Zach as a puppy

Goodbye Zach

I get to break all the rules of blogging today, except perhaps the most important one. Be yourself. My family had to say goodbye to a beloved pet, Zach.

Why It's OK To Break The Rules

Last week I talked about the importance and value of an editorial calendar. This week, I'm going to tell you why it's OK to change your plans. Life happens. Just like when I wrote a post about getting engaged, when my family came home, and getting married. Unfortunately, today's post is about a loss.

I have a different post ready to go, but I wanted to share this story today because it's important to me. Since it's my name on the blog, I get to do that from time to time.

Saying Goodbye to Zach

My wife and I took our dog Zach to the vet last Tuesday. We learned he had a large tumor on his spleen and liver. By Friday, he was gone.

It still seems very sudden. A week before, he was running on his walks. always eager to go outside. He wanted to charge after birds like those obnoxious Sand Hill Cranes that are always in the neighborhood. Basically, he seemed full of life.

Then we noticed he suddenly started slowing down. Zach stopped eating.  All he wanted to do was curl up in a ball and be still.

We couldn't coax him with the kinds of food or treats that usually had him leaping off his feet. We grilled some chicken breast and he turned his nose at it. Clearly, we needed to take him to the vet.

After an exam and some X-Rays, the doctor came back to give us the bad news. We could see the tumor and I was stunned at the size of it. We talked about the options, including surgery.

Our vet estimated that his lifespan, even if the surgery were completely successful, would only be about three months. If we didn't have the surgery, she said there was a likely possibility that the tumor could burst and put him in even greater pain.

We made the painful decision to end his life on Friday.

The next few days were rough. It was basically hospice care for Zach, trying to keep him comfortable. He still didn't want to move or eat.

Fortunately, we found something that triggered him to get up. Ice cubes. He's always loved eating ice cubes.  I could never get a drink from the fridge without him coming up for his share of the ice cubes.

On Wednesday, he seemed a bit more lively. We got him to eat a little food and he spent some time playing with the other dogs outside. He also spent time barking toward an ornery neighbor.  Good boy.

When Friday came around, he was shivering and curled up. However, he got up when I brought the leash around to take him on the ride to see the vet. While we were in the waiting room, Zach smiled at both of us as we waited.

Then it was time. I've been through this before.  The last thing I want my dogs to see at this moment is a loving face. For Zach, my wife and I both got down and he looked at us both before the sedative took effect. We like to think he died knowing that he was as loved by us as he loved us.

I'm a Dog Guy

Zach was my third Golden Retriever. I love the breed. They're wonderful family pets. Great disposition, easily trainable, and full of the joy of life. Even when he was eating up my house during his teething days, you still had to love the little guy.

This is a snapshot of him trying to eat my fireplace. You have to give him credit for tenacity.

Zach eating the fireplace

Fortunately, he grew out of his chewing phase. I had some toys for him that he preferred to chew so my home and possessions were reasonably safe.

He wasn't alone during his life. When he arrived, I had a dog named Max who was used to another Golden Retriever, Floyd. Max was a Pomeranian I got when a former girlfriend realized her landlord wouldn't let her keep him. He stayed with me for 18 years. Floyd used to pick him up by the scruff of his neck and swing him back and forth.  Max loved it.

There are a few traits that Zach carried with him from being a puppy to an old dog. He always wanted to be around me and he always smiled.

Zach Smiles

Zach and Max got along great and had a few years together. After my father passed, his dog came to live with me and taught Zach a new hobby.

Zach the Digger

So much for that beautiful back lawn of mine. Now I had a field of little ankle-breaking holes out there. I'm convinced he was smiling as he dug up my yard.

Fortunately, he loved to play. The surest way to get his attention was with a ball. If I wouldn't throw it enough for him, he'd bring it to me and remind me that the ball isn't going to throw itself.

Zach and his favorite toy.

Thanks For The Memories and Goodbye Zach

As you can imagine, we're quite broken up in our house. Zach was with me for almost eleven years and I loved him very much. He was the first of my dogs to go up and welcome my wife on her first time in the house, and they bonded right away.

He was a sneaky little thing, too. Lee likes to slice up apples for part of her breakfast. Zach was curious as to what she was doing and got a slice for his effort. Well, that sealed the deal. He was right by her side every morning for his slice of apple, at least up until a week ago.

We're all coming to grips with life in the house without Zach, including our other dogs. He was the big dog in the house and everyone feels his loss. It's amazing how his gentle soul was able to creep into our hearts.

He had a great life and we loved him. Goodbye, Zach


19 thoughts on “Goodbye Zach”

    1. Patricia,

      Thank you. We know the deal when you get a puppy. You have years of wonderful experiences and then you pay for those years with some extreme sadness at the end. It’s a deal worth taking, but it still hurts at the end. Fortunately, we have some great memories.

  1. Sorry William, sorry Lee,
    I had to make the same decision for my Aussie after 13.5 years together. It’s brutally hard to have to decide to end the life of a creature you love so much, and leaves a hole in your everyday that just doesn’t fill itself (much like those holes in your back yard) even years later.
    Caring thoughts to you all.

    1. Thank you, Gudrun.

      It’s a hard decision to make, but we knew that his quality of life was at stake. His last days were hard, both for him and us. As much as we didn’t want to let him go, it would have been worse to leave him in such misery.

  2. Scott Valentine

    Our sympathies and condolences, William. How lovely to get to spend a life with your friend; I’m sorry for your loss.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I feel enriched after reading something honest and heartfelt. Sorry for your loss; I know you are grateful for the times you had and the memories you retain. Hold fast to them.

    1. Scott,

      Thank you very much. I really thought about whether to share this story or not, since it wasn’t about photography. Then I decided it was about life and my name is on the door. Sometimes we need to be more than business as usual. I’m happy to hear it was the right choice and appreciate everyone’s kind words.

  4. Very well written on a hard subject. For we, the breed is Labs. 2 years I had to go thru putting down my 8yr old best friend Tiller. Story is sooo like yours. Stopped eating,xray, lungs full, O2 , finally could see X-ray , lung cancer full of nodes, he couldn’t breath outside a 100% O2 atmosphere , said good bye…. All in one week. One of my worst weeks in my life.
    Took we a year, but I have another bud. My 5th Lab. 3 black and 2 yellow. (That’s one at a time )

    Fionn is a real lover and I I guess I’m getting old, i’m getting him spoiled . He sits next to me in the TV room sitting in a old reclining chair , gazing up at my eyes. As a puppy, he would crawl up my chest, and wrap around the back of my neck like a scarf

    Yes, you could say I’m a dog person!

    1. Bruce,

      Thank you. It’s a hard topic to discuss and I’m sorry for your loss. Sometimes reading another person’s story can make you re-live it all over again. On the other hand, it’s nice to re-live those moments you remember of them as puppies and the cute things they did. It’s good to be a dog person.

  5. George Vogelsperger

    Similar situation with our Cocker Spaniel, Missy. WE will NEVER forget her. Read the book “Racing in the Rain”… Won’t make you feel “much” better but it HELPS to put it in perspective. She left a hole in our heart that ONLY she can fill.

    1. George,

      Thank you very much. I’ll check out the book to see if it’s right for me. You’re definitely right about the hole in the heart. No other dog can fill it, but you learn to navigate around those spots.

  6. Ah, I’m so sorry that you, Lee and Tove have lost what sounds like such a loyal friend. Thinking of you all…..treasure the memories xx

  7. Thanks for sharing this, William. The last dog we had to say goodbye to, was the same scenario, and I too, purposed that my face would be the last thing “Lady” would see. The hardest thing ever! We dearly love our current dog, a Labradoodle named “Dude.” He can be seemingly sound asleep in the living room and when my hubby and I hug at the kitchen sink, which we do often, Dude jumps up and comes pushing in between us enough to join in the lovefest. Doesn’t try to separate us, just wants to be in on the love. I wish I had a photographer around to capture THAT moment. Loved your pics of Zach, they are awesome, and inspiring in themselves.

  8. Elaine Nicholls

    So sorry to hear about the loss of your much loved family member. Sending lots of love & strength to you all xx

  9. Agnes Istiharjanti

    Sorry william,
    That was so sad, to hear about the loos of your beautiful dog and your much loved family member.

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