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Goodbye, Eli & Sweet Tink

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I’ve spent the last couple of months trying to learn to live without Zato, but there are a couple of other losses throwing their emptiness into the mix.

About a week before Zato left, a wonderful little pup named Eli passed unexpectedly.  Eli was one of the dogs we rescued, and he was adopted by a great person.  She would only travel if Eli stayed with us, so for the last few years, Eli has spent every Christmas and a good number of weeks at our house.  Everyone got along great with him, and he was just a joy to know.  Here he is with Zato:

Eli’s Mom was getting on in years, and we had agreed to take Eli if she passed on first.  We loved Eli and he was truly part of our pack, albeit part time.  He had all the nicknames and songs like the rest, and our favorite nickname for him was Captain Gravybeard!

So when the phone rang about a week before Zato died and I saw the caller ID, I smiled because it was Eli time!  I was dumbstruck when Edith told me he had died suddenly.  An autopsy showed that he had a ruptured tumor that no one knew about, and nothing could have prevented it.  By the time I got that info, Zato was gone, and I was too screwed up trying to process his death to mourn Eli.  But after a few weeks I began to think about Eli more and miss him, because I truly loved him.  Then, just as I still felt so overwhelmingly sad, I also started to have some happier moments…

Then came yesterday.

I had mentioned before that our Hound girl Tinkerbell was battling mast cell cancer.  She had two surgeries, the second in February, and the surgeon felt he got it all, and I believe he got all of the tumors.  But within a month, that crap came back with a vengeance.  For the last few weeks, I have been trying everything to stop the ever-growing masses around her neck and chest, to no avail.  We had an appointment with the oncologist yesterday, but when I got up, Tink told me she was tired.  She had been going downhill the last couple of days.  So instead I called our wonderful vet, who said to come right over, and after he looked at her, we agreed it was time to let her go.  It was peaceful, like Tink was, but I am in such a dark place now. But I want to tell you about her, because she was Zato’s friend, and the most gentle, kindest soul I have ever known.

Tink started her life as a hunting dog.  At some point she was injured (the shelter people think by a bear) and she lost part of her jaw on one side.  That never stopped her from eating everything she could, though!  She was literally dragged into the shelter on a catch pole, and she was terrified of everything.  She had ZERO chance of adoption, so the rescue took her.  Then we found out she had heartworms, but we raised the money and got rid of them!  Here is her video from 2010.  It shows the first time she came to me wagging her tail.  She was so sweet.

I grew so attached to her that we adopted her!  The last 8 years have been so beautiful with her.  She and Zato were especially close. She got along with everyone – dogs, cats, kids….I never, ever worried about Tink.  She was truly a best friend and I miss her so much.  I told her yesterday that Zato would show her around at the Bridge.  I like to think they are watching over me right now, playing and waiting until we can be together again.

Tink & Boodie – my Hound girls:

I love you, Tink.


Zato & Caddie (also known as, “The Pig”)

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Well, it’s been a little over three excruciatingly long weeks since I said goodbye to my little bud.  While I am grateful for his visit that I wrote about in my last post, and for the visit that Richard got afterwards, and for the fact that I know he is fine, I am just sad and in a foul mood to boot.  I’m also angry, if I’m honest.  I miss him so much.

I wanted to talk about the relationship between Zato and Cadpig.  Caddie was a puppy we fostered for the local shelter (along with her siblings) after they were left in a box at the dumpsters during a snowstorm.  They were too young to stay in the shelter, so we agreed to take them.  We were warned that they probably would not make it since they were too young to be away from their mother, but being the hardheaded, determined folks that we are, we took them home.  Out of 9, we lost only one.  The smallest of the puppies we could not part with, and Richard named her Cadpig, after the runt in 101 Dalmatians.

Caddie and Zato were best buds right off the bat.  She followed him everywhere and he always looked after her.  She was so tiny.

Zato would always lick her head and play with her, and as she grew, so did their bond.

They were as close as they could be up until the very end.  The day before he got his wings, Caddie went to Zato for her usual head licking session, and he turned away.  She seemed to understand and didn’t press it. Until then though, it was a daily thing for those two!

Zato and the Pig have VERY different personalities.  Whereas Zato was very cuddly, Caddie does not liked to be touched, especially on the head.   She will tolerate a tiny bit of rubbing on her back, but not much. She is also easily spooked.  She is a really sweet girl who likes people and gets along great with other dogs and even likes cats, but she is just the way she is! We decided not to take her to the vet when Zato left because she would be too freaked out, and we figured she would understand on some level that he was gone.  After we put up his picture, she would look at it and cry for a few days.  Then she seemed ok (well, normal for the Pig, anyway!).  Someone told me that she couldn’t possibly see a 2 dimensional photo, but I reminded them that this is the same dog who growls at and hides from the dog on the Milk Bone box.

One of the things I miss so deeply about Zato is our sofa cuddle, something he did until the last week or so.  I’d lie on my side and watch tv, and he would always get behind me and rest his head on my legs.  I can’t tell you how much I miss that.  It makes for a lot of crying sessions on the sofa.

I was half asleep the other day after a really rough, sad day where I didn’t even leave the house, when I felt something against me, and to my surprise, found the Pig, for the first time ever, right where he used to be.  She stayed there for an hour, and I didn’t dare move or touch her.  I just smiled with tears in my eyes and thought, “Thank you, Zato.  Good girl, Pig.”







Connections (Zato crosses the veil to see me and say goodbye…for now)

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I gotta admit guys, I was starting to worry.  Every time I lost a pet, or anyone for that matter, I would get a solid sign, often multiple signs.  A dream I knew wasn’t a dream.  Or I would feel the distinct presence of someone I loved…or see them out of the corner of my eye, or hear something (in Ali’s case, the jingle of her tags when the back seat was completely empty).  Something.  Always something.  In most cases, this would happen now and then over months or years, and eventually it would stop. I always figured that wherever they were, they were happy and were there to stay. But much to my sorrow, other than the brilliant sunbeams the day after he left, I had heard absolutely NOTHING from Zato.  Nothing.

I’m not sure of anything, other than the older I get, the less I think I know about the workings of existence.  What happens when our physical bodies die.  I believe that we have a soul, an energy, that survives beyond physical death, and goes somewhere.  After all, the soul is energy, and energy never disappears; it just changes form.

The morning Zato left us, no one else knew it was going to happen.  I had talked to my Mom some the night before, but not really given any indication that the next day was it.  We didn’t tell anyone when Richard gently placed Zato in the car that morning for his final ride.  Yet, at the exact time he flew free, Mom was sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee, and was suddenly struck with a feeling of overwhelming sadness.  When I talked to her later, to tell her Zato was gone, she already knew, because she had felt my grief.  We are connected.

This morning, I was sitting on the sofa looking at Zato’s picture on my phone.  This one:

I was looking at his face, not really thinking anything in particular other than the, “I’m-dying-of-grief-from-missing-you” thought.  Then, suddenly, I was drawn to his eyes, and began to not just look AT his eyes, I was looking INTO his eyes.  And clear as day, I felt him there with me.  I felt a warmth begin to wrap around my entire body.  The warmth wrapped around me and flowed THROUGH me.  And what I felt more clearly than anything I have ever experienced in my life, was Zato.  It was Zato, in his purest form, unencumbered by a body.  I continued to look into his eyes as my tears fell and I whispered, “Thank you.”  I didn’t look away.  I didn’t move.  All I could feel was his love, surrounding me and holding me.  Although I felt the warmth and the energy on the outside, what was happening was really on the inside.  I wish I could explain it adequately.  The best description I can give is that I felt our souls embrace.  I felt his love for me.  His heart.  His gentle strength.  I also understood that while others had returned now and then, he was moving on, and that was ok.   Finally, I understood that we would be together again.

After a little while, I felt him leaving, and when he had gone, instead of looking at him, I saw my reflection in the screen.  I looked up, amazed, and as I looked out of the window, the sun broke through the clouds.

I am blown away and deeply grateful.  I have never had an experience that intense, and all I can say is I know it happened and I know that he’s ok.  I know he loves me as much as I love him.  I wish I could convey the whole experience better, and although I am still so sad without him, I feel like he gave me an incredible gift that will sustain me.  Every time I look at his picture now, even though he doesn’t come, I feel the slightest bit of warmth deep in my heart, as if he left a bit of his love for me to hold until we meet again.  We are connected forever.

I love you so much, Zato.  Thank you.


Working on the shrine!

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Zato’s box for his ashes came today.  I will admit I put the temporary box in bed last night where he always slept, and found myself reaching out at various points in the night, like I always did, to touch him and tell him how much I love him and what a good boy he is!

So now I need to choose a picture for the permanent box.  And that got me thinking about the others’ ashes that are in various places around the house.  So I decided to put them all together on the hutch in the dining room. I might put that Dean Koontz quote that Mojo was kind enough to share somewhere in there, too.

During my picture search, I realized that a lot of them are on old drives I need to hook up and copy, but I did find some jewels, an old video in particular, so I took some screenshots.  This one is the day we brought him home for good.  He was a stinky boy from being in the shelter, but a good sport!

And this is Zato with my girl Thatcher, who went to the Bridge in 2009.  She was 15 and had been with me since she was a puppy.  I still miss you, Boo! Her middle name was Bugaboo, too, so I often called her Boo.

And here is my boy with Boodie when she was just a few months old. This would have also been in 2009.

This is Zato and Boodie on February 18th, the night before he passed.  They were always pals.


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I’m determined not to make this blog about my grief…this was Zato’s journey.  I am going to cut myself some slack for a while, though.  I picked up his ashes today.  I got some lovely cards from friends saying how sorry they are.  I got a letter from his oncologist saying they had made a donation to FETCH a Cure in his memory.  I got an e-mail from Dr. Loops with his condolences along with a poem I really liked.  I feel that people truly care – people here, people he knew.

Yet, I feel like I am moving through deep water.  Trudging my way through the heaviness of getting through the day.  How can I feel so empty and so full of pain at the same time?

The box for his ashes isn’t here yet.  I opened the box from the vet and broke down even more when I saw they had made a paw print impression for us.  I didn’t know they would do that.

I miss you buddy, and it’s getting worse every day.  I’m trying really hard, because I know you’d never want us to be sad.  And I am going to celebrate your life as soon as the hemorrhaging stops.  It has to stop soon.  There can’t be much of it (and me) left.

I love you so much.

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