Zoe, aged five years
Zoe, aged five years

The dog who saved my life


On the 28th January 2003, an event happened that we were completely unaware of at the time but later that date would be etched on our hearts forever.

A family who lived up the road had a Border Collie bitch named Chloe. On 28th January 2003, Chloe had six pure bred pups, three males and three females.

I was in the depths of severe depression brought on by chronic pain from a work injury and I would rarely leave the house. To put it mildly, I was in a bad way.

My husband Daryl had dragged me along to see Chloe's pups when they were about four weeks old as he knew how much I loved Border Collies.

I picked up two of the female pups and held one in each arm. One was wriggling and wanting to get down, the other fell asleep in my arms, I've always said that she picked me. After a few days we decided to get the pup that chose me, and we named her "Zoe".

Zoe came into my life at exactly the right time. That pit of depression I was in, I was slowly crawling out of it, but it was literally on the end of her tail. To be truthful, I think she may have saved my life.

Before Zoe came along, I would get up each morning and be faced with the pain again. Just trying to put one foot in front of the other was a real effort. I couldn't see many reasons to continue when my whole existence was dominated by pain.

Every day was a struggle to get out of bed. The stabbing pain in my shoulder was too much to endure. I would take the phone off the hook. If the doorbell rang, I would not answer it. I didn't want to talk to anyone. One day I even thought of overdosing on sleeping tablets just so I could be rid of the pain.

Zoe gave me a reason to go on. I spent a lot of time with her in the back yard, playing with her whilst pulling weeds from the garden. This was a big improvement in my mental state, considering how I would hardly venture outside; even to check the letter box.

After a while, I learned to live with the constant pain, but I was looking in a different direction. My life was then spent with the family, enjoying time with the new grandchildren, a new job, holidays and camping.

Zoe loved to go camping with us and those times will always hold a special place in our hearts. She had fun chasing Daryl's bait whenever he went fishing, one time she even swallowed his bait and hook and we had to rush her to the vet to have it removed. I guess that is life with a dog, they always keep you on your toes.

It didn't take Zoe long to become a member of the family, our kids often joking that she was their other sister. She was very intelligent, had the most wonderful personality and very quickly had us wrapped around her paw.

At night time Zoe slept on her bed in our room. A couple of minutes before the alarm was due to go off; Zoe would walk around to Daryl's side of the bed, put her head on the mattress, just look at him and wag her tail. We would get woken up by the sound of her tail banging against the wardrobe door.

As soon as we were awake, she would then come back around to my side and jump up onto the bed to greet us, she would usually lie on her back in between us waiting for a belly rub.

Each morning through the week Daryl would dress for work in his uniform, and then he would go to the kitchen and feed Zoe.

As he sat down for breakfast, Zoe would sit beside him begging for seconds by putting her paw on his thigh, he would always give in to her and give her the crust off his toast or the last little bit of milk from his cereal.

Weekends however were a whole different matter. As soon as Daryl put on his yard clothes and breakfast was over, Zoe would stand and stare at him as if to say "Come on, you are not going to work today, can we go to the park please?" How she could tell the difference will remain a mystery.

At 5.30pm, right on the dot, it didn't matter where we were, she would find either one of us and give a look that said in no uncertain terms "I want my dinner", you could just about set your watch by her. We could never work out how she knew what time it was.

She loved going for car trips, and if Daryl and I were going anywhere in the car, if possible, Zoe came too. She loved sticking her head out of the window, enjoying the wind in her face and looking at the scenery. Family and friends often said to us that they knew it was our car because of Zoe's head hanging out of the window.

Like most dogs, Zoe hated going to the vet. She would be so excited to be going in the car, but as soon as we passed the local shopping centre, she knew where we were going. She would then put on the sad face and her tail would go between her legs until we got there.

A friend suggested that we should try going a different route to get to the vet, but I'm sure that even if we went via Timbuktu she would still have known where we were going.
When Zoe was nearly four, she got a paralysis tick. I was out and got a phone call from Daryl saying that he had taken Zoe to the vet because she could hardly walk.

I met him at the vet surgery that afternoon only to be told that it was touch and go if she recovered. She had to stay at the vets for the night. Daryl was an absolute mess and I wasn't much better.

When we rang the vets the next day and they said that Zoe was going to be alright, we both let out such a sigh of relief. We weren't out of the woods yet; it was going to be a while before she was fully recovered.

Zoe spent another three days at the vets and when we brought her home the first thing she wanted to do was play with a ball. "Sorry dog, not allowed, vet's orders", she had to be kept calm, but trying to keep her quiet was like trying to hold back the tide with a broom.

Zoe was not very happy about only being allowed to play for a couple of minutes at a time. When we stopped playing with her she used to lie down and sulk, but she got over it, and thankfully after a couple of months, she was back to her old self again.

Zoe loved it when the grandkids came to visit because they never tired of playing with her, she would drop the ring or ball at their feet and they would pick it up and throw it for her. She would continue to do that until the kids got distracted by something else.

Daryl and I went to England for a few weeks and our daughter was at home looking after Zoe while we were away. Apparently during that time, she would often walk down the hallway to our bedroom looking for us.

When we came home, Zoe's reaction had to be seen to be believed, she must have thought that we were never coming back. She kept jumping up at Daryl and then jumping up at me, she couldn't make up her mind as to who to greet.

Funny thing was that after a couple of hours she didn't want to know us.
"Humph, you left me for 5 weeks, I'm not sure if I want to talk to you". We got the silent treatment for the rest of the day. But Zoe never held a grudge; it wasn't in her nature.

Whenever someone rang the doorbell, Zoe would come running to see who had arrived. As far as she was concerned, they had not come to see us, they had come to play with her, what other reason would there be for anyone to come to our front door?

One day before we went to a wedding we had given Zoe a shank bone to keep her occupied while we were gone. When we came home after the service to check on her we could see no sign of the bone anywhere, so I said to Zoe "Where's your bone?"

She went straight upstairs, into my sewing room and pulled the bone out of the ironing basket. I just about cracked up laughing. Needless to say I had to wash some of the clothes again. She had picked some really funny places to hide her bones before, but I thought that one took the cake.

One of her favourite spots to sleep was on the lounge, but she knew that she wasn't allowed to jump on it until after she had her dinner.

One day I had come home from work early as I was feeling very sick. I ended up laying on the lounge and stayed there most of the afternoon. After Zoe had had her dinner she came round to the lounge to jump up as usual. She looked at me as if to say "Will you move please, I would like to lie there"

I told her to go and lie down somewhere else, but as she walked away, she turned around and gave me the dirtiest look as if to say "that's my spot". It was so funny to watch her go away to sulk.

For the last year or so of her life, Zoe was struggling with arthritis, but she still seemed to be happy within herself. She couldn't chase a ball, but she enjoyed bouncing a big ball off her nose back to us instead. It was still a game to her.

I knew the time had come to say goodbye to Zoe when she had become incontinent.

We were happy to clean up the little presents that she had left. But when I went to pick up a pooh present one night, Zoe saw me and looked at me with an expression of total embarrassment on her face as if to say that she didn't mean to do that.

It was then that I realised that she was losing her dignity, we didn't want that for Zoe, we loved her too much to let that happen.

It just about broke our hearts when we had to call the vet the next day. It was the right thing to do for Zoe, but that didn't make her loss any easier.

Our wedding anniversary was the day after we lost Zoe, but it wasn't a day of celebration, it was a day of mourning.

Zoe was the most wonderful companion to our entire family for over 13 years and her passing left a very big void in our lives.

She wasn't just a dog; she was a four legged member of our family, always there to give us companionship and unconditional love. The feeling was very mutual and I like to think that we gave her a good life.

Josh Billings once quoted "A dog is the only creature that loves you more than he loves himself". I hope that Zoe knew how much we loved her because she certainly left big paw prints on our hearts.

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