Life without Zoe
To me, dogs are some of the best of creation. They want nothing more than to be present with their people and they’re loyal first and last. There are dogs with fine pedigrees and good form; our dog Zoe had neither, but what she lacked in bloodline she more than made up in personality and zest for life.
The first time we saw her, she was a filthy-gray color and cowering among many other dogs at the Payson Animal Rescue. Her mother was a tiny Terrier and her father was a large who-knows-what, and she spent the early part of her life in a wretched home, trying to make her way among 27 other dogs and never enough food to go around. Abusive humans, aggressive dogs and no resources are a trifecta of suffering. Finally, one day, she was taken to the good people at the shelter. And there she stayed until one Labor Day eight years ago.
I still don’t know what it was about her that caught our attention. The noise at the shelter was overwhelming, a hundred dogs barking at once; the dirt and dust was everywhere with no grass in sight. But still she stood out somehow, and we knew she was ours.
The shelter was technically closed that day, and we made arrangements to return to Payson the next day and pick her up and complete her adoption, as we did. We settled on the name “Zoe” on the ride up, Greek for “life.” The shelter folks cried as she left, and she rode in the car all the way to Phoenix, still as a stone. No barking, not moving. Just still and watchful. Trust was a ways off, but I always thought she gave it with good grace and much more quickly than her previous circumstances would ever demand.
When we got her home, we took her to her new back yard, which was beautifully green and grassy. She stood immobile for a long time, listening to the birds, and to her final days, she loved laying outdoors and feeling the wind in her fur.
We took her inside and gave her a bath, and what we discovered was a creamy-golden-haired dog under all that dirt. She seemed pleased to be clean.
This was a new beginning, and what would follow was eight years of constant companionship and loyal barking at every noise and would-be intruder. Her usual expression was mouth open in half-laughter and her days were filled with slightly idiosyncratic behavior, and usually it was, understandably, food-related.
She wanted a certain level of food in her bowl. If at any time the food level fell below expectations, she would dump the entire bowl and wait for more. If we didn’t fill the bowl quickly enough, she would toss the bowl in the air until we complied. At other times, she would help herself from the kitchen counter. We took her to doggy “good manners” training, but to no avail.
We enjoyed eight years with her faithfully guarding our boys and patrolling the house as they slept. They were great friends and comrades, and her favorite game was to joyfully steal their stuffed animals just to get them to chase her…these were the best days.
Sadly, they would not last, and she left us last week. Though she is gone, her lessons were many. She taught me that even after great pain, joy comes. She was a dog who learned to trust again, to their credit, as so many of them do. Zoe was able to get beyond the past and really live, not just survive in a grey netherworld of memory. Life with zest. Abundant life. Life to the full.
To me, in a small way, Zoe was a furry flesh-and-blood example of the beauty of redemption; what a life can look like after a radical rescue.
Colossians 1:13-14 says, “He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Christ has done everything on the cross to rescue us from our own filthy sin and the grimy cruelty of the world to bring us to the lovely garden of His presence. We were meant to live in the kingdom…now and later. That means righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit can be ours today; right now, in fact.
So in praise to our Savior and for His glory, let’s really live.