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

4 years ago

I feel for your loss. Although it's been a while since I've had a dog (mostly cats in my adult life) I know for a fact that dogs can truly be the most "feeling" animals in this world. They're wonderful companions, they become your baby.. and there is no greater feeling of undying love than from your pet dog. I miss having a dog, I will again one day. Zeke, you will always be loved. Your human family loves you to no end. Rest in peace, and thank you Fred for sharing your story of Zeke.

4 years ago

Dear Fred,
I can only imagine the grief you sustain daily over Zeke. He was indeed a beautiful and amazing boy. I'm glad you had each other and you are still BFFs ,although you comment about not being mystical. I had two dogs/family members, who , at the time, I felt I had to re-home ( the new families miraculously came to us and I could not have found better pet parents); I still mourn their loss, as they passed, and that has been close to 25 years. I currently have cats in my family, and I type with many tears as I think about Zeke, and my Minnie and Red. I agree that writing is cathartic and I'm glad for the comfort it brings us.
Perhaps,in honor of Zeke, and I'm sure with his approval, there will be an additional dog, dogs, or pets. He knows there are still too many out there who need safety and care. Sounds to me like you are a prime candidate to make that happen. :) I'm so sorry for your loss. Now, you can go forward in your work in Zeke's name.
Best, Kathleen

4 years ago

Dear Mr. O'Regan, First, let me say how very sorry I am about Zeke's passing. I know
exactly how you feel. On August 16th, 2011, my best friend, Cody, had to be put to sleep.
He was a 14 year old Rottweiler/Lab mix, and looked so much like Zeke, they could have
been brothers. Cody was born in my home along with 11 other brothers & sisters, but from
the time he could walk he was always at my side. When I sat on the couch I had a 120 lb
"lap dog" next to me. I was with him when he passed (his back legs became useless & there were signs of cancer) and after 4 months I still say goodnight to his picture & kiss him. I thank God I had him so long but I think , like me, your days are a little empty. God
Bless Zeke & Cody,I'm sure they are running & playing together. Sincerely, Charlene Eckes

4 years ago

You wont forget the love you shared with the loss of your companion, and remember to carry that love inside you to love all animals the way your companion loved you.

4 years ago

You never forget the loss of an animal companion, their love remains with you all through your life keeping you strong, and reminding you to return that love to all other animals into the future.

4 years ago


4 years ago

lost my best friend easter sunday 2009...still not a day goes bye where i wish i could be around him again...hoping for the rainbowbridge one day...big hug and have a wonderfull holiday season

4 years ago

I lost my mixed dog of almost 17 years 2 weeks before her 17th Birthday. She would have been 17 years old on July 4th. We lost her 2 weeks before her Birthday. She has always been an outside dog. My daughter is 23 now and has been around Angel most of her life. I can truely feel you pain. I said that I would let her live as long as she could until she couldn't get up any more. One morning before I left out for work, she couldn't get up. I said that it was time to see the Vet. They were so sweet about it. I didn't even have to go into the office. They came out to my truck. He said that her heart was weak and that he thought her liver was failing on her. It was the hardest thing that I ever had to do, but I could not see her suffer. We buried her to the side of our house next to our drive way where we could see her every day. We put up a big wood cross at her grave. I truely know the attachment with a dog. I have 4 other others to keep me busy. And they do!!! I just Love them all. Angel was truely an Angel!!!! She was always the most quiet one and the sweetest one. I can say that I know what you are going through. Each one has their own personality and you will never be able to replace the loved one you lost. With deepest sympathy, Lisa Holland

4 years ago

I lost my best friend just over a year ago, just before she died she asked me to look after Bailey her Maltese dog. I reluctantly promised and took him.. After my friend died he became close to me although he was a grumbler, and not at all cuddley. Just before Thanksgiving, I came home and found Bailey on his favourite chair, he struggled to get up and I knew he was in trouble. I lifted him into my arms and he cuddled and just looked at me. I started to cry and as I did the lights started to flicker, at that moment I felt my friend and I knew she was there to take him home, he sensed it to and gave a struggle, then went quietly in my arms. My friend left me a gift and I cherished him as I have never cherished anything in my life.
Pam Black

4 years ago

You are in my prayers Fred for I too share a great love for all animals so much that I am a vegan. I believe all have a right to love and a life free from fear and harm. I haven't lost a pet since childhood but I do have a almost 15 year old chihuahua, although she is in good health I know I too will lose her one day. I do believe we will see our beloved pets again in heaven. They say if you think of Zeke all the time then he never truly has left. May the Lord bless you and keep you in his tender care. I am training to be a wildlife rehabilatator, I feel if I even save one life it will be worth it all. Dianne

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Cora Bailey
Director, Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW)
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Ian Robinson, Vice President, Animal Welfare and Conservation
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