Dogs That Define Us

Posted by Pia

My heart hurts for a dear friend who just had to part with his best friend Zelda. As is the natural course of life and death, Zelda moved on and my human friend is now left to reflect on the impact she had on his life.

1 of 18
Zelda - with the look that says it all

1 Zelda - with the look that says it all

Zelda just being Zelda

2 Zelda just being Zelda

Zelda enjoying nature

3 Zelda enjoying nature

Zelda's favorite sleeping position- dead bug

4 Zelda's favorite sleeping position- dead bug

Zelda soaking up the sun

5 Zelda soaking up the sun

Zelda - the day we met

6 Zelda - the day we met

7 "You found me !!!"

Zelda rides shotgun home from New Orleans

8 Zelda rides shotgun home from New Orleans

Zelda - a windy day at the beach

9 Zelda - a windy day at the beach

10 "Don't even think about it"

Zelda, Queen of the neighborhood

11 Zelda, Queen of the neighborhood

What are you thinking Z?

12 What are you thinking Z?

Zelda sharing pasta with Veronica

13 Zelda sharing pasta with Veronica

14 "I could drive forever with Z at my side"

Zelda enjoying the beach with her Roll Zelda Roll cart

15 Zelda enjoying the beach with her Roll Zelda Roll cart

Zelda and the old white mare

16 Zelda and the old white mare

Zelda's final sunset

17 Zelda's final sunset

Zelda - my aging beauty- RIP

18 Zelda - my aging beauty- RIP

I know you readers can relate to the depth of gratitude we feel to our canine companions. And while the hole left in their absence seems bottomless for a time, the lasting effect they have on bringing out the best in us can perhaps offer some balance.

While all of our fur kids are special in their own ways, many people have one that stands out- one that in some way took the lead- encouraging an otherwise reluctant or cautious human to step up and take a leap of faith they would otherwise have kept far enough out of view to even contemplate.

For my grieving friend, Zelda was that one. He accidently stumbled upon her, emaciated and struggling to hang on, during one harrowing day of animal rescue in post Katrina 9th ward of New Orleans- a pursuit already outside of the limits he'd ever expected to find himself. Zelda's very existence called upon this human to redefine himself in a matter of seconds.

Having guarded himself to assess and avoid risks in life - following years of methodical planning- suddenly there was Zelda. Through one eye of blue and one of brown, she lay perfectly still but staring directly at him. She was calm and centered, but also vulnerable and broken in the skeleton she had become.

My friend now describes his acute awareness that their random encounter became the defining moment in his life. To save her life, he had to choose a path of action contrary to the risk-averse foundation he'd painstakingly laid beneath himself.

Instead of producing anxiety or ambivalence, Zelda's plight rendered him clear and focused. His move to risk everything and save her was instrumental to securing the survival of them both.
And the leap taken in that moment ultimately revealed the unique gifts they each had to offer, both respectively and as a team of two.

The dedication and purpose that my friend discovered in that moment undoubtedly saved the life of magical Ms. Zelda. It also motivated him to apply his methodical approach to a cause that was formerly beyond his boundaries, but is now an integral part of his identity. The Dirty Dog Squad, a rescue group he founded on the heels of Zelda's rescue, continues to save so many 'diamonds in the rough.'

Able to see the potential within each and every shelter dog in need of a helping human hand, my grieving friend has embarked on yet another life saving endeavor- one to honor Zelda's legacy specifically.
I will share more about this very worthwhile foundation in next week's post.

For now, please read my friend's heartfelt parting words to his beloved Zelda.

Sweet Zelda,
You brought me unimaginable joy and leave me with unbearable sadness. The greatest moment of my life was miraculously finding you, broken and starving. Through the years, you showed me courage and loyalty beyond belief, and I am humbled every day by the devotion of your friendship. Our time together was stolen from us far too soon, but your huge magical presence is greater than life itself, and I feel you with me every day. The best part of me is the piece of my heart you touched the moment we met, and I now give you to keep forever, so I can remain your companion on your journey. I miss you terribly, and am grateful we have the treasure of our memories of our times together that I will cherish for as long as I live.
Goodbye, my sweet, beautiful Zelda.

I feel so fortunate to have known her.
In kinship,
Dr. Pia Salk

Sending a big hug to Veronica who Zelda also loved dearly.
And thank you to the very wise Jim Archer and Angela DiLillo for helping Zelda in her final days.

Comments (17)

  • Good Morning Dr. Pia

    Well you did it again mom and I are balling our eyes out, what a beautiful story. Zelda you were a special pup may you rest in peace.

    I find it amazing how us four legged kids can touch the lives of our humans - they just love us :) And all of us at the DW, my Glue Squad buddies, are so very fortunate to have families that love us. There are so many animals that get abused every day it makes me sad. Zelda's story started out sad but she ended up with a wonderful family.

    Ok enough with the mushy crap - I have an appoitment with the groomer today at 1 - I'm not so happy right now. Why I ask? I'm not dirty, I don't smell why in the hell do I need a bath? I think I'll pee on someone when I get there ;)

    GK I don't know how you do it, all that brushing and bathing I just hate it!


  • Good morning Dr. Pia.
    Zelda had a rough time in her life but she got to live out the rest of it in a happy loving home. That is great and I am sure that she returned the love. Just think, there are poor animals out there that have it rough their whole life. Very very sad.
    Love to all,

  • Hello ladies, Kirby here.
    And hello to you too Dr. Pia. It’s good to have a loving home and people who love you. Right now I have a mission to complete. I wasn’t good last night and Daddy told me I was a “bad dog” and went to bed. I know that he still loves me even when I’m not being good. I think we all have a “Zoe” moment and get into trouble. If I have breakfast with him, things will be all right. He can’t stay mad at me very long. I’ll give him my “sad eye” look and that will melt his heart. We four legged kids can do that you know. Have a good day all, and try to stay out of trouble.
    Catch you later, Kirby.

  • We lost our beloved crazy Eddie in Fall and then his beloved companion Daisy early this year. its as though Daisy gave up after losing Ed, tho she had her new BFF's (adopted). They will be in our hearts forever, and Lucy and Grace will most likely remember them forever too. I could see the greiving in their faces, when Daisy and Ed did not come back in the house. We can't keep them forever, but sure is painful. Thanks for the blog. God bless are creatures that bring so much life to our lives. Teri

  • Hello Dr. Pia,
    I agree with Zoe, you did it again. Mom and I are crying and crying, but happy Zelda found love and companionship in her last years. So many have difficult lives it pains me. I am so very sad for them. We at the Glue Squad try and spread the word of love and adoption daily.

    Now for Old Basil Boy. The "D" day of the doctor visit was yesterday. Tuesday I had a bath and loved it. The warmth and shower really felt good. But I shook and shook from the moment I left home until leaving the doctor's office. Dr. Westfall is my hero. Even though the margains on the tumor removed were clean, he is concerned that it was stage 3 cancer. I cannot take cancer chemo or meds due to my Crohn's Disease, so it is what it is. Mom and I celebrate every day together and I am feeling and eating great right now. I have to go in every month for a bladder check. I don't like that but am lucky to have a family looking after me. Mom was really mad at that cancer stuff yesterday. She was really mad at it--in her friends, in me, everywhere. I calmed her down and gave her lots of love. Well, better go rest before breakfast. Have a great day all.
    Love & licks,

  • What a beautiful story. Me and mom are still tearing up. I know mom went through something similiar before I came along. She told me all about Katie, her litle terrier she had for 15 years. SHe was a little thing but I have big shoes to fill:)
    Anyway on to something big...... I got out of the yard yesterday. Someone left the gate open and I was very curious as to what was outside the yard. Mom saw me from the deck, and I thought she was going to pee her pants. She turned white and looked a little sick. Anyway, she came out to get me, but me being me took off in a nice little stroll up the street. I didn't run but a fast walk. Mom was right behind me but couldn't catch me. Then I heard her shake a box. The little girl next door left her chalk out and mom was shaking the box. Being curious as to what it was, I turned around to investigate. Mom took advantage and grabbed me. Safe and sound back in the yard. And as you could imagine gates are all double locked.
    Then this morning I had my first taste of anisette cookies. Yummy:) Mom was making a birthday cake for brother Jimmy and I kept stepping on her foot she just gave me a taste so I would stop. Got about 4 more tastes after that:)
    Well off the jump on Jenna for a bit, then going in my cage for a nap while mom is at the office. She comes home at lunch to put me out so I have to be rested.
    Have a great day everyone

    Chloe xx

  • Hello Dr. Pia,
    O.K., we're bawling our eyes out here, too...Mimi says that our four legged friends teach us all about life. How to enjoy the good times, how to endure the pee-pee in the wrong spot time & how to be strong at the sad time. Zelda was so lucky & looked very happy and that's what counts.
    Now, be a good girl. I don't like baths & fussying either. Just go to your Zen know. Look out into space & think of something nice. Just think how pretty you'll look when they're all done snipping & shaving.
    Basil, we're so happy that you're doing o.k. Mimi says give your Mom a kiss, it always helps.
    Chloe, I too take unsupervised walks. I love the smells at other houses. heh, heh, heh. I come home for Cheerios...
    have a great day everybody!
    Your Pal,

  • Hi Dr, Pia, Yes, this was a very sad blog post and it brings back memories about all 5 of my prior lovable dogs who are in heaven. I have always loved ALL animals and thank God I still have my delightful, sweet, little Dudley Do Right who fills in for all of my other babies. When we lost our wonderful Cricket, DDR was even sadder than I was and is very sensitive and never wants me out of his sight. It's been 6 years and we still miss her terribly. My thoughts and prayers go to Jim and Angela for taking such good care of Velda and sharing these beautiful photos of her! I know she is in heaven now! Jim's website is great, also! Thank you Dr. Pia for sharing this blog post today and I know how you feel, too. Sure hope you have a great weekend and my prayers are with you, your friends, and our Daily Wag and Glue Squaders. Love to all, Jan and DDR

  • Good morning, Franny, Sharkey, G.K., & Glue Squad!
    What a wonderful story, Dr.Pia! We animals can change lives for the better, if people just give us a chance-all of us, especially the animals that need help and families that love them. Yes, it's hard when one of us has to cross the Rainbow Bridge, but good things will continue to happen for other animals in need because Zelda lived and loved her dad so much.
    Mom had other dogs before us, including Charlotte(a Basset who crossed the Bridge just before she turned fifteen people years), and Zora(who belonged to one of Mom's two-legged kids, but left her with Mom when she moved away). Zora is a Rhodesian Ridgeback/Pit Bull mix, and still lives with us. Mom says that all of us, Zora, too, helped to keep her heart from breaking when Charlotte and Dude(Mom's horse who got VERY old)had to leave us. Lots of people ask Mom different things about dogs all the time(she sees and talks to lots of people at her work), and she tells them that rescue animals are a very special kind of love, and always encourages them to help a rescue pup, that they will never be sorry they did. Fergie and I were what Mom calls picked pups(she says she waited a LONG time for each of us to be born!), but she does occasionally bring home a dog that needs help. We do our best to help her help them(well, Fergie gets a little jealous sometimes, but just a little), because the stories from these dogs can be just awful!!
    Oh, and Zora is why things have been crazy around here. Uncle Bradley asked if we dogs could have a special treat the other day. Mom said Fergie and I couldn't, because we are Murphy's Law dogs(she says what ever can go wrong with us WILL go wrong!), but that Zora could have a treat. Boy, did that treat smell good when we came in!! I tried to get it, but couldn't; Zora gobbled it up-and got very sick the next day!!Her crate and bed smelled so bad! Mom was NOT happy, she had lots to clean and wash, and said no more special treats for Zora, either!
    Mom says it's time to go out, it's a beautiful day, and the squirrels need chasing. Glad to hear you're doing well, Basil; all you other Glue Squad members stay well, behave, and have a great day!

    Your pals,
    Lily, Fergie, and Zora, too

  • What a nice story, Dr. Pia! While it is sad that Zelda had to go to the Rainbow Bridge, I like to think about how lucky she was to have been rescued from that horrible situation and the happy times she had since then. French Bulldog Rescue Network lost their mascot, Smeagol, just last week. He was a very special and lucky dog too. He was found during a Puppy Mill raid in North Carolina. He almost didn't get found at all; he was all alone in a rabbit hutch in the very back of the property and it is a miracle that someone decided to go and look there. But he WAS found and what a happy life he had!! Everyone loved him and he was a very nice pup and so funny. Mom got to meet him last year at the French Bulldog National Specialty where he was helping raise money for the French Bulldog Rescue Network. She said it was like meeting your favorite rock star. Anyway, I guess Mom and I are glass half full people, because when we hear stories like Zelda's or Smeagies' we think about all the times of happiness and love that wouldn't have happened if not for that one moment of someone turning back and looking again.

  • Dr. Pia, being almost 16 I treasure everyday with my people and i miss my big sister Ivy, the wonder Dog, (Border collie) who at 15 left us...but I wish everydog could be loved as us....Cora-belle

  • Oh.... poor Zelda. No one can replace a lost dog, can they. It does creep me out a bit though. Well, I have plenty of years ahead of me.

    well, Lily and Fergie.... is Zora a lot of trouble? I'd like it a lot if Zora would comment. How old is she?

    Well, I know now that cora-belle is an old dog. What about you others?

    And well... yes, by now you would know tat I am one and a half years old..... My older brother is always annoyed at me and all he does is sleep. I talked about him before, he is a white terrier just like me. He's OLD!!!!!! 14 years... but then, we terriers live a bit longer than large dogs. Cora-belle, in your young days did you herd sheep? Just wondering, because shepherds usually give their dogs short names.

    This is one of my longest comments yet.

    Mom and dad are fun. I love dad, but my brother loves mom. After all, he was mom's engagement present. ( because dad wanted to have him so he gave it to mom as the engagement present) Anyways........

    Jumps and Licks,

  • mmm... I snuck some cheese.. yummy yum yum. I hope mom doesn't find out...

  • Hi, it's Nadia as a person now, what am I thinking? well, just sayin' , I LOVE LOVE LOVE cheese! I can't help it. did you know that STAM dog treats are grain free, delicious for dogs, and best of all, healthy? Look it up on Google. STAM's main ingredient is chickpea flour.

    Nadia as a human.

  • What an amazing story about sweet Zelda and her wonderful human Jim. The tears are falling too but it is wonderful knowing that she was loved.

    Basil you are very special and very loved. Everyday you fight back against that ol' "C" Monster is a gift to the rest of us to stay strong even when the odds look against us. Chloe that's a bit of a scare, glad you're OK. :smile:

  • Heartfelt condolences. My dear friend, my red Chow died 13 years ago. I was honored to have him 12 years. When I lost him I thought I could never go through this again. It was about 4 years when I felt I just could not live my life without that special unconditional love, respect, friendship, loyalty and all those things that come with that unique soul-mate.
    I found a cream Chow with the same magnificence, of course in his own regal fashion. A few days ago I learned he has stomach cancer, he is only 8. He had the personality, body, and stance of a champion. He was a true pack leader. I named him Maximus because he was all about "strength and honor", and wisdom with kindness in his teachings.

    My heart and prayers go out to everyone who has loved and lost. I think they will be waiting for us, to show us where to go.

  • Hi Dr. Pia,
    I see that I never hit the SUBMIT COMMENT button for this post. I came here today to look at Zelda again and noticed my comment was not there. A sure sign of my age!
    RIP were loved by your humans for at least the rest of your life. I love the photo #14 it tugged at my heartstrings.

    delia (will hit the submit comment button)

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