I think about you a lot because I believe you love him enough to wonder whether he’s still alive or not. You loved him enough to leave him where someone would find him who would take care of him: at the front door of the school district office. I know you taught him what “stay” means because he stayed right outside the door without budging. The ladies there brought him food and water, and he ate and drank just fine – but he sat right where you told him to stay. They took him to a vet to check for a microchip, and while he didn’t have one, the vet said he was about seven years old and well-cared for. He is big, and they knew he needed some place to run free, so one lady who lives in the country took him home while the other women put out signs and drove the surrounding neighborhoods looking for signs you may have put out. It must have tortured you if you saw them, but I’m pretty sure that didn’t hold a candle to what you felt when you had to leave him there. The second worst experience of my career was the day I watched a young woman give her baby up for adoption. Her face as she handed the baby to the adoptive parents is burned in my memory, and I hope to never have to witness that again. The thought of what you must have felt as you left him and told him to stay is just too close to that other picture in my mind, and I hurt for you each time I think of it. That’s why I’m writing this letter, hoping that it finds its way to you. He is with me, and he is a healthy, happy fellow, and oh how he is loved!! You did a wonderful job raising him, and for that, I want to thank you.
I also want you to know I don’t think you’re a terrible person. The economic condition three years ago was such that a lot of people had to do what you did, and the news said that ones who truly love their pets often leave them in places where they feel they will find good homes – at schools, hospitals and at fire and police stations. Thank you for still believing in the goodness of educators. Your trust was not in vain.
The lady that took him home had a death in her immediate family – the result of a fall – and with all the people gathering at her house, she needed to find someone else to care for him. He was a jumper, you know, and she couldn’t run the risk of having him jump on someone and knock them down the sweeping staircase and cause more trauma to their family. The ladies at the office knew we had just lost our lab – he actually belonged to our son who passed away – and that I was really missing my big dog, so they asked if we could keep him while they continued their search. We went to take a look at him, and just as we hopped down from the truck, he hopped in, took his place in the back seat and waited for us to fire the engines. You have a truck, too, don’t you? There is nothing he loves better than to go for a drive…..even if it’s just to the mailbox and back. We learned that early on. So did everybody who came to our house in a truck.
We took him to our vet who said he was about seven years old and that somebody loved him, maybe even “over conditioned” him a little. He wanted him to lose five pounds, so he and I went on daily runs. He lost the weight by the next visit. I didn’t lose anything.
We didn’t try to name him at first because he was just here temporarily, but we did try to figure out what his name was. It became a kind of game. We randomly called out different dog names to see if he would respond, but he always came when we got his attention no matter what we called him. Eventually, he was a member of the family and needed a name, though. That took a while: it had to be right. One day I was resting on the couch and I looked at him and said out loud, “What is your name, big guy?” He walked over to me, and as he came closer the name “Zeke” popped into my head, so Zeke he is. A phrase commonly used among our friends and family is “Everybody loves Zeke,” and it’s true. The people, the other animals – we all love him, and he seems to enjoy his status.
He is amazingly gentle with the little ones. When he plays tug-of-war, he lays down and puts the toy on top of his paws and pulls gently even when the small ones pull with all their might and growl their biggest growls. He responds to their tugging growls with tiny, fake growls that match the size of his tugs. Sometimes, he even rolls onto his back during all this as if to say, “You’re beating me! You’re beating me! Arghhh!” He seems to understand his size advantage and doesn’t use it unfairly. When it comes to being a lap dog, he doesn’t understand. He continues to try on a daily basis to crawl onto my lap just to see if anything has changed since the day before, but much to his dismay, I didn’t let him sit on my lap today when he tried. Or yesterday. Or the day before. Or last year. Or ever. Ok, that’s a lie. Once in a while, I do. I confess!
His favorite game is called “Run! Run! Run!” I can open the door to let him out and say it, or we can be outside and I’ll say it out of the blue. As soon as I do, though, he takes off like a shot. Or at least he tries to take off like a shot. He looks somewhat like a hobby horse trying to run: a lot of up and down movement with the front and back legs but not too much forward motion. Poor thing. He works so hard at it, too! Our son says he’s “just not that athletic.” I beg to differ. He has other athletic abilities. That dog can catch a treat in mid-air from fifty paces every time. He just can’t catch a tennis ball.
I know this letter has about as much chance of finding its way to you as a message in a bottle does, but stranger things have happened, so I thought I’d give it a try. I hope your financial situation has turned around and things are a bit easier for you now. I want to thank you for raising such an incredibly kind and loving dog and for doing what you thought was best for him by leaving him with educators. I’m sure you wonder about him, and I wanted you to know that he is still very much alive, that he is loved, and that he really enjoys his life here with all of us. Well, maybe except for the lap dog part.