It was coming home that felt the best.
The sound of her short and electric snorts mixed with the tap-dancing of her paws towards the door always brought me to a place of pure childhood. A place where there were no bills to pay, or jobs to hold – it was a place for a girl and her dog.
Zoe wasn’t the kind of dog I had grown up with. Before her, there was Tasha, a large and calm German Shepherd. She had loved me in the way a grandmother loved the newborn that gave her that title. I would lay with her on a fur-laden dog bed and wrap my small arms around her mane. I remember the way she smelled – like autumn and hay. It was comforting to look into her large, dark eyes, and there were many nights that I cried myself to sleep with her because she was the one who understood.
My pup before her – my very first dog – was Fritz, a German Short-Haired Pointer. I remember that he was fast. He had a sharp, whiplike tail, and his hair was short and flat against his skin. Fritz liked to escape and roam the neighborhood, searching for squirrels, I imagine. We had a large, chain-link-fenced dog yard in the back for him with a door that latched open and shut.
I remember having to lure him back into the yard with a trail of sliced bologna. He was always a sucker for deli-meat. It was like winning a gold metal in the Olympics when I had gotten him completely into the gate with me. There was a lot of jumping and shouting – if you could imagine a denim-clad seven-year-old with light-up shoes and sparkled stretch pants doing such a thing.
But Zoe was much different. She was small and not German at all. I was 15 years old when we went to some lady’s house and saw her for the first time. The tiniest Boston Terrier I had ever seen. I had sat on the foreign kitchen floor, criss-cross style, and plopped the small pup inbetween my legs. She cozied herself and looked up at me – her eyes, the biggest feature on her body.
I always adored animals, and constantly wanted to take in strays, so having an outdoor cat was the norm. When we first got Zoe, my cat Meow-Mix was not a fan. Although MM hardly came inside, he did from time to time, and it was my responsibility to watch and make sure they didn’t fight.
I remember being downstairs one time and MM swatting Zoe across the face. I yelled at him and shoed him out of the house, instantly rushing toward Zoe to make sure she was okay. Her protruding eye had been sliced by Meow, and I knew it was bad. We had to put eye drops in her eyes multiple times a day and throughout the night. She healed, but there was always a scar to remind me of how I had been negligent. I tried to love Zoe a hundred times better after that.
Zoe slept with me at home. She would burrow herself under the covers and sleep between my legs, or if I was in a fetal position, behind my knees. She was a wonderful movie companion because she never asked questions about what was going on througout the movie – though she would often fall asleep mid-way.
Zoe passed away from sudden liver failure at the age of eight. We barely had enough time to say goodbye, or realize what had gone wrong. Her snort, the way she danced on her hind legs to recieve a cookie, and her small but voracious and persistant kisses will always hold a very special place in my heart.
This one goes out to Zoe, Tasha, and Fritz, for teaching me the meaning behind each smile, dance, and hug.