True Tales: A Love Story Starring Jack and Zelda
By Rachele Baker, DVM – I am very pleased to introduce Susie Duncan Sexton as the author of this True Tale. Susie is a writer and blogger who shared her heart with Jack and Zelda – two dogs that she rescued from death. Here is her story:
A Love Story Starring Jack and Zelda
Where do I begin to tell the story of how great a love can be? We named my regal Great Gatsby dingo-type mutt Jack because his intensely bright yellow color conjured up an image of movie star Jack Lemmon. But this majestic canine also resembled Michael Caine who portrayed Alfie so the proper name remained up for grabs for a couple of days. Jack? Jay Gatsby? Michael? Alfie?
Jack and Zelda got captured by the local cops while both mutts were joyously veering back and forth between McDonald’s and Walmart. They landed in a shelter and were scheduled for euthanasia after their mug shots got featured in the local newspaper. I lurked behind one of Dr. Mike’s pillars in his new facility as the two gaunt, wayward vagabonds were delivered by pickup truck to be euthanized – the final solution for stray animals that nobody wants.
I extended to Dr. Mike an offer he could not refuse. I would pay for neutering Jack and spaying Zelda in addition to the battery of shots each convict required rather than him receiving the paltry euthanasia fee from the city. My bill totaled over 400 bucks and that was a dozen years ago!
I brought Zelda home from the veterinary hospital 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 Zelda that the opposite of submissiveness is not a rampaging romp by Attila the Hun by instructing and encouraging her never to roll over again. I felt like a dog whisperer extraordinaire.
At the height of Zelda’s bipolar behavior, I decided to name her Schizophrenia which my friend Jo Ellen advised against. Thus Zelda, the sadly nutty wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, stuck as the perfect pen name – the perfect designation under which she would write love into our lives for a dozen years to follow! Zelda developed into an amazing alpha dog worthy of a novel. Like her namesake, our girl jumped into numerous backyard kiddie pools throughout the years just as drunken party girl Zelda Fitzgerald had frolicked in water fountains around the globe.
A couple of days after bringing Zelda home for the first time, strapping, muscular Jack and clueless Susie (that’s me) left the veterinary hospital without ever having been officially introduced to one another. Jack positively sailed once we exited the door and the two of us careened all 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 the other. I soared across the pavement absolutely airborne! My hairdresser Yvette, departing for home from work, assumed incorrectly that I enjoyed power walking my energetic dog, and she gleefully honked as Jack and I flew alongside her car until she disappeared into the distance. Help?
Long, happy, story short, Jack and Zelda enjoyed a dozen years joined at the hip. Jack and Zelda 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 chairs in the lobby! Jack and Zelda 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 it is that terminates life forevermore.
The “rainbow bridge” does not, for me, describe the hereafter but the now – in other words, the bridge being our gift of many quality years of nurturing and of being nurtured by a beautiful being. All that is left of Zelda is 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 – memories of having made a difference, of having saved a precious life, of Zelda having enhanced ours. Unconditional love all around.
Now, whenever rain falls upon our roof, or thunder rumbles, lonely Jack paces the length of the back porch, quietly whines, and paws at the door alerting us that Zelda may still be outside in the dark – that we forgot to bring Zelda inside to sleep alongside her companion of so many years, her playmate, her best friend. I pat Jack’s head and offer him a soft blanket and a pillow and tell him that Zelda sent me to spend some time with him and to make sure he is comfortable. Her name on my lips calms him.
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.
About the author: Susie Duncan Sexton has worked as a teacher, a publicist, a museum curator, and a health lecturer. She currently writes monthly columns for a popular blog and a newspaper. She has also written the books “Secrets of an Old Typewriter” and its sequel “Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels.” You can learn more about Susie and her works on her website.
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