A Memory of Ziggy

 

            Ziggy died on July 28, 2000. He belonged to my friend, Mike. Before I tell you about Ziggy, let me tell you a little about Mike. Our relationship is actually a little unusual because Mike is a former student of mine. I taught Mike when he was in sixth grade. I had been friendly with Mike and his parents when he was my student but hadn't seen him until he came back to visit his elementary school when he was in high school. After he entered college, we began to socialize more and more so that over some twenty-five odd years, Mike has evolved from student to friend and confidant.

            Mike had always enjoyed my dogs whenever he came to visit but had never had a dog of his own. When he got a house of his own, he began to think seriously about adopting a dog. One day Mike was over for a visit, and I showed him a picture of a Doberman at the S.P.C.A. It was a great picture of a floppy-eared dog with the sweetest face. We decided to go to see Dobie, as he was called. It was instant love, man-to-dog and dog-to-man, and before I knew what was happening, Mike had adopted Dobie.

            The first thing that Mike wanted to do is to give Dobie a better name. We discussed many options and finally came up with Zigfried - Ziggy for short. So, on May 28, 1994, Mike and Ziggy became man and dog.

            Now having had experience with dogs, I was a little leery of Mike adopting a dog because I knew what a responsibility it was and how drastically it would change the life of this single man who, up until this time, had had a life of freedom. Mike, however, thought that he was ready. I was a little encouraged because I tried some basic obedience moves with Ziggy, and he seemed to respond positively and learn quickly. Ziggy was a wonderful, loving, happy dog who was just enthralled by Mike. Because he was old enough to be past most of his adolescence, I thought things would go well. Little did I know, little did Mike know that the honeymoon would end so quickly.

            I cannot remember the exact sequence of events during that post-honeymoon period, but some of them remain clear in my mind. There were times that Mike had to be away on business and would leave Ziggy with me, and there were times when Mike was visiting, and we would go out and leave Ziggy at my house with my two dogs. One time I arrived home to find that Ziggy had eaten a pair of my shoes along with my briefcase. Please note that I use the word eaten as opposed to chewed because Ziggy actually consumed and digested those things. He ate one pair of shoes down to the sole and most of my briefcase. The straw that broke the camel's back was when Mike and I arrived home to find that Ziggy had eaten a good part of a leather sofa. Not only had he eaten a large part of it, he had pulled it out into the middle of the floor. What a sight! When Mike and I walked in on that scene, Ziggy was looking chagrined, and my two dogs were standing there as if to say, "Do you see what this crazy dog has done now?"

            We went down to the basement, dragged out, and assembled the crate that I had bought for my Great Dane who had died several years before. This was going to be the solution to the problem. We could breathe easily whenever we had to leave Ziggy in the house. We breathed easily way too soon. The first time we left Ziggy in the crate, he managed to force the door enough to get out and proceeded to gnaw away at the basement door handle. We were amazed. This crate was constructed of thick metal rods, and when we both tried to pull at the door we couldn't get it to bend enough to allow a dog of Ziggy's size to get through. We still don't know how he got through that door with both latches still engaged. We tried chaining the door and holding the chain with clips similar to those on a leash, but Ziggy managed to open them with his mouth. The only method that finally worked was to chain the door and lock it with a padlock.

            That took care of the problem whenever Mike and Ziggy came to visit me, but Mike's house was another matter. Mike first tried to confine Ziggy to the kitchen, but he kept breaking through the barrier. I suggested that Mike use mousetraps to keep Ziggy away from the barrier. This method had worked for me in teaching my dogs to stay off the sofa and beds. Mike tried this and went to a room in his house were Ziggy couldn't see him. He soon heard the snap, snap, snap of mousetraps as Ziggy plowed through them oblivious to pain or fright.

            One day after Mike arrived home to find most of his shoes eaten, he called to see if I could bring him the crate. Mike lived about ninety minutes away from my house, so the dogs and I packed up the crate and made the journey to southern Maryland. The problem with the crate was that it was so large it took up a good portion of Mike's kitchen - the only room he had in his small house to put a crate. Never-the-less, it brought peace for Mike didn't have to worry on his way home as to what he would find when he arrived. It wasn't long when Mike bought a smaller crate - just the size for Ziggy. The thing that always amazed me was that even though the new crate was constructed of much lighter and weaker metal, Ziggy never got out of it, and Mike never used a chain on the door as was necessary with my crate.

            For a period of time, I was sure that when my phone rang at a certain hour that it would be Mike bemoaning his problems with Ziggy. Needless-to-say, Mike questioned the validity of keeping Ziggy, but there was one outstanding fact that always decided the issue - Ziggy was an absolutely wonderful dog. He had the most expressive face I have ever seen on a dog. He was kind, loving, and gentle. He loved Mike beyond all reason. So what if he consumed various leather household items, he was simply a super dog.

            Mike worked for months and months to train Ziggy, and his efforts paid off because Ziggy became a well-behaved gentleman of a dog. He learned to do everything that Mike requested. Mike and Ziggy became a team to be emulated.

            Mike, Ziggy, my two dogs (Boomer and Nat), and I had some wonderful times together. We would go on day trips to parks and into Washington, D.C. The dogs were always very well behaved and would make Mike and me very proud of them.

            Then came the day that Mike and Ziggy moved to Louisiana. Boomer, Nat, and I were very sad to see them go because we knew that the good times together would end. The first time they came back to visit, Ziggy went out my backdoor to lift his leg on his regular tree, but I had had the tree removed. I still laugh when I think of that expression on Ziggy's face as he looked back at me questioning the loss of his regular marking place. Ziggy could say volumes with the look in his eyes, the cock of his head, and the twist of his wonderful floppy ears. And to watch Ziggy and Mike communicate was a wonderful sight to see.

            I went to Louisiana to visit Mike and Ziggy in the summer of 1999. By that time, Boomer and Nat had both died, and my heart was still very tender from their loss. As Mike, Ziggy, and I wandered the lovely streets of New Orleans, ate at sidewalk cafes, and played in the dog park by the Mississippi, I viewed Mike and Ziggy with love but also a little envy because I was now alone. Little did I know that just a year later I would get that dreadful call from Mike telling me that Ziggy had an enlarged heart and was not expected to live much longer. And then, just the other night, Mike called to tell me that Ziggy was gone. Gone in the prime of his life leaving Mike alone and far away from family and friends.

            Mike is a friend, but because of our unique relationship, also almost a son. How can I get him to understand that his appalling pain and sorrow will lessen a tiny bit each day until the time that it will be gone, and what will remain will be the warm memories of that most wonderful and unique dog, Ziggy?

            Ziggy's beautiful and loving nature brightened the lives of all who knew him, but he made my friend, Mike, glow. Ziggy will always be loved and remembered.

 

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