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
2 years ago

What a beautiful picture of you and Zeke. I lost my Golden Retreiver friend of 15 years in July and still cry. She was wonderful and saw me through many life changes. The only time she questioned me was when I brought my son home from the hospital. She was not keen on a squawking baby, but soon grew to care for him. I had not even realized how rare her peaceful personality was until we adopted a 1 yr. old black lab mix about 7 weeks ago. She is wonderful and keeps us very busy. She had no manners or training and yet is funny and loveable in her own right. She was set to be euthanized the same day she was rescued.
Having a new furkid does not replace the loss of Gypsy, but Zoey brings so much joy and exasperation there isn't much time to grieve anymore. Cannot write more as I have to go investigate what is being chewed on or rearranged now! :)

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

It's been over a year since we said goodbye to Chuy, a rescued senior who was given a year at most but stuck around to enrich our lives for almost five years. We saw him transformed from an emaciated, hobbled little creature to a thriving, leaping thrill-seeker with an endless zest for a life reclaimed. Eventually he reached his zenith then started back down the hill but I know those happy days were worth every effort. His tiny paw left a giant's footprint on my heart and like you, not a day goes by that I don't miss him. The honesty of a pet's love is unlike any other and changes us forever when we let it in. Peace to you all.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved Zeke. The following is an excerpt I keep on my wall, from Kinky Friedman, he wrote after the death of his beloved cat "Cuddles":
"A few days ago I received a sympathy note from Bill Hoegemeyer, the veterinarian. It opened with a verse by Irving Townsend: "We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle..."
Now as I write this, on a gray winter day by the fireside, I can almost feel her light tread, moving from my head and my heart down through my fingertips to the keys of the typewriter. People may surprise you with unexpected kindness. Dogs have a depth of loyalty that we almost seem unworthy of...the love of a cat is a blessing and a privilege in this world.
They say when you die and go to heaven all the dogs and cats you ever had in your life come running to meet you."
Until that day, rest in peace, Cuddles
Kinky Friedman
Medina, Texas January 5, 1993

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

They never ask a lot of us. Just a kind word, some food, and when the time comes, for us to let them go. It's never easy. We are now caring for our 12th, 13th and 14th dogs. The ones before them were with us from puppyhood. It hurt every single time, yet we find that we need the love and joy that dogs can give. An old saying goes- "Old age means realizing you will never own all the dogs you wanted to". Sorry for your loss.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

I'm so sorry for your lost and I now exactly how you feel! Id did get my first Dog Blacky when I was only 13 years old and he was really mine from the first moment on. Even at my young age, I did take car of him all by my self and also paid for all his needs. He did come to school with me (I had a very nice teacher :-), got with me to the troubled teenager years and later he did "chose" my future husband for my. He was there when I did marry (in the church) and he came with my to Canada, when I moved there from Switzerland. When Blacky died in a horrible car accident, he was 16 1/2 years old and I was getting 30 years old! More then the half of my life he was my best friend! How can you cope with such a loss?
When he died, the hole in my heart was so deep, that id did not nearly heel for over 1 year. I laughed on the outside and live continued, but in the inside, there was a big dark shadow. Even that I had other dogs in my life.
But day after day it did get better and now, 6 years later I can speak of Blacky with a smile in my eyes. You will get there too!
I beg all of you, if your beloved dog dies, go to a shelter and save a life by adopting one. This way the dead of your beloved dog is not useless and makes some room for a new being in need!

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

my heartfelt sympathies! that's real love : loving someone even when he's not perfect cause no one is in fact.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

My dad is a veterinarian and I grew up with animals and still to this day I have my own animals. I have lost quite a few in my life and it is never easy to lose the ones you love, animals or humans. But I remember the first animal I ever lost was a stray cat that we ended up adopting and I named him Herb. He was a goofy, fun loving, lap cat. He followed me everywhere and I loved it. I was in third or fourth grade at the time and he was my best friend. i remember going to get on the school bus one day and saw him lying by the house curled up and I remember thinking that wasn't natural for him. When I came home from school that day he was in the exact same spot and so I rushed into the house and told my mom. We brought him in and laid him on blankets and got a hot water bottle and put it next to him (it was during the later part of fall and he was shivering). I just remember feeling so helpless, I stayed in the utility room with him until it was my bed time.

My dad did some testing on him the next day and found out Herb had leukemia. My dad had to make a very difficult decision that day(a decision to this day that he hates to hear clients make or he has to make), but before he was going to put him down Herb ended up passing away peacefully. I came home that day from school and my mom told me and I just bawled in my moms embrace for a long time. We had a funeral for Herb and my dad talked to me about life and death and told me Herb was in Heaven now. When I heard that I knew I would see Herb again one day when we are both no longer in pain or suffering. I still miss him to this day but know I will see him again.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

My heartfelt sympathies for your loss
Roger .

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

I agree with the friends who wrote you to give a second chance to a shelter dog, this is exactly what I’ve done when my 17 mixed breed (his grandfather was a pointer…) Pongo passed on. Pongo, this marvelous strong-minded and jealous dog who loved so much children and women as to make you think it was the reincarnation of a playboy…

For my family and me this was the only option (we were really sad, my daughter stopped to cry just in night time) and, considering the huge number of homeless dogs (most of them rescued thanks to the hard work of kennels and shelters) in Spain, this allows us feeling better.
I was expecting a poor abused and hard to manage dog, we were looking for a female adult dog which have normally less chances to be adopted and we have been a surprise!
She looked as an adult because of the teeth and behavior but she was just 9 months old because continued growing a little more.
She is so prefect that, instead of educating her, we spoil her and allows many things because Maya is a sunbeam just like that.
She never had a human friend, neither has lived in a floor before, many evidence indicate it; therefore she’s very easy to manage.
In our long life we can have more pet friends and this for me is an advantage because we can share our time here with more than one wonderful spirit. Each one of them leaves a strong mark in our heart and I’m sure we will meet again because a dog’s heart is too big and generous to be ignored from the God’s Grace.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

I agree with the friends who wrote you to give a second chance to a shelter dog, this is exactly what I’ve done when my 17 mixed breed (his grandfather was a pointer…) Pongo passed on. Pongo, this marvelous strong-minded and jealous dog who loved so much children and women as to make you think it was the reincarnation of a playboy…

For my family and me this was the only option (we were really sad: my daughter stopped to cry just in night time as she slept) and, considering the huge number of homeless dogs (most of them rescued thanks to the hard work of kennels and shelters) in Spain, this allowed us to feel better.
I was expecting a poor abused and hard to manage dog, we were looking for a female adult dog which have normally less chances to be adopted and we have been a surprise!
She looked as an adult because of the teeth and behavior but she was just 9 months old because continued growing a little more.
She is so prefect that, instead of educating her, we spoil her and allows many things because Maya is a sunbeam just like that.
She never had a human friend, neither has lived in a floor before, many evidence indicate it; therefore she’s very easy to manage.
In our long life we can have more pet friends and this for me is an advantage because we can share our time here with more than one wonderful spirit. Each one of them leaves a strong mark in our heart and I’m sure we will meet again because a dog’s heart is too big and generous to be ignored from the God’s Grace.

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Cora Bailey
Director, Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW)
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
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