My dog is now wherever dogs go to wait for us

After over 6 years with the two of us, my wife and I had to put our dog, Zucca, down today. Her breathing was labored, and she wasn’t getting enough air to do anything but lie there. Mostly that’s all she ever did so I didn’t notice, but my wife did. She took her to the vet two weeks ago or so and got her checked out. The x-ray showed a problem in her lungs. The doctor suspected cancer. We had hoped it might be pneumonia, and treated her for that for about 2 weeks, but she only got worse. She would have stuck with us until she suffocated, but I hope that I am always a better person than someone who would do that to a dog.

My wife and I got married on January 1, 2007. She engraved the date on the inside of my wedding ring in case I forgot. She had lost her dog just a couple of weeks earlier. We made it until April before she told me that she needed a new dog. We looked and we found a dog that I thought my wife wanted and she thought I wanted. A full grown adult dog that appeared to be descended from a mutt and a sneaky neighbor dog. She looked like what happens when you cross a German Shepherd and a Golden Retriver, but someone left off the “chase the ball” drive.

phone photos 011

She was stinky, long-haired, aggressive towards other dogs, but somehow she came home with us. The stink washed off, the long hair ended up all over everything, and she was aggressive to all other dogs except two until the day she died. Didn’t much like cats either.

My wife does not like “people” names for dogs. Don’t ask me why, but that’s how she rolls. We waited a week or so for the dog to acquire a name, but nothing really stuck. My wife kept calling her “punkin,” but no dog of mine was going to get saddled with “punkin” for a name. She snuffled like a pig and we thought for a while about calling her Pig Dog, but translated into another language, but Schweinhund just didn’t fit. Finally I gave up and started translating Pumpkin into every language Babelfish handled at the time. Turns out that “Pumpkin” in Italian is “Zucca.” It fit, so it stuck. I have always hoped that Italians didn’t use “Zucca”  as a euphemism for something dirty.

I drive a lot for my job. I’m always making stops, going in, doing my job, and coming right back out. It is the perfect job to bring your dog along. I lived in Pennsylvania at the time and commuted to my inspection sites in New Jersey. So long as the day’s forecast was less than 70 F, she went with.

zucca 001

After a few rides to work, I got her a seatbelt and a seat cover. Here’s Zucca in the back seat with her seatbelt on, in her glamour pose.

zucca 003

I was especially glad to have her when I had to go to Newark, NJ. What a hole that place is. Corey Booker might be a great mayor, but his city is a dump. But a 70 lb dog in the back seat means no one messes with your car.

She had personality. My wife worked longer hours than me, so Zucca decided that she was my dog, not hers. It took 6 months or longer before they worked out a modus vivendi. After an application of a spatula, Zucca acknowledged that my wife was serious when she said that Zucca was not permitted on the couch. I could have just looked at her and she would have gotten off, but all my wife got was “talk to the paw.”

Once, while riding with me, we got cut off in traffic and during the maneuvering, she caught her dew claw on the back seat, almost ripping it off. I turned the car around and raced back into Pennsylvania to our vet.

cone of shame

I called the person I was meeting that morning and he totally understood. He always liked seeing Zucca and understood that bleeding dog was more important than his inspection. We were about 2.5 hours late, but we completed our rounds that day, complete with a cone of shame.

When we moved to North Carolina, with her getting older and the temperatures hotter, Zucca stayed home more. She had learned to like my wife, so they spent a lot of time together. But she was always my dog. No matter that my wife did most of the maintenance, the washing, the buying the dog foods, the vet runs, whatever. My wife was a vet tech, so she knows all about how to take good care of a dog. But still, she was my dog.


We knew the end was near. She’s always been a stoic dog. No whining and complaining from her. We think she was a street dog for a while before the shelter picked her up. My wife made it clear that if the vet didn’t pull a miracle out of her lab coat sleeve today, it was time to let her go. The vet had nothing for us. Two weeks of antibiotics and steroids, not to mention painkillers for her arthritis, but she kept getting worse.

I made sure to take a few photos today before we took her to the vet. Here’s the best of those last photos.


She’s got a cataract in her left eye, and her muzzle has gone grayer, but otherwise she doesn’t look any different from the photo that’s been my computer desktop for 6 years.

Zucca (2)

I was there for her until the end. The vet offered to let us leave, but Zucca never abandoned us, I would not abandon her. My wife, the former vet tech, held her in position while I petted her. Once the drug was in, I held her in my lap until she died. I tried to keep it together until she was out. Dogs don’t have the sense of future that humans do, so they only react to how people are acting. I didn’t want her to get distressed. I wanted her to go from living to dead without really noticing what was happening. After our time, I arranged her on her towel, and left her.

I owe two people a debt of gratitude today. First, my wife. She picked the wrong dog. I didn’t really want her, she didn’t really want her, but she was the dog we were supposed to have. Then, at the end, my wife told me the truth. If I had been alone, I might have wanted to keep her. Zucca wasn’t “asking” to go yet. She would have stayed with me until she suffocated. She would have let me be selfish because she was tough and she wanted to make me happy. My wife told me that it was time. I trust her judgement, and so my dog was saved a lot of suffering.

Secondly, to Robb Allen. He posted about his dog(cat, actually) today. Go and read his post. He and his wife have chosen Saturday. It’s sad that he’s losing his dog cat, but it is very comforting to know he understands. Thank you, Robb. You made me feel a bit less alone.

Zucca is now waiting for me wherever dogs go while they wait for their masters. She’ll join Sandy, Westie, and Heather. Who knows, maybe dogs don’t fight there and she’ll be able to get along. I don’t get a lot of comfort from “rainbow bridge” type stuff, but I’ve never understood the “dogs can’t go to Heaven because they don’t have souls” crap. If there are no dogs there, it isn’t Heaven.

In Stanley Coren’s “The Intelligence of Dogs,” he relates the creation myth of the Kato Indians of California. (Scroll down to “The First Dogs) Their god, Nagaicho, separated the heavens from the earth and then wandered about putting the mountains, streams, the people, the beasts, all in their proper place. But he never created the dog. When Nagaicho started his journey he took his dog with him. The dog already existed, he just tagged along with the god. He’s been tagging along with God’s creation ever since.

I think it proves God loves us.

26 responses to “My dog is now wherever dogs go to wait for us

  1. Beautiful post, Sean. I’m sorry for your loss.

  2. “If there are no dogs there, it isn’t Heaven.”

    Damn straight. Sorry to hear about that, Sean.

  3. It’s a hard thing to do when you have to let a pet go on ahead. You handled it well. I’m sorry for your loss.

  4. I hate it when that happens, losing a part of ones family is always hard.
    If it is any comfort, these verses deal with the millennium, and shows there are animals there indeed;

    Isa 11:6-7 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. (7) And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

    If one should argue that this doesn’t portray heaven, just point out that heaven is where ever God is, and let them mumble amongst themselves.

  5. Pingback: Sharp as a Marble - My condolences to Sean

  6. Damn. That first pic she looks exactly like my last dog that was also a German shep / golden mix. Except mine never got very big as she was the runt of the litter. I read Robb’s post earlier today and now reading yours. So sorry for your loss.

  7. I am sorry for your loss. They do creep in and steal your heart.

  8. Sorry to hear this, man.

  9. “No Dogs In Heaven”

    An old man and his dog were walking down a hot, dusty road lined with a beautiful white fence on both sides. As they walked along, the old man and his dog became very thirsty and tired.

    Soon, they came to a gate in the fence where, on the other side, they saw a nice grassy, wooded area surrounding a cool clear pool of fresh water. “Just where a thirsty ‘huntin’ dog and a man would like to rest!” thought the old man. But there was a sign over the gate that read “No Dogs” so they walked on.

    Further on, they came upon a man in flowing white robes standing just inside a strong iron gate across a path that led to a beautiful, sunny meadow with a cool clear stream running through it.

    “‘Scuse me Sir,” said the old man, “My dog and I have been on this road all day. Mind if we come in and sit in the shade for awhile?” “Of course!” The man said. “Come on in and rest. You look thirsty and tired.” The old man said, “We sure are!” and started through the gate with his dog.

    The gatekeeper stopped him. “Sorry, you can come in but your dog can’t come with you. “You see, this is Heaven, and dogs aren’t allowed here. He has to stay out here on the road.” “What kind of Heaven won’t allow dogs?” said the old man. “Well, if he can’t come in, then I’ll stay out here on the road with him. He’s been my faithful companion all his life and I won’t desert him now.”

    “Suit yourself,” said the gatekeeper, “but I have to warn you, the Devil’s on this road and he’ll try to sweet talk you into his place. He’ll promise you anything, but dogs can’t go there either. If you won’t leave that dog on the road, you’ll spend all Eternity on the road with him. Better if you stay here.”

    “Well, I’m stayin’ with my dog,” replied the man and he and the dog walked on. Gradually, the fence became more and more faded and rundown until they finally reached a spot where the boards fell away completely leaving a gap. Another man dressed in old, ragged clothes sat just inside the broken fence under a shady tree.

    “‘Scuse me Sir,” said the old man, “My dog and I have been on this road all day. Mind if we come in and sit in the shade for awhile?” “Of course!” The man said. “Come on in and rest. There’s some cold water here under the tree. Make yourself comfortable.”

    The old man paused, “but what about my dog? Can he can come in, too? The man up the road said dogs weren’t allowed here, and they had to stay on the road.” The other man answered, “Well, you look pretty tired and thirsty. Would you come in here and rest if you had to leave that dog?”

    “No sir!” the old man replied, “A glass of cold water and some shade would be mighty fine right about now but I won’t come in if my buddy here can’t come too. I didn’t go to Heaven because my dog couldn’t come with me, so I sure as how ain’t about to go to Hell without him neither.”

    The man smiled and said, “Welcome to Heaven, and bring your dog!” The old man exclaimed, “You mean this is Heaven? And my dog can come with me? Then why did that fellow down the road say they weren’t allowed in Heaven?” The man replied, “That was the Devil and he gets all the souls who are willing to give up a life-long companion for small comfort because they think it will make their lives a little easier.”

    The man continued, “They soon find out their mistake, but, then it’s too late. The dogs come here, the fickle people stay there. God wouldn’t allow dogs to be banned from Heaven. After all, He created them to be man’s companions in life, why would he separate them in death?”

  10. Sean:
    I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as I read the story about Zucca. I remember her while she was at Peaceable Kingdom I am glad you and your wife gave her a wonderful life it is hard to say good by to our loved ones. I am so sorry about her passing my prayers are with you and your wife.

  11. Sorry to hear that, Sean. I fear that time coming in the next few years.

  12. Sean, we all feel your pain and wish you and your wife the best.

  13. My condolences.

  14. Jim Register

    A fitting tribute to a good dog. I’m sorry for your loss.

    Excuse me, I seem to have something in my eye.

  15. Parting with a loved one is one of the hardest things in life to do. I’ve been there too many times and it sucks. Just know she’s better off now and waiting patiently for you.

  16. That’s always tough, but you made a good decision. You have to separate your feelings of wanting your pet alive over what’s best for your pet. Alive and suffering is no way to treat something that loves you.

    I’m sorry for your loss, and I feel for you.

  17. Bubblehead Les

    This sucks. As I type this, I know that my two dogs, Oliver the Beagle and Hildi the Border Collie will be leaving us in a few years, because each is well over 10 years old. And it will hurt like a Mother when their time comes. Take Care.

  18. Leatherwing

    So sorry to hear about your dog. Sounds like you both took good care of each other.

  19. I feel your pain, Sean. I just had to put my 12-year-old Lab to sleep over the weekend, after some cancer and arthritis finally completely caught up with him. And I was going to post a link to the story Mark posted, but he beat me to it. Thanks for sharing your memories of Zucca.

  20. Beautiful dog with love in her eyes, my sincere condolences.

  21. I’m sorry to hear about Zucca. It is never easy to make these hard decisions about someone we love and that loves us back without reserve. Your post brought back many memories of going down the same path as you with many of my Labs in the past. I’ll be keeping you and your wife and Zucca in my thoughts.

  22. Thanks, all.

    My wife and I have entertained ourselves telling Zucca stories. I swear, she should have had her own sitcom. We provided the dialog, she provided the method acting. I wonder if she’s somewhere swapping stories about us. “And then they…”

    Somehow I suspect that our antics would have the dogs in stitches.

    We stopped in to the vet today. I’ll bet it’s pretty hard on them. I wanted to let her know that we appreciate her and when we get another dog we’ll bring it to her. She told us that she liked our dog because it was well mannered. She should have met Zucca when we first got her.

  23. Dude. I had to do that about 9 moths ago.

    It hurts, but it IS the right thing to do. Being the human sucks sometimes.

    My thoughts and prayers are with all three of you.

  24. Zucca isi n the better place , waiting on you.