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

Fred,
My heart goes out to you as it is never easy; no matter the age nor the reason,losing a beloved pet is painful. Time alone heals your heart. I hope you can open your heart to another as, for me, it helps to heal the hole in my heart. Loss and grief of one animal has nothing to do with loving another.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Thank you for sharing your precious memories of Zeke.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Nothing lessens the grief of losing our wonderful companion animals except time - my old dog a wonderful Kerry Blue Terrier called Paddy was my very best friend too - always pleased to see you, always there when you needed him and such entertainment. I lost him nearly 20 years ago but he still makes me smile at the silliest things and I see him still momentarily in my peripheral vision...just a glimpse from time to time...wonderful memories! I guess when we get over the raw sense of loss you can remember that we all get to carry them with us in our hearts for the rest of our lives. When I lost my old dog my dad said to me "why to you have these animals if they cause you such grief?" he just didn't seem to understand that despite the dreadful loss I wouldn't have missed those 15years of absolute joy of his company for anything......I work with wildlife these days but maybe one day if I ever move back to civilization I may have another wonderful dog...

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Nothing lessens the grief of losing our wonderful companion animals except time - my old dog a wonderful Kerry Blue Terrier called Paddy was my very best friend too - always pleased to see you, always there when you needed him and such entertainment. I lost him nearly 20 years ago but he still makes me smile at the silliest things and I see him still momentarily in my peripheral vision...just a glimpse from time to time...wonderful memories! I guess when we get over the raw sense of loss you can remember that we all get to carry them with us in our hearts for the rest of our lives. When I lost my old dog my dad said to me "why to you have these animals if they cause you such grief?" he just didn't seem to understand that despite the dreadful loss I wouldn't have missed those 15years of absolute joy of his company for anything......I work with wildlife these days but maybe one day if I ever move back to civilization I may have another wonderful dog...

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

We lost our beloved dog Jed (Belgain Shepherd) in January 2003. We returned home after xmas holidays at the shack on the River Murray, Jeds most favourite place. Our youngest daughter had a very strong bond with Jed and on their return to school on the first day she said to Jed when I come home I'll tell you all about my first day in the big primary, gave him a kiss and cuddle then off to school. Jed was frantic when they left and unfortunatley we had to have him put down during the day as he had cancer, his breathing all of a sudden became very shallow and he collapsed. Stacey returned home from school looking for her best friend but he was gone. She went hysterical. My husband had to go away so Stacey slept with me that night. In the middle of the night we both sat upright in bed as we both heard Jed, he used to make a monkey sort of sound when he wanted attention and this is what we both heard. I told Stacey Jed was here to say goodbye. She jumped up told him how much she loved him and will miss him forever then he was gone. I didn't believe in the afterlife but after that night there is definatley a question mark. Stacey and ourselves are confident Jed is waiting for us, he didn't want to leave and I am so grateful he came and said goodbye. We now have a Schipperke who is 8 and very much loved but we will never forget our Jed, we have pictures of him all over the house.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

My golden retriever, Ginger, died 4 years ago at the age of 13. We had her with us from the time she was a puppy and she literally grew up with my children. Unfortunately, she suffered from diabetes which was controlled with insulin. She also developed cancer of the jaw and had part of her lower jaw removed although you'd hardly know it except for the fact that her tongue sometimes listed to one side. Eventually the diabetes caused blindness but even that was something she adapted to. She was a real fighter. We loved her so much. I'm fighting off tears even as I write this. She was suffering toward the end and was euthanized by our vet. Saddest day of my life. We have a new dog, Sam, a border collie/australian shepherd mix and he's a character too. But we'll never ever forget Ginger. Dogs have a way of leaving their paw prints all over your heart.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Fred, I write you from Mexico City, I love animals, we have 8 dogs and 8 cats, they were all rescued from the streets...among this beloved rescued animals, we have a Rhodesian Ridgeback, she is almost 5 years now, we found her when she was about 4 months, now she is big and so beautiful, her name is "Rayita" (Little Stripe)...I can imagine Zeke was as beautiful as my Rayita is...all animals are beautiful...I am sorry about your loss, I can understand the pain that you feel because you miss Zeke...all our pets are our family, and it´s hard to let go...I´m sure he is an angel that takes care of you...thanks for everything you and IFAW do for animals, here in Mexico we are fighting too...!! Best Regards! Janina Hidalgo

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Sorry for your lost, we lost our 14 years old Ashley ( Rescue mix) May/31/2009 after spending over 1000 dollars trying to be selfish and saving her with Kidney Diseases. till today i still have her pictures around and at least think of her 3 times a week and cry for her, i have her license and tags and put it on my key chains, i know its hard. your Zeke is in Rainbow Bridge with many other animals , celebrating their painless and endless life and completely healed, at least that's what i been told, and i like to believe that,

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

My first two dogs were from the same litter - Ursu Apsos, and such lovely animals. They really were special. They lived till they were both 15, but by that time they had contracted various illnesses such as cancer, heart failure, kidney failure and in the end I had to have them put to sleep by the vet. It was Christmas time, too. SO sad. I cried for weeks! And I still miss them both, six years on, and in spite of having another two dogs.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

I too, had just lost a friend last month; only Duckie was hit by a car. But whatever way our friends pass over, the pain still really stinks! My advice Fred is - cry your heart out!!! If a man cannot cry at the death of his dog-then he should never have had him. Talk about him - a lot! Make a shrine if that is what you need to do. Time does truly heal this initial hurt-and one day you'll function normally again. Oh sure, you'll miss your friend a lot, but it does get easier (as we all know) If I can make a notation on my dog Duckie = a more loyal and finer friend couldn't be found in my part of the world. Being a terror terrier, he sure gave me some interesting challenges and I love that he left me with some great memories. "Wait for me Duckie-I'll see you again one day". Know that I love ya bud. Carla from Constance Bay, Ontario, Canada

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