A Love Story...starring Jack and Zelda
(Talk of the Town photo provided)
By Susie Duncan Sexton
"Some people don't understand why we help animals in need. We don't understand why they wonder." - Lucky Dog Rescue Blog
"Where do I begin to tell the story of how great a love can be?" Well, now… that assignment is easy as pie! Most folks who rrrreally know and understand me realize that I respect other species so deeply that I cannot find ever the appropriate words to express that pure reverence for dogs, cats, horses, bumble bees, alligators, swans, whales, cows, deer, pigs, sheep, duck-billed platypuses, ad infinitum. I am not ornery about this affection, but any living beings who breathe in and out, who have eyeballs, who possess hearts, and who feel, hear, see, sniff, touch, and taste...sure, allllll "creatures great and small" DO count and matter. I can honestly state that I was born believing that way…and thanks to gentle guidance along my path, from my favorite empathetic humans, my initial instincts have become doctrines of "successful living and letting live" which I recommend highly.
Keen observation of family pets, farm animals, zoo prisoners, circus entertainers, documentary stars, Walt Disney's animated mammals, storybook characters, and wildlife I happily have crossed paths with lead me to one conclusion. Human beings peacefully must share this globe with all living beings…we are just one species of so very, very many. For the moment, I'll focus on my regal GREAT GATSBY Dingo-type mongrel whom we named Jack because a dozen years ago his intensely bright yellow color conjured up an image of recently deceased movie star Jack Lemmon, but this majestic canine also resembled Michael Caine who portrayed "Alfie", so the proper label remained up for grabs for a couple of days. Jack? Jay Gatsby? Michael? Alfie?
His "Bonnie & Clyde"ish- eventual -roommate Zelda and he, who got captured on the lam by the local cops while both mutts joyously veered back and forth between McDonald's and Wal-Mart, landed in jail near the water plant in C.C.'s once-upon-a-time rather make-shift "shelter" several years back and were scheduled for euthanasia after their mug shots got featured in the local newspaper prior to the July 4th holiday. The Modus Operandi for ages! I, reminding myself of Al Pacino/Michael Corleone in that glorious scene in the GODFATHER Trilogy (where Al hides in a hospital to protect his gravely injured papa Marlon Brando from further harm at the merciless hands of disgruntled Mafia guys), lurked behind one of Dr. Mike Mawhorter's pillars in his new facility as the two gaunt, wayward vagabonds were delivered by pick-up truck for the "final solution" for stray, wandering, and over-reproduced living beings whom nobody wants.
I extended to Mike an offer he "could not refuse…"! I would "spring" for neutering (Jack!) and spaying (Zelda!) in addition to the battery of shots for each "convict" plus de-worming -- the entire nine yards -- rather than the doc receiving the obligatory, paltry euthanasia fee that would have transferred from city government to veterinarian. My bill totaled over 400 bucks...and that was a dozen years ago!
I brought post-operative "patient" Zelda "home" first. She had an endearing quality of utter submission, rolling onto her back and lovingly gazing at humans while batting her seriously Ginger Roger-ish eyes. Charming! However, her first evening on my back porch, she disassembled every board game, lamp, padded chair, and window treatment within her grasp. Vandalism at its very worst! I decided to teach her that the opposite of "submissiveness" is NOT a rampaging romp by Attila the Hun, via my instruction and encouragement NEVER to roll over again. I felt like a "dog whisperer" extraordinaire. At the height of her bi-polar behavior, I decided to name her "Schizophrenia" which my friend JoEllen advised against. Thus, "Zelda", the sadly nutty wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, stuck as the perfect nom de plume…the perfect designation under which she would write L-O-V-E into our lives and across the sky for a dozen years to follow! She developed into an amazing ALPHA dog worthy of a novel! Like her namesake, our girl jumped into a series of backyard kiddie pools throughout the years just as drunken, party-girl Zelda Fitzgerald once frolicked repeatedly in gushing water fountains of public squares around the globe!
In a couple of days, strapping, muscular Jack and clueless Susie left the vet's never really having ever been officially introduced to one another…I might as well have been Santa Claus being drug across the heavenly horizon by Donner and Blitzen and Rudolph and all of them there reindeer combined with a team of huskies as well! He positively sailed once we exited the door, and the two of us careened allll over the parking lot…me at one end of the flimsy leash and he -- in all of his massiveness and his happiness to be "free at last" -- at the other! I soared across the pavement absolutely airborne! My hair-dresser Yvette, departing for home from the nearby Northern Highlights Beauty Shop, assumed incorrectly that I enjoyed power-walking my energetic dog, and she gleefully honked as Jack and I flew alongside her passing car which then disappeared into the distance. Help?
Long (happy) story short, Jack and Zelda enjoyed a dozen years joined at the hip…together they formed an exquisite Remington sculpture…they HAD to share vet appointments -- none of that "one at a time" stuff-- or they would sulk and pout and whimper…they were so strong that once Don and I were pulled across the vet's office floor while sitting in our respective chairs in the lobby. Iditarod, here we come ! They were one. LIFE was good.
Gorgeous Zelda, the Alpha dog with the schizoid name, impressed us as a model of graceful serenity as the years fled by…then one sad day, she indicated that her life was nearing its conclusion. I gave her a gentle bath, and we petted her and scratched behind her still-perked up ears. She could no longer stand. We lifted her into our car, listened carefully to the veterinarian's advice, knelt down on his tiled floor on either side of her and held her and kissed her as the needle injected whatever chemical concoction it is that terminates life forevermore. The "rainbow bridge", a man-made concept for coping -- IF one buys into it -- does not, for me, describe the hereafter but the NOW, in other words, the "bridge" being our gift in real time of many quality years of nurturing and of being nurtured by a beautiful being. All that is left of Zelda would be her paw print in cement courtesy of the veterinarian's staff, her collar with its jingling tags, a container full of her Shepherd/Collie Mix fur, photographs, and our memories of having made a difference, of having saved a precious life, of Zelda having enhanced ours. Unconditional love all around. HOWEVER….
Whenever rain falls upon our roof, or thunder rumbles, lonely Jack paces the length of the back porch, quietly whines, paws at the door alerting us that Zelda may still be outside in the dark…that we forgot to bring her inside to sleep alongside her companion of so many years, her playmate, her best friend. I pat his head and offer him a soft blanket and a pillow and speak to him with assurance that Zelda sent me to spend some time with him and to make sure he is comfortable. Her name on my lips calms him. Now, how about that? But I don't refer to this process as me becoming a "dog whisperer" but rather a "dog listener" … other sentient beings in addition to humans speak to us and have done so since the beginning of time. I share that belief with a fellow who rescues horses from slaughter. His name is R. T. Fitch, author of STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSE'S HEART -A Spiritual Guide through Love, Loss and Hope, one of the loveliest and most important books which I have enjoyed in my lifetime.
Fitch dedicates his powerful stories to the memories of his mother "who always laughed at my jokes, greeted me with a smile and a hug while teaching me that it was okay for a man to cry" and to one of his exceptional horses named Ethan, "my teacher and mentor and guide who taught me to slow down, keep quiet, and listen. He was the voice of the herd."
In the past few years, the camaraderie among animal enthusiasts with whom I have been privileged to meet and work allows us to share via Facebook and Twitter such gems as the following:
By Francis Witham
“Oh, what unhappy twist of fate
Has brought you homeless to my gate?
The gate where once another stood
To beg for shelter, warmth, and food
For from that day I ceased to be
The master of my destiny.
While he, with purr and velvet paw
Became within my house the law.
He scratched the furniture and shed
And claimed the middle of my bed.
He ruled in arrogance and pride
And broke my heart the day he died.
So if you really think, oh Cat,
I’d willingly relive all that
Because you come forlorn and thin
Well…don’t just stand there…Come on in!”
A Rescuer's Creed
I shall be a believer of all that is good in man and of all that is
deserving in animals. I shall plead for their lives, campaign for their
safety and uphold their right to a natural death. I shall seek out the
injured and the maimed, the unloved, and the abandoned and tend to them
in their last days. I shall not forget their place in the hierarchy of
life, nor that we walk in each other's paths. I shall bear witness to the
wonder they bring into our lives and to the beauty they bestow upon our souls.
I shall renew their spirits when they are waning, bind their wounds when
they bleed, cradle them when they whimper, and comfort them when they mourn.
I shall be near them in their hour of greatest need - a companion and friend
when the time has come. I shall watch over them and console them and ask
that the angels gather them in their arms. From the creatures of the earth I
shall learn the fruits of compassion and undying love, and I shall be called
the beloved of God. In their company I shall indeed be blessed.
~ Susan M. Pearson