Ghost Dog at Our Feet

Mozy had been with us for over a year when Zoom arrived. We were cautious about how they met, backyard first so neither of them felt hemmed in. After a few sniffs, and the new boy demanding some play, they were bonded. I found pictures of Zoom that day, malnourished and jet black except for his white fur edges. I had forgotten how quickly Zoom was a shadow to his new big sister. Theirs’ was a tactile relationship. A paw, a head, a back, a neck, always in contact. And, if there was a squirrel to chase, they streaked off as a team. They would run side by side up to the little window above our library seat to monitor Sally and I coming and going. We learned to look up to see two dog faces smooshed together behind the narrow leaded glass. And sometimes, on a signal we humans could not discern, they jumped up from a sound sleep, ran up the stairs to the little window and assumed their post as second floor sentinels over the neighborhood.

The Day They Met

As age and disease crept up on Mozy, we both worried about Zoom. Mozy was Sally’s dog. Zoom is my little boy. If there are two dogs and two people, the dogs pick. That’s just the way it is. I had seen the breakup of our first pair where the survivor went into a deep funk and essentially gave up living without her companion. With every step to the end of Mozy’s life, my worry about Zoom increased. I read the stories about dog depression and how to help a dog who lost their partner.

After a normal, if not lively, evening, around midnight, Mozy fell into a health crisis. She made a rapidly approaching decision for us. I could get a vet here at 3 AM. I warned the vet that Zoom would bark and challenge her, as he did everyone (his Border Collie half protecting the herd) but that he wasn’t dangerous and would quickly calm down. Some say it is easier on the surviving dog if they are there at the end with their partner. I wasn’t sure. Quickly, there were three humans and 2 dogs on the floor of our bedroom. Sally was whispering into Mozy’s ear. I had Zoom in hand. At first, he was shaking but settled facing Mozy. He gently sniffed her nose to nose. I wondered if he knew what was coming. Maybe so. At various moments, he checked Mozy, my hand on his collar. When Mozy died, I let him go. He sniffer her up and down, even followed her out to the vet’s waiting car, stopping one more time to look at her face to face.

She Charmed Carrie and Fred.

We vowed not to leave the little guy alone for a few days. More than usual, he marked my every move. There is this thing that happens to me when a dog is gone. I have a strong sense of unoccupied space at the bottom of my vision. Mozy’s loss magnifies this feeling as she had depended on us for basic things for a long time. We helped her to her water and food dishes. Kept a schedule to relieve herself. We often walked out into the backyard, in all weather, to rescue her from her endless clockwise circling as she hunted for the door back to the house. Thinking about it now, it is remarkable how we came to accept her challenges as normal. I know from experience that, as surely as water levels when swimmers leave the pool, the emptiness finds a new equilibrium. Still, I catch myself automatically stepping around where Mozy used to lay.

Two days after Mozy died, I picked up Zoom’s food dish for dinner. There was something wrong. The stainless-steel bowl was a little dirty, some kibble crumbs and a hint of water. The sight caught me up short. I didn’t figure out what was wrong until I stood, filling his bowl with food. In all the time we had Mozy, I had never seen a dirty dog dish. The Collie-mix loved her food and lick-shined both dishes seeking the last molecule of goodness. Mozy woofed down her meals. Zoom is a slow, picky eater. Always done first, Mozy to stood patiently behind the little boy until he finished to lick his dish until we told her she was done. Late that night, I watched Zoom sleep and wondered if Zoom missed the ritual licking of his bowl.

The last couple of months, Zoom had been more and more watchful of Mozy. I believe, with their keen sense of smell, dogs know about disease in ways we can’t understand. When she became blind, he was sweetly tolerant of Mozy stepping on him while he was sleeping. He moved to accommodate her. Lately, when it was time to go outside, he didn’t run off; he stood near the door and waited for slow Mozy to come out with him. When the blind girl got stuck in the bathroom behind the door, he came to get us to free her. And, when she had an accident somewhere in the house, Zoom changed his aspect with us to tell us to fix it. Maybe I was just more aware, but it sure seemed like he was staying closer to Mozy.

It has been a week since Mozy left us. It will take more time for the clouds to lift. We try to fill Zoom’s life with his favorite things. He is getting longer walks and more frisbee. He is still sticking close. While I will never know, it sure seems like Zoom knows that Mozy is gone and never coming back. But like us, I am also convinced that he too sees a ghost dog in his world.

This entry was posted in Essays and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Ghost Dog at Our Feet

  1. Holly says:

    This is a beautiful tribute to Mozy. She was a sweet dog.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s