Zeppo’s Last Days

I haven’t felt this bereft since my father died. I transferred a lot to my companion, Zeppo, over the years. My ex-wife said it was a strange relationship between a man and a little dog. My father died a year after I got Zeppo from a Smooth Fox Terrier breeder. I remember the feeling of deep loss and desolation after the man’s passing. And thirteen years later, I feel a similar loss with Zeppo. Could I have transferred all of my fatherly feelings to the dog? My father once warned me—after I forgot to give Zeppo enough water—that I’d better “treat that little dog well.” In fact, I ended up treating him a little like a precious only son.

Zeppo, Sept. 2004, before his illnesses

I haven’t felt this bereft since my father died. I transferred a lot to my companion, Zeppo, over the years. My ex-wife said it was a strange relationship between a man and a little dog. My father died a year after I got Zeppo from a Smooth Fox Terrier breeder. I remember the feeling of deep loss and desolation after the man’s passing. And thirteen years later, I feel a similar loss with Zeppo. Could I have transferred all of my fatherly feelings to the dog? My father once warned me—after I forgot to give Zeppo enough water—that I’d better “treat that little dog well.” In fact, I ended up treating him a little like a precious only son. I wouldn’t get him castrated until he was 13 because I didn’t want to feel the knife sympathetically or reduce his “manhood.” I had all sorts of mock insults reserved just for him. I used to call him “Bastard” regularly (a term my father had reserved for me during my heinous acts of disrespect) because Zeppo was always defying me. I called him, affectionately, “a little faggot,” which, no doubt, my father was afraid I was going to become. The thing that was frustrating about Zeppo, but now seems part of his role as Shakespearean Fool, is that he would never take NO for an answer. His persistence and obstinance was legendary. He was, like me, obsessive about whatever he was pursuing, for him a rat, an opposum, a piece of food. His resilience in the face of obstacles knew no limits. He once ran out into the street and was nearly run over by a fast moving car when he came up against one of the wheels. He just reversed instantly and ran back to the sidewalk. Or, when walking on the street, if I accidentally stepped on the leash, Zeppo, who was always tugging on the line or running, would flip in the air and land on his back, then right himself immediately as if nothing had happened, like a cartoon character. Zeppo seems like a divine being, some kind of canine saint to me now, and I was lucky in this life to have known him. Ok, I know, it sounds like a mawkish hagiography like hundreds scattered in pet blogs around the Internet. But in his absence, the world seems poorer. I guess that’s the definition of love. Today’s e-mails about Zeppo:

On Aug. 5, 2005, Dave Bruyette wrote: I am sorry to hear that but I agree it sounds like you made the right decision. I am sure he was a great dog. —Dave Bruyette, DVM internal medicine On Aug. 5, 2005, John Dentino wrote: Thanks for replying. He wouldn’t eat today, and he just couldn’t walk or stand. All he could do was sleep and drink water. That, coupled with the fact that he had increasingly bad wheezing attacks where he appeared to be in pain, led me to take him in to nearby Gateway Animal Hospital and have him put to sleep. Although I wasn’t emotionally ready, I didn’t want to let my indecision cause him unnecessary days of suffering. I think I had waited too long with my other dog, who died last January, and I didn’t want to make the same mistake again. He was a great dog. —John dentino On Aug 5, 2005, Dave Bruyette wrote: Hi sir, I did speak with Sean and I think the signs are due to the neuro disease and not anemia. So at this point you do what you can to make him comfortable and then decide when you feel his quality of life is not acceptable. Keep me posted. —Dave Bruyette From: John Dentino Dr. Bruyette, As you may know from consulting with either Doctors Yoshimoto or Reiter, Zeppo (smooth fox terrier; 14 yrs old; Cushing’s disease) can’t get up from a prone position, nor can he walk more than a few steps without being wobbly and tipping over. He does eat, although sparingly, and is semi-alert. Most of the time, he wants to sleep. Occasionally, he wheezes softly. His breath is not shallow, but his stomach goes in and out with more force, indicating he may have more difficulty breathing than before. I brought Zeppo in on Thursday. Dr. Yoshimoto said Dr. Reiter had indicated the strong possibility of a brain tumor in the right portion of his brain, causing the rear left leg to be weak (I noticed that when he could still walk at a clip). Dr. Yoshimoto examined him and said basically there was nothing that could be done to improve his condition, that a blood transfusion wouldn’t provide any dramatic increase in energy because Zeppo’s red cell level wasn’t so low as to make him symptomatic. We didn’t do the red blood cell count. So, I have the question, is the lethargy caused at all by the anemia or is it part of the neurological problems, or perhaps, some other problem? I don’t want to keep him around just to suffer while I make a decision to euthanize. But I just wondered if you had any ideas. —John Dentino

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