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Monday, November 19, 2007

Farewell to a friend

ZaneMy beloved Weimaraner, M. Zane Grey, died Saturday evening after going into cardiac arrest following emergency surgery for bloat that morning. Bloat, also known as gastric torsion, is the number two cause of death in dogs, after cancer. (If you have a dog, by all means go read about it.)

I brought Zane to Indianapolis five years ago from Alabama, where he was cared for by Weimaraner Rescue of the Tennessee Valley after being found wandering the streets with an abscess on his paw and a case of heartworm. I had seen a photograph of Zane — who was then a sad, skinny dog called Milo — on their Web site, but didn't follow up immediately because I didn't think adding a third dog to the mix would be fair to my old Labrador, Pantone Black. When Pan died of cancer some weeks later, I remembered the sad Weim whose image had lodged in my heart, and fired off an inquiry about him.

MiloAs it turned out, Milo had been placed with a woman in Birmingham, but changes in her personal circumstances forced her to turn him back to the rescue group. Volunteers drove Milo from Birmingham to Huntsville; I headed down I-65 to pick him up and take him to his new forever home in Indianapolis.

He didn't make a sound during the long drive up, and I wondered what he thought as he watched mile after mile of the ribbon of highway disappear out the back window of the Volvo wagon. His meeting with his new Doberman brother Red went well, and they became fast friends. They were the same size and shape and apparently about the same age, and they enjoyed romping around the yard, going for adventures in the woods, and excursions to the dog park at Eagle Creek Park. The dog once called Milo blossomed into Zane — often called Zanie, as befit his irrepressible, cheerful personality. He was smart, affectionate and playful, and loved balls, pillows, squeaky toys and his family. And he loved food, which he devoured voraciously at mealtimes then supplemented with whatever he could find outside later. I speculated that maybe his eating habits came from having to scavenge whatever he could when he was homeless and hoped he would realize that he didn't have to worry about having enough food anymore, but old habits die hard, I guess.

A couple of weeks ago we had a scare with bloat when he got into some cooking oil and swelled up with gas. His condition was relieved by running a tube into his stomach to release the gas and he avoided having volvulus or torsion, which is a condition marked by the stomach twisting in such a way that blood supply is cut off.

After that scare he was on a cottage cheese and rice diet for a few days then gradually worked back up to a diet of a smaller portion of his usual kibble mixed with table scraps. Friday night he went outside after eating and didn't come back for an unusually long time; when I went out to find him he was swollen and having trouble walking, so we called a 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic close to us and took him right over.

At first it appeared that he had dodged the volvulus/torsion bullet but then it developed that he hadn't and emergency surgery was performed. The operating vet reported that the surgery had gone well and all his internal organs looked good, and I relaxed a little.

I visted Zane the next morning at the clinic, and the vet on duty told me his condition was stable, but that he wasn't getting any better. She was concerned because his white cell count had plummeted, and told me that he wasn't out of the woods yet. They would call me later in the day to give me an update.

While I was still worried about him, I was optimistic — after all, this was a happy, healthy, robust dog who had quickly sprung back from every health problem he'd ever had.

Late that afternoon I was at my desk working on a project when my stomach tightened up and I got the sense that something was wrong. I resisted the urge to check on Zane, reasoning that the clinic would call soon with their report.

When they did call at about 6 p.m., the conversation started ominously. "Can you hold?" the voice on the phone asked. "The doctor needs to speak with you."

The doctor didn't come to the phone right away, because the entire staff was busy trying to get Zane's heart and breathing restarted. While I was on the phone with her he started breathing on his own again, but I needed to get there immediately.

I called my wife and she raced over from Carmel, where she was still at work. We went into the room where the long-faced staff was gathered around Zane, who was hooked up to a variety of tubes and beeping monitors. It didn't take long for us to realize that the drugs and respirator were only putting off the inevitable, so the tubes were removed, the beeping monitors shut off and rolled away, and we hugged him, held his paw and told him how much we loved him as his life slipped away.

Two of the vet techs gently loaded his body into the back of the Volvo, and I drove home while my wife paid the bill, though I don't remember it. I don't remember much else about the rest of the evening, due in large part to the fact that upon arriving home I immediately started self-medicating with Laphroaig and Zinfandel.

Zane and ballSunday morning I found a good place for Zane's grave, just a little way up the hill in the front yard and visible from the window, not too far from where his predecessor, Pantone, rests. He was buried in a comforter he was fond of, along with some of the toys he loved so well.

My desire to have a Weimaraner began when I was in the first grade, when a blonde girl I liked named Debbie convinced me they were they best dogs there are. I finally got mine 44 years later, and five years with him wasn't nearly enough. I've already contacted a Weim rescue group to adopt another — but even though there will certainly be another Weimaraner in my life, there will never be another Zane.

My friend Tom sent me a modestly edited tribute written by Lord Byron about his beloved Newfoundland named Boatswain, who died on November 18, 1808:

Near this spot
are deposited the remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
and all the Virtues of Man without his Vices.
This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery,
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just Tribute to the memory of
M. Zane Grey, a DOG
who was found in Alabama 2002,
and died at Indianapolis, Nov 17, 2007.

Farewell, my sweet gray goof. I'll meet you at the Bridge.
Anonymous, 7:47 AM


Oh, Mark. What a loving tribute. I wish the noble Zane safe journeys.
Blogger braingirl, at 12:01 PM  
My heart is hurting for you and I cry as I read this...but what a life you gave him.

Weimaraner Mom
Blogger Allison, at 1:40 PM  
Very, very sorry to hear about the loss of Zane.

Dogs are one of life's great gifts and I'm always bolstered a little bit, despite your loss, when I read of others who care for their family companions as you have done with Zane.

Blogger Jeff, at 7:41 PM  

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