Zato, like all dogs, is special.  There are so many traits that make him unique.  There are so many little things that make him Zato.  When this journey started, we decided that we would carry on within reason as long as Zato could be Zato.  If there came a time when our sweet boy was no longer himself, or was heading down a path to not being his happy self, then we would call it.  Makes me shudder to even type that.   To even think it.

Anyway, after his initial homecoming, he started to almost slip away from us.  We knew it was the pain, or the drugs, or both.  We knew that he was not going to mourn the loss of his leg like we would.  But when we looked at him for those few bad days, we wondered if Zato could pull out of this and still be Zato.

The first time we went to the shelter to meet him, we found ourselves in the main kennels, a long corridor with the entrance in the middle.  We looked to the left – nope, didn’t see him.  We looked to the right…no…hmmm…we started walking and as we neared the very last spot, a little black and white face appeared at the front.  I said, “THERE he is!” And that saying has stuck throughout the years.  It seems to make him happy.  It has certainly made me happy.  When I would come home after being gone awhile and his face would be the first thing I’d see when I got the door halfway open, I would say it.  When I’d be silly and walk around with a treat calling his name and pretending I didn’t see him so he’d follow me around and then suddenly look down at his waggy tail, I’d say it.  When he’d snuggle up for his morning cuddles, I’d say it.  He’s not a licky boy, but he’d always give me a kiss then.

Last week was pretty rough.  When we looked into his eyes, we were desperately searching for Zato.   We thought he’d still be in there, but we just couldn’t see through the glazed look and the still tail.  He looked defeated.   We know these are our emotions being projected onto him.  But, as you all understand I’m sure, it’s easy to fall into that trap.  We found him one day on the sofa all cockeyed, leaning against the pillow, looking totally lost.  We spoke to him and he didn’t even blink.   It broke our hearts.

Once the vet said he was doing pretty well, we began to feel a little better about the situation, but still wanted that big moment, that sign that our boy was in there.  We’d been taking him his food.  Then the other day, out of the blue, he got up when I was fixing his food to take to him.  I turned on the camera and tried not to cry.  He hopped over, just fine, and wagged his tail and lifted his ears and looked at me with those eyes.   That was it.  That was all I needed.  There he is.  I’m so glad to have you back.