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

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

My childhood dog, Muffet was like a younger sister. She came into my life when I was around 10 years old and died when I was in my twenties. This was some forty years ago, but I still think of her, and she had appeared in many of my dreams. Now I live with a wonderful cat, Pyewacket. We, who love animals and have had pets, know what you are feeling. You are not mourning alone. Thank you for all the work you do for animals. Leslie

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

so sorry to hear about Zeke he left paws prints all over your heart

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Losing a beloved pet is so devastating. Some people don't understand the great emotional loss and that the grief is very real. I've had to put down some pets for health reasons and that has to be one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. Time does heal though and soon the wonderful memories will bring comfort instead of tears. Sometimes getting another pet eventually helps too. Give it some time and know that you aren't alone in feeling the way you feel. RIP Zeke

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Thank you for sharing that Fred. A loss of a pet is always sadand my Dad used to say 'They break our heart but we still want more of them'. Marion Oakley UK

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Fred I know the feeling only too well, the love one feels for an animal that is a part of their family, the good loving and fun times, the companionship, one can only express feelings for you at your loss, and hopefully, maybe you can find it in your heart to maybe get one of the dogs that you so kindly help rescue from abuse, maybe from mexico or one of the other places, where a needy dog would find happiness within your home, where you can again offer love and friendship to another dog.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

I am sincerely sorry for the loss of your beloved friend. I lost my Golden Girl, Nikita Noel, a blonde Golden Retriever this past June. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of her and still feel the pain. My other Golden, Dakota, went into a severe depression for two months and suffered seizures, which I am sure was from HER pain. I am happy to say that Dakota has a new friend, four month old Sierra Nikita, an adorable addition to our family and they are best of friends. I can never replace Nikita but am grateful to have the memories of her----they can never die as with yourself, memories live on.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

I am sincerely sorry for the loss of your beloved friend. I lost my Golden Girl, Nikita Noel, a blonde Golden Retriever this past June. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of her and still feel the pain. My other Golden, Dakota, went into a severe depression for two months and suffered seizures, which I am sure was from HER pain. I am happy to say that Dakota has a new friend, four month old Sierra Nikita, an adorable addition to our family and they are best of friends. I can never replace Nikita but am grateful to have the memories of her----they can never die as with yourself, memories live on.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Our Yorkshire Terrier passed away just over 3 years ago, 3 days after his 15th birthday. He had cancer. He was a huge part of our family & for such a small dog, he had an enormous heart...living live to the full. Cute as a button & looked like a living, breathing teddy bear. No weather would keep him inside. Some time after his death, my son found out his old camcorder & on one of videos, was our Yorkie...I think it may have been his last Christmas with us. It brought tears to all our eyes...both of sadness & emptiness, but of happy memories too. We miss him immensley. Last January, one of my cats passed away with feline lymphoma. She was around 6 years old. She was a rescue cat & although the smallest of our cats, she wouldn't let no one boss her around. She was a real tiger but the meekest of cats when she wanted to be. A right little miss independent. Then last week, I found our oldest cat dead in the garden. He wasn't ill & his death will remain a mystery forever. He was a grumpy cat but such a beauty. We never knew his age but guessed him to be around 13 years old. It's been a very difficult week for us. I'm hoping the pain will ease in time...it's unbearable at the moment.

 
ann fox
3 years ago

Remember the good times you spent together. You where blessed to have great life together.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Until I lost my beloved horse Willow, and then my beloved dog Ben I thought some people a bit over the top with their grief for animals, but now I fully understand - an animal is often closer to you than your best friend, so it is understandable to feel such pain, especially if you live alone. Ben was a rescue, and devoted to all of us (his family) although in later years he lived just with me. Loyal, fun (played right up until about 10 days before he died), and a true friend. He lived til he was well over 13, so did have a good life, but left a big empty space in mine.

Post a comment

Experts

Cora Bailey
Director, Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW)
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Dr. Ian Robinson, Vice President, Programs & Int'l Operations
Vice President, Programs & Int'l Operations
Gail A'Brunzo, IFAW Wildlife Rescue Manager
Wildlife Rescue Manager, IFAW HQ
Hanna Lentz, Program Officer/Campaigner, IFAW HQ
Program Officer/Campaigner, IFAW HQ
Jan Hannah
Northern Dogs Project Manager
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Companion Animals
Program Director, Companion Animals
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Nancy Barr, Program Director, Animal Action Education
Program Director, Animal Action Education
Rebecca Brimley, Program Advisor
Program Advisor
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters