Tomorrow will be the second anniversary of Zorra's death. I've been thinking about the little things I miss: how she would sing along with the train whistle; how her cold nose would touch mine if I fell asleep on the couch, startling me awake; the coziness of her lying under the dining table while we ate; the sound of her tail hitting the washer, boom boom boom, whenever we entered the house through the laundry room (hence the nickname Tympani Tail). She loved us, treats, catching Frisbees, and lying in the sun. She was terrified of fireworks, and suspicious of all other dogs, men in hats, and any other people she did not know.
I found Zorra, sick and starving, near the rural residential treatment center where I was working in 1997, and brought her home. As she settled down on an old blanket on my back porch, she gave a sigh of exhaustion and relief that broke my heart. She was about two years old, and had obviously had an unhappy life. She blossomed into a beautiful and often very sweet dog, but we never were able to conquer the demons that haunted her. Her fear and aggression could be triggered by any little thing, and we often did not know what. We took her to a behavioral veterinarian at Texas A & M, had her on Prozac for a while, did all kinds of elaborate behavioral protocols, and she improved but was still very unpredictable. We had to board her in order to have a party, or to have workmen at the house. The sound of the doorbell or the sight of a UPS truck parked on our street would make her berserk, hurling herself at the window or even pulling down the sheer curtains next to the door.
She bit both the Scientist and me on several occasions. We thought she would mellow out as she got older, but instead she grew more reactive. Shortly before she died we found out that she had a very bad hip. She could still run fast, never limped, and hid her pain from us, so I was stunned when I saw the X-ray. Surely that was why she had grown more irritable over time. Shortly after that, she turned on the Scientist as he tried to haul her away from attacking a neighbor's dog, and she bit his hands severely. On that day we finally were in agreement that we could not go on like that. The next day, our hearts aching, we had her euthanized. We held her and told her we loved her as she took her last breath.
How can I explain what a complex mixture of love and brokenness this precious dog was? We had so many good times with her, and we have such wonderful memories of how she grinned, how she ran, how she would cuddle with us (when she wanted to!), how her beautiful coat shone in the sun. About eighty-five per cent of the time she was a dear, playful, loving friend. But the other fifteen per cent was finally too much for all of us.
I know that if she had died out in that field before I found her, she would never have known what it meant to be loved and to have a real home, and I know that she did know that despite her fears. For that, and the good times, I am grateful.
Rest in peace, my sweet brown-eyed girl. I will always love you.