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

I empathize with you. I lost my beloved Golden Retriever, who was my everything for 13 years just 1 year after going through a very hard divorce after 27 years of marriage. I think he stayed with me another year just to get me past the 1st year of divorce. I thought I would literally die when I had to let him go and was sure I would never love another dog the way I did my Brody. Then along came my rescue - Mattie - a beautiful black lab who had been abandoned in my town and no-one seemed to want this boy because he had cancer even though it had been sucessfully removed. The possibility was there for a return. What a blessing for me - I took the chance because every living creature deserves a home and Mattie more so than any other dog at the rescue centre because of what he had been through - abandonment and then cancer. Well don't you know I love this dog as much as Brody and Mattie helped me deal with the loss of Brody. Now, another abandoned Fox Red Lab I named Marley (and rightfully so). He had been left on his own for 18 months before being found and returned to his owner who didn't want him and surrendered him at the same rescue centre Mattie came from. They called me to see if I was interested - ABSOLUTELY - he is very immature for his age given the lack of training and bonding - a big 4 year old puppy who has just learned what a toy is and now loves to play ball with me. What would I have done without these 2 beautiful rescues - life would have been very lonely for me. In closing I would like to say that my Mattie did indeed contract cancer a second time and successully overcame it following surgery. He is getting old now and a little slower (aren't we all?) but our love for each other will never change - and Marley - he will be there to help me when the time comes to let my Mattie go. Will I do it again? YOU BET!!

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

I empathize with you. I lost my beloved Golden Retriever, who was my everything for 13 years just 1 year after going through a very hard divorce after 27 years of marriage. I think he stayed with me another year just to get me past the 1st year of divorce. I thought I would literally die when I had to let him go and was sure I would never love another dog the way I did my Brody. Then along came my rescue - Mattie - a beautiful black lab who had been abandoned in my town and no-one seemed to want this boy because he had cancer even though it had been sucessfully removed. The possibility was there for a return. What a blessing for me - I took the chance because every living creature deserves a home and Mattie more so than any other dog at the rescue centre because of what he had been through - abandonment and then cancer. Well don't you know I love this dog as much as Brody and Mattie helped me deal with the loss of Brody. Now, another abandoned Fox Red Lab I named Marley (and rightfully so). He had been left on his own for 18 months before being found and returned to his owner who didn't want him and surrendered him at the same rescue centre Mattie came from. They called me to see if I was interested - ABSOLUTELY - he is very immature for his age given the lack of training and bonding - a big 4 year old puppy who has just learned what a toy is and now loves to play ball with me. What would I have done without these 2 beautiful rescues - life would have been very lonely for me. In closing I would like to say that my Mattie did indeed contract cancer a second time and successully overcame it following surgery. He is getting old now and a little slower (aren't we all?) but our love for each other will never change - and Marley - he will be there to help me when the time comes to let my Mattie go. Will I do it again? YOU BET!!

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

Hi, many years ago I got a this "poem" from a friend after I had to send one of my beloved dogs "to heaven". I am not religious, but it touched me very much and helps me every times I lose one of my pets. * Rainbow Bridge * Just this side of Heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing -- they each miss someone very special, someone who was left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent and his eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly, he breaks from the group, flying over the green grass, faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face, your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into those trusting eyes, so long gone from your life, but never absent from your heart. Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together... Now I am not afraid of dying, because I know all my pets will be there waiting for me.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

Keiko, if cats really do have nine lives, please come back to me.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED... TIME TO GO She was adopted in a taxicab. She was quite hesitant about the situation. Several times, she attempted to find a new home. Didn't happen. Days,... months,... years in a routine. Dogs, dogs, dogs. Oh, and then the cat. But the end approached after we had been apart for 17 days. Home from vacation, I was ecstatic to see her. She reciprocated. But it was different. It felt real. Could it be? You truly love me now, don't you? You realize my compassion and dedication. You understand that we can live harmoniously with mutual respect. Finally,... it's genuine. My Human,... my deed is done. Pass it on for the welfare of my fellow felines. Mission accomplished. You no longer need me. I'd merely be a burden from this moment forth. Gonna miss you and the dogs. You know I love you. Always did... from the very day I adopted you in the taxicab. Time to go. Keiko was not Laurie's cat; Laurie was Keiko's human. On March 23, six days after Laurie returned from a vacation, Keiko's carcass was discovered across the street from her home. She had been mysteriously missing for two days prior. Cause of death unknown. Laurie was not fond of cats when Keiko entered her life, but Keiko persistently lavished Laurie with unconditional love & affection for the four years they were together. Eventually Laurie came to admire Keiko's persistence and was compelled to react with mutual feelings.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

I'm sorry for your loss. My world collapsed three months ago when my 11 year old cat died. He was my best friend and we lived together all those 11 years, so he was my family <3. We saw many kind of good, and some odd things together. When he was little and sometimes when I cried he came and licked my tears away..So we take care of each other. When I was happy we dance together, and when sad or angry we play and hug, and after that my worries were gone. I have so many good memories, I'll never forget him and I promised him that I won't. I hugged and kissed my cat every day and I told him that "I love you" or " You are special to me". I still cry every day, it takes time to get over it. There's a big scar in my heart, but I'm still breathing. After my cat died I decided that I finally have to help abandoned cats. So I become a member of animal welfare federation in my home town. I have lots of cat friends now and have had sweet cat therapy every week when I visit in animal shelter. I do voluntary work e.g. I clean in animal shelter or sometimes I have cat in my home, if some cat needs special care for a week or so. It's very rewarding job. My dream is that I could built my own animal shelter..you never know. When I look at the stars at night I see there's a special twinkling star, my friend is there watching me..

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

Sorry to hear the passing of Zeke, my beloved Bobby departed last year, he lives in my memory and in there he is alive..

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

Dear Fred, So sorry to hear about your big loss. Only a few months ago I lost my dearest cat..she was my princess and only 9 years old..but I don't think I have ever felt so much pain when I had to let her go. Still every day I'm looking for her and missing my princess but also know she is somewhere in cat heaven playing with other cats and chasing dogs. Because I miss her still so much..I got a nice tattoo on my shoulder with her beautiful face and expression..so at least this gives me the feeling she's still with me every day. Fred, take care and try to look back to the nice moments with Zeke & treasure the moments of the good life you gave him. He had a fantastic family and you gave him all the love and care he wished and wanted. Take care Fred. Monika (The Hague)

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

So many dogs- so many memories.With each one I learned more, gave more and received more..
Paddy, a Springer Spaniel, was our first "child" before we had human children. He had to be euthanised due to lymphoma at 11. He hadn't seemed really ill so it was very hard.
Muffin, a tiny scruffy thing, somehow got out of our property at 18. We never found her. It was so sad to think how she died alone, blind, but with no health issues except her great age.
Duff, a labxSt Bernard, a big black bear of a dog, who got on so well in spite of hip dysplasia but whose digestive system gave up and stopped nourishing him. We decided to take him for the injection to end his life when he stopped wagging his tail. He'd had enough. We sent him to a well-earned rest.
Muzzi- a border colliexretriever, such a character, taken at 7 by a very aggressive adenoma, euthanised to end his pain.
Cleo, another big dog, probably labxGSDxgreyhound, with the most beautiful eyes you have ever seen. Her hip dysplasia was complicated by that condition where the nervous system stops working from the back end forwards. When I took her in, I was still so conflicted- those beautiful shining eyes, her strong forequarters- what a terrible shame and so very upsetting. She had borne the pain and indignity with such sweetness to the very end. I will remember those eyes forever.
Dusty a gsdxlab, who also had her digestive system fail her in her old age, so when she became really weak we let her go before she suffered any more.
Lupo, a gsdxpitbull rescue I tried so hard to rehabilitate after an abusive life all of his 2 years. The poor boy was too damaged and had vicious periods when he attacked for no reason- nobody, dog or human, was safe at these times. One day he just snapped and all the trust I'd worked so hard to build between us, just disappeared. He seemed to lose his mind. With a very heavy heart I returned him to the rescue organisation who had him euthanased. What a waste of a beautiful, intelligent, and at times, extremely loving dog! How I hate those who abuse animals!
My remaining 2 dogs are 7 now- they were both rescues- as all of my dogs- and I see their youthfulness fading. I love them with all my heart and will give them the very best life I can and if necessary, help them to leave this life before they suffer.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

As a baby, I lunged for dogs. I got the greatest gift of my life at age 9 months when my Grandfather showed up with a 6 week old white border collie pup we named Blanca. Where other dogs played fetch, Blanca played keep-away. She loved trash night and accompanying my Dad and the cans down to the curb. Blanca played not with a stick but with a log, and her bark was hoarse because she used it so much. She had to be kept inside when we played volleyball as she'd cull out her sheep (me) and drive the rest of the herd into the net. She lived to be 15 and had slowed in the end because of arthritis. She tried to run away on her last day with us, to spare us the pain of losing her or seeing her not in her best humor. My dad and I held Blanca as the vet put her to sleep, and we couldn't look at each other without crying. We lost a family member that day. I'll never forget the comforting power of a hug from Blanca and want to believe the t-shirt slogan that heaven is the place where all the dogs you've ever loved come to greet you.

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Cora Bailey
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