For Zoey (from Barry)

April 26, 2018 by NJPainter

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God this is hard to write.

Our Zoey had to go on Monday. It all happened so fast.

It was an unknown tumor in her belly that ruptured, and she was too old and in no condition to go through the torture of surgeries and chemo. She lived a long, happy and healthy life and we wouldn’t put her through that hell. And the thought of losing her on an operating table was unacceptable. The end came quick and she didn’t suffer. She had Laurén by her side the final 24 hours of her life. They talked, they hugged and they kissed, and Zoey was never alone. Feeling unconditional love and support until the very end.

I was out of town for work when this happened. A morning vet visit had Zoey in good spirits. Tail was wagging and treats were consumed. We thought she was just getting through a stomach bug. But she took a turn for the worse in the afternoon and Laurén rushed her to an emergency vet with a friend (thank you Michelle xo). I changed my trip and rushed home when I heard the news. I begged for Zoey to make it until I could be there by her side. Begged and pleaded through choked tears to any deity that would listen. I couldn’t imagine her leaving without me holding her and kissing her beautiful face. Without telling her how much I loved her and what she meant to me. How she couldn’t be replaced, how she taught me to be more empathetic, more caring, and more present in my life. I knew this day would come, but never envisioned not being there with her when it did.

But I didn’t make it in time. I had to say goodbye on FaceTime. She looked right at the phone, wrapped in her favorite blanket on that gurney, and heard my blubbering words. I will wrestle with not being there for her and Laurén in person for a very long time. I can’t blame myself as I couldn’t have known, but I was and remain absolutely gutted about it.

I realize this is heavy, but I want you all to know more about Zoey. I promise, her origin story is adorable.

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She was found living inside a discarded pizza box in New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This story proved to be gold for her through the years. It netted her countless extra treats and being fed human food directly from plates at holiday parties. When either of us would tell that story, Zoey would look up, put her ears forward and gave you her puppy look that seemed to say “Helps me. Pwease?” It worked all the time, every time.

Laurén rescued her. She went to a shelter in New Orleans and saw this black mutt with almond eyes and a big belly full of worms crawl right up to her and sit in her lap. They both hit the jackpot.

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Laurén soon after moved to NYC. She wanted to live the fantasies TV had promised in shows like “Friends” and movies like “Big.” She came here with little money, a bag of clothes and a puppy. Not being able to afford much, Laurén and Z spent all their time together. I recently realized this is why Zoey was so well behaved and so well trained.

To tell my whole story of Zoey would be to tell the whole story of how me and Laurén fell in love. They’re tightly connected.

On our first date, I told Laurén I was so excited to meet Z, whom I had heard about countless times during the years we were mere co-workers (co-workers who just happened to spend all day everyday talking to each other). I remember it vividly. I came up to Laurén’s tiny Harlem apartment, and Zoey was leaping with joy at the site of her mom. Laurén hugged her and kissed her and talked to her in this loving way that actually made me jealous.

I never wanted to be a dog so badly.

I was already head over heals in love with Laurén, and I wanted her to talk to me like she talked to her. I think I even wrote this moment down in a notebook at the time. I never write about my life, but when me and Laurén first fell in love, I didn’t want to forget a second of it.

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I didn’t come into Zoey’s life until she was about 4 ½.  And as I was falling deeply in love with Laurén, Zoey quickly filled a humongous space in my heart. And I know I filled one in hers.

Z is woven into our lives. She’s woven into the very BEST MOMENTS of our lives. The days we spent, the walks we had, the trips we took together. These two are my family and always will be. Our years with her are the best of our lives and the love we shared among us is too tremendous, precious and rare to try and describe. It only makes sense as a feeling. An intense feeling that we’ll carry with us forever.

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The best part of my day is coming home to have Zoey waiting for me by the door. No matter what happened during the day, those minutes spent hugging, kissing and rubbing were always bliss and gave me perspective on what’s important. She helped me stay grounded.

This past year was a great one for Zoey. Laurén left her corporate job and channeled a creative energy I always knew she had, and I’m blown away with what she’s accomplished. Seeing her soar on her own makes me proud, and her getting to work from home made Zoey very happy. For the last year of her life, Zoey had Laurén all day long to herself. It warmed my heart and brought me so much joy that the two could spend their days together.

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We gave her love, understanding and appreciation, and she gave it back to us tenfold. She’d leap around and danced with joy when we’d take her with us places. Trips Upstate, swimming in lakes, rivers and friend’s pools…and her absolute favorite, going to my parents’ house, where she’d get spoiled rotten and swim in the lake I grew up on in NJ.

No matter where we were, she was happiest when we were all together. You could see it in her face and her actions. Being with us is all that mattered to her.

She was sweet, smart and had the highest emotional intelligence I’ve ever come across in a person or animal. The guy who’s all “I’m not a dog person,” would be on his knees petting her stomach within minutes. Children who were scared of dogs shyly would ask if they could pet her back. People who didn’t plan on getting a dog decided to rescue one after spending time with her gentle old soul energy and her cute little face. She was a human whisperer.

And even though I’m heartbroken, Laurén and a close friend help me realize the final gift Zoey gave me. Me and Z went for a walk that Sunday morning I left for LA. I had no clue it would be our last. It was a beautiful day and we went to the park where she rolled in the dirt, ate grass and sniffed flowers. I swear she was smiling, as she often did when she was appreciating a good walk or outdoor adventure.

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We walked to one of her favorite shops and got some of her favorite treats. We took the scenic route home and stopped by a French bakery to bring back iced coffee for Laurén. A young family approached her while she was waiting for me outside. “It’s ok, she’s friendly,” I said. As I left the coffee counter and walked outside, knelt down next to Zoey and showed the little girl how to pet her gently.

About an hour later it was time for me to go to the airport. Zoey was sitting outside on our deck in the sun. I took the opportunity to sneak out without saying goodbye. She always got sad when she’d see either of us leave with a suitcase and I didn’t want to upset her. And that’s my last memory of her. Zoey, with her tongue wagging in the sunshine after a gorgeous walk together.

I like to think she knew. That she wanted me to remember her like this, and not to see her sick at the end. She only wanted Laurén there for her final day. The person she began her life with, took care of her and taught her everything she knew. I love this thought. And it speaks to how smart Zoey is. She knows Laurén is the stronger one. She’s the brave one. We all know that…

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We’ve never cried so hard and so long. But the reason it hurts so bad is because the love was so great, and the hole left behind is too gigantic to fill.

I know she’d be pawing at us right now, curling herself between us and nuzzling her head underneath our arms to make us feel better. She never wanted to see us sad or upset. She undoubtedly would be giving us warm licks.

She gave love to us every single day. What an incredible gift to give for an entire lifetime…

Zoey, I can’t tell you how much you are love and missed.  But believe me, we’re going to keep telling you, out loud, and we know you’ll hear it.

You’re our baby. Our ZoZo, our ZZ, our Zoey Maria, our Mamma. Our hearts.

Now go find all the dogs in your life and our collective families – Roxie, Obi, Sampson, JD, Toby, Leo, Layla, Sadie & Sam – who will all be happy to show you the ropes on the other side. Just try not to be so bossy with them and share your sticks. And go to Grandma, Poppy Max, Poppy Bill, Zaddie, Bubby, Grandpa Welcome & Uncle Ben who will shower you with love and treats and take care of you until we can be together again.

It’s hard to stop writing. I want to write, “I love you so much” a million times so it reaches the sky but I don’t think it would be enough.

Zoey, you’re our special girl. Nothing could ever change that.

With all our hearts.
Mom & Dad

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3 Comments »

  1. Love you guys so very much. Your words are perfect. Thank you for sharing this with us. She is and always will be in our hearts and memories. ❤️

    Comment by Mandy — April 26, 2018 @ 12:31 am

  2. Thank you for sharing Zoey’s story… both were very moving. Zoey is truly an exceptional dog!! She was very lucky to have you both… she was extremely loved and she loved you guys in return. We think of her and both of you often… . she will be missed!

    Comment by Mota family — April 26, 2018 @ 3:06 am

  3. This is so beautiful, Barry. I can literally feel the pain but also the love coming through in your words.
    “Being with us is all that mattered to her.” – my favorite part. You and Laurén gave her the most magical life and I know she gave y’all everything in return. I’m so glad that out of all the dogs and humans in the world, the three of you belonged to each other in this lifetime. It was meant to be. Sending lots of love and prayers for strength to both of you.

    Comment by Jessica & Will — April 26, 2018 @ 11:11 am

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