to do was run in its general direction, dip her head slightly, and then run back and sit, and the treat would appear.

The vet does the first injection, and then the second. Zoe’s eyes close, and she goes quiet. “She’s passed,” says the vet, and then leans over to Ruth. “I’m very sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you,” says Ruth. She gathers her purse and the folder of paperwork. It’s less than two hours since she called, “I’m sorry to bother you, dear, but Zoe is on the back porch and she can’t seem to move.” Fifteen years and eight months is the age on the paperwork. From Charlie Trotters to a beautiful home to a ride in a Lexus to the emergency vet to a couple of shots and many tears. So sudden. So long. Good dog.

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7 thoughts on “Elegy for Zoe”

  1. It’s a terrible thing that dogs have evolved to be man’s best friend, but haven’t evolved to have life spans that match ours. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could go through life with one dog at our side from childhood to old age….but, then, would we even need other people?

    I wish I had met Zoe.

    1. Ha. I do wonder about that. But geez, by the time they’re fifty, I’d be thinking, Surely this one should be able to talk by now, or at least drive herself to the store. Right?

  2. I am so sorry to hear this. Reading your blog, the feelings I experienced when I’ve had to do the same washed over me. The emergency vet on belmont is where we lost Venus, too. No matter how old they are, it’s never long enough. Please tell Ruth for us that we will miss Zoe, too. And if you think it would help at all, you can introduce us and we’ll stop by so Izzy and Lulu can visit with her. There’s no way to fill a hole in your heart left by a pet’s passing, but from experience, dogs are pretty good at understanding that pain when people are going through it. And I’m sure the girls would be happy to oblige with some four-legged affection.

    1. Sweet, delicate Venus. And thank you, I will tell Ruth. She will appreciate that. She said something this morning when I asked how she was doing: “It will get worse, and then it will get better.”

  3. what a beautiful tribute to a loved furry friend. i’m so sorry. they are never here long enough…but they sure make life good while they are.

  4. In his latest encyclical (reported by the NY Daily News this week), the current Holy Father assures us that animals do have souls, and that they are all (at least the ones who have any contact with humans) going to heaven. Which is like the best thing the Catholics have done in 30 years.

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