I haven't blogged for a long time. I always meant to get back to it, but knew, in my heart of hearts that it would take a big event to get me back to writing. Sadly, that big event occurred today: I had to say good-bye to my best little pal Zip, the Jack Russell Terrier extraordinaire. My heart is broken. I'm not quite sure what to do with myself now that he's gone.
It was about 13 1/2 years ago that I went with my friend Johnny to look at a 6 month old dog that some folks were wanting to sell. The people "said" they were allergic to him and needed to get rid of him. The minute I met "Milo" I knew the truth, and was pretty certain allergies had nothing to do with it. He was a handful. He never stopped racing around the room the whole time we were there--running, jumping, barking, bouncing off the walls. I had never witnessed such energy before. At the time, we thought it was adorable. We took him home. I should have known, when they let him go for $50, and when the pup got a cursory "bye" from the owners, with no sense of sadness or sorrow, that we were in for an adventure.
To us, the dog was NOT a "Milo". We decided to let him name himself. It didn't take long. The first day we had him, John's sister and brother-in-law came to visit. Bill sat on the sofa. The dog saw Bill, hit the floor running, and, with one gigantic leap, landed atop of Bill's head. Bill was not amused. I thought it was hysterical. ZIPPY! We learned immediately that this racing, running and jumping that we thought was so adorable never, EVER stopped. It sort of ceased being cute by day two and became a bit of an issue. The dog simply never tired. And, when he was bored (which was always) he became destructive. He ate the carpet. We thought it was safe to barricade him in the kitchen when we left because it was all tile and, as far as we could see, there was nothing he could damage. He ate the backs of the wicker chairs. I mistakenly shut my bedroom door one morning, locking him OUT of HIS bedroom. That made him mad. He ate something else--I forget what.
Also,his previous owners told us he was potty trained. He was, sort of. When he needed to go out, he would come and look at you, and then go to the back door to go outside. However, if you happened to be fast asleep when he looked at you, he went to the back door and promptly "went" on the "inside" part of the door. Too bad for you. You should have been paying attention.
It was time for doggie training. I enrolled him in school at PetsMart. It was a disaster. Other dogs seemed to learn relatively quickly. Zip chased them around and barked at them. He didn't understand why they were all sitting and staying. It was an alien concept to him.
At the end of the course, the teacher, (a Jack Russell owner), graduated Zip. That earned a lot of laughter. Then she gave us the "most improved student" award, earning more laughter. I didn't think it was funny. My dog was brilliant. He was just....undisciplined. The teacher understood and encouraged me to "stick with it."
We figured if we could find a way to expend all of that energy somehow, Zip would be less of a terror in the house and more of a terrier. However, living in Arizona, laden with heat, gravel yards, and dangerous, roaming coyotes, there was no good way to let him run--and, having been no great success in doggie training, the word "come" was akin to "blah, blah, blah" as far as Zipster was concerned. We just couldn't let him run around loose outside. He would take off, chasing rabbits, and we'd be lucky to find him again. Finally, Johnny rigged up a deal where we could let him run on the sidewalk while we drove along in the golf cart. It was a winner. The dog literally went NUTS when we got ready to take him for a run. It was the saving grace to our relationship with Zipster. Every night, we hooked him up and took him for a run. Being a true athlete, we eventually got him up to running several miles. It was impossible to slow him down. He absolutely loved it, and, glory be, it tired him out.
I also started running him in agility training. That was fun, but he was a disaster. He was lightening fast, but he decided that he loved running through tunnels and hated doing weave poles, so, instead of following the course and my directions, he just ran around like a crazy lunatic, looking for all the tunnels and running through them. He had a blast. The problem; however, is that the instructors at the agility training were exceedingly militant. Agility wasn't supposed to be fun! When Zip lost control (which he did each and every night), they got angry--blaming, of course, the owner. As if I had any command authority over my dog. They just didn't understand the Jack Russell mentality. One night, they got so mad when he took off running and chasing all the other dogs, that they yelled and me and made me cry. Losers. No worries--we discovered there was a such a thing as "Jack Russell Day"--an actual event where hundreds of screaming, barking, crazy Jack Russells came together for racing, tunneling and, his favorite: lure coursing. This is where I finally realized I wasn't a bad owner. I saw hundreds and hundreds of dogs, all acting exactly like my own--with owners unable to control them. I felt vindicated. We quit agility and hung out with the Jack Russell owners.
By the time Zip was seven or eight years old, I decided to keep him. We had succeeded in learning what we needed to do in order to keep him from destroying the house. He had an incredibly independent and interesting personality. He wasn't needy. He wasn't a "cuddler". You might think he was--but you would be wrong. He slept next to me in the bed and on the sofa because he decided that if the floor was not good enough for humans, it was no good for him either. Everywhere I sat, he would sit--EXCEPT the table. Somehow, he realized that taking a place at the dining room table was off limits. I initially decided that he would NOT sleep on my bed. He had other ideas. He came up immediately. I pushed him off. He jumped back up. I firmly set him on the floor. He jumped up again. I put him on the floor. He lay on the floor, waiting, until I fell asleep and stealthily crawled up onto the bed. It woke me up. I put him back on the floor. The next morning, he was next to me, in bed, under the covers, head on the pillow. This battle went on for three weeks--with him in bed beside me every morning. I was losing sleep. And, I was losing the battle. Finally, I gave up and, when I went to bed, threw the covers back so he could get under them. Somehow, I doubt I'll be able to sleep tonight, without the Zipster by my side. I came to like having him there, even if he was a bed hog. Amazing how such a little dog can take up the entire bed.
The truth about Zip is that I fell in love with him. I took him absolutely everywhere with me that I could. I planned vacations and trips that would allow him to come along. Last Christmas, I opted to drive from Indiana to Phoenix for Christmas, so that I could bring him with me. He traveled across the US three times with me. I brought him to Mackinac Island twice. My weekends, and evenings after work, especially in the summer, revolved around which park, beach or trails we would be exploring. I loved Zip--but what I loved most was watching how very excited he got to go for a walk, a car ride or a ride on the boat. I had to spell the words "g-o", "P-e-t-S-m-a-r-t", "w-a-l-k", "t-r-e-a-t" and about 500 other words. I convinced my friends that Zip's vocabulary was well over 500 words--and I wasn't lying. Did I say he was brilliant?
I have spent more time with Zip than with any one person. And it leaves me wondering what I will do when I wake up tomorrow on Saturday (better known as "Zippy's Day"), and he won't be there, bugging me, pushing me to take him somewhere. I really miss him and letting him go today was one of the hardest things I've ever endured. But the poor guy was very sick and he wasn't going to get better. There is no redemption in animal suffering. They are incapable of understanding why they feel so badly and why they can't do the things they loved to do and were created to do. I knew I would not let Zip suffer, despite how much I wanted to keep him near me. So the vet was good enough to come to the house and help Zip go to sleep.
I can't describe how blessed I was to have had this little pup in my life for so long. He brought out the best in me. He helped me to realize and try to overcome (or at least downplay) my biggest shortcomings--my inherent selfishness, my temper and my impatience. He was pure joy. I couldn't help but feel good when I was with him.
I've received a lot of nice messages today regarding Zip. I hope my friends are right. I hope there is a doggie heaven or a rainbow bridge and that, one day, my pup will bound towards me and leap up on my head. I know I'll be thrilled to see him again. Until then, sleep well little pal.