This has been a rough week for me. I had to let go of the smallest of our Japanese Chin, Zoe. She was 12 years old, and has been my loyal ranch hand since we moved here. I find myself grieving ridiculously – deeply and intensely. At times I feel a sort of desperation. For most of my life, my coping practice for dealing with hurt and pain has been to stay busy and work myself to the point of pure exhaustion. I generally find my satisfaction with being productive keeps me from dwelling on my heartache and the hard work provides me the comfort of restful nights. But as much as I poured myself into work this week, none of it seemed to phase the depth of sadness I felt with Zoe’s passing.
Thinking back over the last couple of years, I noticed Zoe had slowed down her pace a good bit. She had always been an active girl – playful, loved her toys, and if she got bored she chased her tail and growled at it as if it was some clinging beast attacking her. Her best years began when we moved to the Ten-Acre Ranch, where she seemed to thrive. She was with me every day while I worked outdoors. Even up until a month ago, she laid in the shade while I worked in the gardens, and she rode in the electric buggy with me checking the perimeter fencing of our property and picking up trash. She often passed the time by chasing birds and squirrels. She investigated turtles and barked at anything that moved. But in the last two months, she slept more and chose not to go outdoors with me much. Then two weeks ago, she developed a bad cough so I took her to our veterinarian and she was diagnosed with the beginning stages of congestive heart failure. The veterinarian prescribed blood pressure medication and Lasix to help her. I researched this, and found it to be a common prescription for her condition.
In the days that followed, Zoe slept a lot. She was lethargic to the point where I really had to coax her to get out of her bed. Normally a very hungry girl, she got picky about food, and eventually refused even her favorites. I knew that Zoe never did well on medications of any kind, but this time she almost seemed as if she was over-medicated. So after nearly a week I called the vet and asked about taking her off the medication completely. I thought to myself I would just make the best of what was to come – that had to be better than what Zoe was going through now, as she seemed miserable in her drugged state. And by the next day, she seemed a bit improved. She even got up for some attention and love from my friend Ruthie, who stopped by to visit that afternoon. This was a very good sign.
But after dinner that same night, things turned bad quickly. FD and I would have taken her to the vet for euthanization that night if we had a vet who would have come in after hours. But, those luxuries and kind of services to patient needs has gone by the wayside over the years. There was no after-hours number to reach either of our veterinarians, only the emergency contact number for a facility more than an hour away from here. So I got out a pallet for myself, and as Zoe moved from place to place throughout the night, trying to get comfortable, I followed with my makeshift bed and pillow. Mr. T often followed too, placing himself nearby and watching his friend struggle. He knew something was wrong. As Zoe got sick throughout the night and the dry heaves followed, I cleaned her, loved on her, and spoke gently with her. I prayed she would pass before daylight, but she did not.
The next morning, in the tiny room at the vet clinic, Zoe slipped away, ever so gently, as I caressed her head and back for the last time. I had often called her my “powder puff”, as her hair was as soft and fluffy as the powder puffs I used to admire on my Grandma’s dresser. Her passing hit me especially hard the rest of the day, and each morning since, as I go about my work outdoors. My little ranch hand was not panting gently under the shade tree near the garden while I worked. I did not see a little white and black figure go trotting off to investigate a squirrel, or get to take in the intensity in those bug-eyes as Zoe delighted in attempting to capture a bumble bee alighting on flowers. Absent was the beggar by my side, staring me down for the last bite of my turkey sandwich. There was no ranch hand seated next to me or in my lap as I drove the electric buggy around the property. The guest greeter did not arrive barking or squealing when company came by, or when the UPS man made a delivery this week. I never realized how much of a presence Zoe was in our lives, until she was gone. But the worst part for me is when I grieve privately for Zoe. The pint-sized tear cleanser and wound healer for which I weep – she is not there to tend to my broken heart. Zoe was a nurturer and listener when I hurt the most. Her soft tongue always lapped away my tears.
Sometimes life’s greatest gifts come in the smallest packages. I never expected a wee dog of nine pounds to be much of a ranch dog. I did not ever expect to fall in love with this little ranch hand either. But I did. Head over heels. And now I am a little bit lost without her…
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