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 lost two of my best friends, one in May and then the other the day before Thanksgiving just last year. They were both old and well loved family members. It was most difficult to let them go, The first died at home and the second we had to let the vet put down. I told them both to go and be with my mother who passed before them as they were leaving us. I told them grandma would be waiting for them. Knowing that someone was there waiting for them made it somewhat easier on me.I know I'll see them again, at Rainbow Bridge, one day and look forward to seeing them young and full of life as they used to be. However, as I said, knowing my mother was there waiting for them helped me, she loved the first dog and baby sat him a lot when I worked, and the second lost was well known to her as well. I know that my mother and the dogs will be waiting for me when I cross over, so that makes me feel better about the end of life for myself.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

My four pawed companions are family members. Always have been, even before it was the accepted thing. Always with the loss of one of them there is unspeakable grief. I remember all of them as if they were here yesterday and some have been gone from me for more than forty years. I don't believe that the pain ever goes completely away. Over time we simply learn how to live with it because we have no other choice. And we choose to continue to share our lives with new animal companions, in spite of the knowledge of the pain of loss because of the great joy and love they give us. The laughter at their antics, the unconditional love and loyalty they give to us, even when we fall short of the perfect human they think we are, and the memories that even death can't strip away from us.

 
Susan Barnes
2 years ago

Just reading the story about Fred’s dog Zeke is not only moving, but a great insight to what this special dog must have been to Fred and his family. It is as if one knows him through the power of words. I am very passionate about all non-human animals on this planet and have rescued many wild and not wild non-human animals in my care for over a decade. They have been rescued because they have had injuries, illness, and disabilities or simply unwanted. I find it hard to use the word pet, but respect those that wish to use it. I will give you a brief account of some of the many treasures that I feel privilege to have known and cared for. Little Boy was a beautiful ivory white champagne male rat who was given to me by my local vets. His previous owners/carers no longer wanted him. I had had previous experience of caring for some ex-laboratory rats that where kindly given to me. Little Boy was such a gentle, placid and busy cute rat. When he passed away the only way I was able to deal with his loss was to not eat. This took a toll on me, but it was the only way that I could really handle losing him. I was given Little Boy in 2005 and he passed away the following year. Somehow I had to get a little stronger in order to continue caring for those treasures still in my care and for those that may need help in the future. I miss Little Boy every day, and not a day goes by without saying his name. Duvier was a beautiful Collared Dove, who had a broken left wing. The vets were not able to repair her wing so she had to remain in my care. She was never caged and had a big room in the house. She was with me for 4 years, from 2004 until her passing in 2008. Collared Doves are highly nervous birds and can take quite a long time to accept you on their terms. She did this after at least 2 years of being with me. She allowed me to stroke her, give her some little scratches. Often she would flick her wings gently to me as an indication that she wanted some attention. Duvier would greet me with a coo coo. She was an exceptional gentle and beautiful Collar Dove who is sorely missed. Coping with her loss was hard, but it helped that I had other doves that needed my attention. Woodsie the Woodpigeon attacked by a Bird of Prey opened up its character to one of absolute gentleness and placidity. Woodsie is truly loved and sorely missed. I have shed many tears since losing Woodsie, but knowing I did the best that I knew how makes me feel that I tried. Houdini was a beautiful white and grey male rat who was unwanted. He was a cheeky rat, but affectionate too. He really loved to lie on his back and enjoyed being stroked on his underside. He would go in to what I call a ratonic immobility state, as if he was completely in a trance. Then just lying on my lap and enjoying the attention that he was getting. I miss Houdini very much. Branny and Sasha were two wild male mice who were abandoned by their mother because she was disturbed. After some time it was decided by the person who brought them to me that it did not seem that their mother was coming back sadly. Branny and Sasha were brought up from baby mice and into adulthood. They both lived well pass the age of 2. They were very gently, cheeky and delightful cute mice. Their kind are so sadly persecuted and misunderstood. They gave me a great insight into their world. They were exceptionally busy mice and amazingly trusting of me. They would often come to me, but on their terms. When they became ill they wanted to be in my hand to pass away. They are truly missed and dearly loved. I will never forget any non-human animal that i feel so honoured to have cared for. I see them as important as any human animal. i just accept them and give them the best care possible. Trying to deal with all these losses and many more is not easy, as i learned from losing Little Boy. I appreciate in his case i went to the extreme, but one has deal with a loss in their unique way, and allowed to grieve for how long they want to. One of the main lessons for me what that the non-humans that we look after need us, we will obviously grieve over a loss companion, but there are so many other that need help and our compassion moves out to them. It can take a considerable amount of time when a precious non-human animal has passed away that was once in your care. Try to think of the positive things that you did such as the care, the love and time that you spent and all the treasured memories that you have. I currently care for Duver, Duval (Collared Doves), Woodlian (Woodpigeon) and Musky (Mouse). From Susan in the UK

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

Just reading the story about Fred’s dog Zeke is not only moving, but a great insight to what this special dog must have been to Fred and his family. It is as if one knows him through the power of words. I am very passionate about all non-human animals on this planet and have rescued many wild and not wild non-human animals in my care for over a decade. They have been rescued because they have had injuries, illness, and disabilities or simply unwanted. I find it hard to use the word pet, but respect those that wish to use it. I will give you a brief account of some of the many treasures that I feel privilege to have known and cared for. Little Boy was a beautiful ivory white champagne male rat who was given to me by my local vets. His previous owners/carers no longer wanted him. I had had previous experience of caring for some ex-laboratory rats that where kindly given to me. Little Boy was such a gentle, placid and busy cute rat. When he passed away the only way I was able to deal with his loss was to not eat. This took a toll on me, but it was the only way that I could really handle losing him. I was given Little Boy in 2005 and he passed away the following year. Somehow I had to get a little stronger in order to continue caring for those treasures still in my care and for those that may need help in the future. I miss Little Boy every day, and not a day goes by without saying his name. Duvier was a beautiful Collared Dove, who had a broken left wing. The vets were not able to repair her wing so she had to remain in my care. She was never caged and had a big room in the house. She was with me for 4 years, from 2004 until her passing in 2008. Collared Doves are highly nervous birds and can take quite a long time to accept you on their terms. She did this after at least 2 years of being with me. She allowed me to stroke her, give her some little scratches. Often she would flick her wings gently to me as an indication that she wanted some attention. Duvier would greet me with a coo coo. She was an exceptional gentle and beautiful Collar Dove who is sorely missed. Seeing other Collared Doves in need of care enabled me to carry on. Woodsie the Woodpigeon attacked by a Bird of Prey opened up, revealing a character of absolute gentleness and placidity. Often Woodsie would 'chunter' away to me as a means of communicating. Woodsie was never caged. Woodsie is truly loved and dearly missed. Houdini was a beautiful white and grey male rat who was unwanted. He was a cheeky rat, but affectionate too. He really loved to lie on his back and enjoyed being stroked on his underside. He would go in to what I call a ratonic immobility state, as if he was completely in a trance. Then just lying on my lap and enjoying the attention that he was getting. I miss Houdini very much. Branny and Sasha were two wild male mice who were abandoned by their mother because she was disturbed. After some time it was decided by the person who brought them to me that it did not seem that their mother was coming back sadly. Branny and Sasha were brought up from baby mice and into adulthood. They both lived well pass the age of 2. They were very gently, cheeky and delightful cute mice. Their kind are so sadly persecuted and misunderstood. They gave me a great insight into their world. They were exceptionally busy mice and amazingly trusting of me. They would often come to me, but on their terms. When they became ill they wanted to be in my hand to pass away. They are truly missed and dearly loved. I will never forget any non-human animal that i feel so honoured to have cared for. I see them as important as any human animal. i just accept them and give them the best care possible. Trying to deal with all these losses and many more is not easy, as i learned from losing Little Boy. I appreciate in his case i went to the extreme, but one has deal with a loss in their own way, and allowed to grieve for how long they want to. I current care for Duver, Duval (Collared Doves), Woodlian (Woodpigeon) and Musky (Mouse). Susan in the UK.

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