The Loss of Zeke

IFAW CEO Fred O'Regan and his dog Zeke.Zeke was a big goofy Rhodesian Ridgeback and my best friend.  He passed away earlier this year and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him.

Now Zeke wasn’t perfect – he was awful around food and could snatch a sandwich off of someone’s desk in a micro-second, often embarrassing me to no end.  He was also very strong-minded and dealing with him would be more like negotiating rather than commanding.

But when I say “my best friend,” I truly mean it.  We would take a good walk every day on one of Cape Cod’s many trails and beaches.  This was a big reason why he lived for fourteen years – a very old age for a big dog.  He was thrilled to go to the dump when I could get no one from the family to ever go.  They hated the smell which to Zeke was perfume.

He was an active dog right to the end.  I had a walk with him the day he died.

I am not a mystical person but sometimes you wonder.  It was a holiday when he passed and all three of our children were home.  It was almost like he planned to let go when the whole family was together.  He had a very merciful death, lying before the fire with our two daughters comforting him.  He was sleeping, his breathing went shallow and away he went.

Our family cannot talk about it without becoming just too emotional.  He was such a huge part of us.  Our youngest daughter, who has recently graduated from college, had not known life without Zeke since she was eight!

So, I really don’t have any great advice to lend to so many people who work with and support IFAW.  But I do know how deeply everyone cares about animals, and this led me to just write down my thoughts on Zeke to share with such a caring group. 

I am sure that there are many of you who experienced the same thing.  Just writing this makes me feel less pained.  That is the power of words.

The loss of a pet is often a very solitary grief. I have been helped through the process by the many animal lovers here at IFAW who knew Zeke, have lost animal friends in the past, and know exactly what I am going through.

If you would like to share your thoughts on what got you or a loved one through the loss of a pet, I hope you will leave your story below in the comments and maybe we can help other people going through the same thing.

-- Fred

Comments: 84

5 years ago

i once read that the best place to bury a dog is in your heart so sorry about your friend

5 years ago

Hello Fred,
I share your pain..our Brandy,,of no particular breed, loved to WANDER and got in to a neighbor's trash..empty cans mostly..and died of canine hepatitus..excuse the spelling.
She was a dear grand dame in our family and of course, left too soon. Our daughter grew up with Brandy and wherever Rene was, there was Brandy! She was a large, white dog with wirery hair and touch of brown about her face..terrier I think with long legs!! She was always glad to see me when I returned from work daily...loved to take up the entire back seat of my VW Bug when we took Rene to her gymnastics lessons and always stopped for a DQ for all three of us!..I still miss her to this day and think of her daily..'specialy when I go to the basement for laundry..she was always by my side! And when I make spaghetti, she knew she would get some..and would only eat it when I gave her the SALAD accompanyment!!...however you speel it!..fuzzy, Old English Sheepdog looking gal..truly missed by all who knew and loved her for over eight years.

5 years ago

I am sorry to hear about your loss. I myself owned a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, who I rescued from a shelter. He was found wandering around on the streets, nobody knew his history and he was already an adult dog. I took a chance, but I never regretted it. I named him Gromit. When I took him home, he was skin and bones. He had scars on his face and paws, the vet thought they looked like scars from being hit with a leash or whip. Gromit had buckshot embedded in his neck; obviously he was severely abused.
His life must have been an awful struggle until he came home with me. And he was the best dog I ever had. He was forever grateful and showed me every day how much he loved me and how much he appreciated being treated well and being loved.
He's long gone, but I think about him every day and his loss still makes me cry. I've owned other dogs since, but he was the first dog I ever had and the best.

5 years ago

Fred: We've had many animals over the years of our marriage and it never gets easier! It is something that all of us have to experience in our lives no matter what we do to avoid it! I lost my little Sweetie this past February, we saved her life from living in a barrel at a warehouse (almost starved to death) and she slept right next to me for the next 12 years! It is harder when you have them get that close to you because many years ago, we had animals out in a kennel (which I never will ever do with any animal again) and so we didn't get as close to them as we have with the ones we now have in our home! Just try to remember all the wonderful things they did that made you smile and it won't take the hurt away but will help a little! There is never a day that goes by that I don't think of her and we have to more senior doggies that are going to be gone in the future and I know I'm going to go through it all over again! As long as you know that you loved and cared for your doggie and they knew you loved them, that is all that is important!

5 years ago

Time heals, but never completely. I've been through this pain many times, and as soon as I'm able, I adopt another dog in need. It helps ease the pain of loss. The joy these animals bring to our lives is worth the sadness of their loss, although it's never easy. best wishes to you, Fred, and hopes that another great dogs gets lucky and finds you.

5 years ago

Dear Fred,

To me you are an amazing human being loving and caring for the animals we share our planet with. I too love and adore all the animals in the world like you do. And I understand your pain when Zeke passed away. Noone can replace this special family member and he will never be forgotten. In our heart and soul our beloved pets will live on forever. But I do hope another lucky animal will be able to call your house his new home. When my 2 beloved cats passed away at age 16 I was devastated. But I decided to adopt 3 little kitties and now we are a happy family once again.


Francisca van de Oudeweetering in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

5 years ago

What a lovely article, thanks so much for sharing.
We find it a little easier when our animals pass away at home, as long as it's peaceful for them, because one can never be certain if that sad trip to the vet was at exactly he right time.
So glad you had Zeke at home with the family to help you with the loss.
Our other animals are always a comfort, although they too grieve for a while. If possible, we look for another who is in need of a home, in memory of the one who has left us.
Love & Peace, Roisin.

5 years ago

Thankyou for sharing Zeke with us Fred. I lost my 14 yrs 7 mths (and 3 days) German Shepherd/Australian Kelpie cross, Leni, a few months back. She was the first dog I had ever had that was solely mine. Her picture with her intelligent face and oh so huge ears is looking at me now as I type. My Rottweiler Milly still mourns for her as do I. She got me through some sad patches in my life and will always be in my heart.

5 years ago

My Sympathy to you and your family Fred.
My life has been full of many pets - birds, dogs, cats, hamsters, and a frog and turtle or two.
I enjoyed and loved each of them in different ways, and mourned for each of them as their spirits were freed from their bodies. Every day I thank God for for the the blessing of those wonderful companions in my life. Trying to be as generous as my means will allow to animal welfare and protection organizations is one way I say thank you for their lives.
I am grateful for you Fred and everyone like you who works so diligently to protect and save animals everywhere. Blessings to you and your work.

5 years ago

So sorry for your dog. We lost our beagle two years ago but still the pain is always there. She was my friend for 13 years.

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Cora Bailey
Director, Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW)
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Ellie Milano, Program Officer, Community Animal Welfare
Program Officer, Community Animal Welfare
Gail A'Brunzo, IFAW Wildlife Rescue Manager
Wildlife Rescue Manager, IFAW HQ
Jan Hannah
Northern Dogs Project Manager
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters