In 2014, I applied to be a foster parent with the ASPCA to cats and dogs in need. I’ve always had a soft spot for animals, and this was a perfect way to temporarily host animals that needed a place to stay while they healed from surgery/injury, got some growing-up done, or otherwise became adoption-ready. During training, we were told that most fostering opportunities were for cats, which I was happy with, having recently lost my 10 year old kitty. I completed training and waited for a call to pick up some foster cats. I would have welcomed a dog (I looove dogs) but I knew opportunities would be few and far between.
The photo the ASPCA sent of Zeek before we met
About three weeks after training, I got a call from the ASPCA to assess my interest in a “fospice” (foster+hospice) dog named Zeek. Fospice animals have a good quality of life but might have something (a medical condition or just old age) that sometimes causes potential adopters to skip over them 🙁. So they become “fospice” or permanent foster animals to live out their golden years. I was thrilled at the possibility of a dog, but I was intimidated by the prospect of a dog that needed twice-daily eye drops, took daily medication, and was fourteen. Would I be able to handle it? Was it too much? The foster coordinator at the ASPCA suggested I come in to meet Zeek and decide from there.
Not too pleased that I was going to work
Little Zeeky had a bit of a rough start for the first 14 years of his life – he was adopted and returned multiple times, required extensive dental procedures which left him with only 1 tooth, was picked up by the NYPD for neglect/cruelty (and was down to an emaciated 10 pounds versus his normally healthy 15), and was just an old dog. When I first saw him, he was sharing a room with two other small dogs, wearing a baby blue fleece cape, and just staring at me expectantly. We walked him to a playroom where he sniffed around, drank some water, then sat down next to me with a sigh.
I’m pretty sure you can guess what happened next.
Zeek on his freedom ride, in a NYC cab!
I don’t know if it was because of or in spite of his history, but I discovered in our first few days together that Zeek was incredibly sweet, loving, trusting, and tough as nails. I don’t know if I’d expect a person who faced such hardship to be as resilient.
Sitting proud in his Christmas sweater.
Zeek was just happy to be near me (not a difficult feat in my 350 square foot NYC studio), gamely wore a Halloween costume, raincoat, and Santa hat (not all at the same time, to his relief), greeted everyone with a tail wag, and was especially gentle with children, avowed “non dog” people, and other dogs.
Zeek’s Halloween costume – he made the perfect Ewok
Although he knew zero commands (we worked on “sit” for a while, but gave up when his arthritis was acting up) and his house-training skills were questionable, I could not have asked for a better little dog.
Zeek’s pro pic – shot by The Dogist!
Just by being himself, Zeek taught me to enjoy the little things, go with the flow, and to appreciate everything. He never gave up, was incredibly kind to everyone, was the epitome of resilience, and proved that little guys can have a huge influence.
An “all weather” dog?
When I moved at from NYC to KC last year, the little guy was at my feet the entire 18-hour drive. He settled right into life in the Midwest – keeping me company while I worked from home, making friends with the neighbors, and enjoying a larger-than-studio sized new home.
At his first outdoor brunch
A few weeks ago, shortly after celebrating Zeek’s 16th birthday, we very sadly had to say goodbye to the little guy. He was tired, his arthritic joints were giving him grief, and he was just not loving life anymore. It was his time. And while I had the joy of knowing him only for two short years, the love he gave was enough to last a lifetime – both in dog and human years. While the sadness will wane with time, his memory will forever stay in the hearts of many. Thank you for an incredible time, Zeeky.