Zeke in his early days at home in upstate New York.

Zeke in his early days at home in upstate New York.

Want to Thrive? 5 Lessons From Zeke About How to Live Well

Another perspective on how to live in the moment and when to move on.

“Zeke is not doing well.” 

These were the first words my husband spoke to me as he retrieved me after I facilitated a two-day leadership off-site for a client. He grabbed my bags and hurried out of the lobby to the truck, where our 70-pound German Shorthaired Pointer, Zeke, lay in extreme exhaustion. Zeke couldn’t stand. At 14 years and 9 months old, his body appeared to be saying it was time to go.

I drove while Robert lay in back with Zeke. Both of us hoping some miracle might happen upon us during our drive back through the hills of upstate New York toward our home in the Finger Lakes. 

An hour later we pulled into the driveway of our home. It was a glorious day with blue skies and cottony clouds suspended over summer’s green valley. We lifted Zeke out of the truck, determined that he would show us he was OK. He couldn’t stand. It took Robert and me both to steady Zeke. In that moment of knowing we were facing the inevitable and unbearable, Zeke seemed to weigh a thousand pounds—as if to represent the pending grief that was heavier than we could bear. Our beloved friend fell into my husband’s arms as Robert sat on the ground with Zeke’s failing body seeming to melt into his lap. It was clear Zeke was on his way and it was time to say goodbye. Zeke was peaceful.

Three years ago we had three dogs. Now we have none. We lost Gem in December 2011. We lost Coby in May 2013. We lost Zeke in July 2014. Each of our beloved pets has left holes in our hearts. Each has taught us what our wisest human teachers never could. Zeke taught us to:

  1. Go for what you want. The picture accompanying this blog is Zeke, years ago, when his body still worked, leaping for a ball in the early morning, sun just rising above the tree line. Zeke never took his eyes off what he wanted.  He was focused and determined. 
  2. Live in the real world. As humans, many of us (this author a major culprit) spend so much time in our heads. Obsessive thinking and hijacked by thoughts we allow to consume us; it all takes us out of the moment, which is all we truly have in life. Dogs don’t do this. They are deeply connected to the present. Stillness Speaks is a great book on this topic.
  3. Make time to play and have fun. It’s true, there is serious stuff going on the world. The stream of news a never-ending buzz-kill about things that feel in some cases out of our control. In the midst of this, and in some ways in order to navigate the complexities of life, we must make time to be reminded of the gift of being 6 feet above and not 6 feet under. Finding time to play and honor the gift of life is like an unwritten part of our job description as human beings. Zeke wanted to play—always—sometimes he even fell asleep with the tennis ball in his mouth and tail wagging. 
  4. Let people know you love them. I mean seriously, dogs may be the most perfect creatures for their ability to show us how much they love us, unconditionally, and every chance they get. What stops us, as human beings from letting people know we love them and they matter to us?
  5. Be peaceful when it’s time to move on. Every new beginning starts with some other beginning’s end. If you believe life is a journey, punctuated with a series of beginnings and endings, there will be necessary stops along the way. The key is to know when it’s time to move on and then get going!  Einstein might have said it best: “Life is like a bicycle; in order to balance you have to keep moving.” While Zeke’s ending has a certain finality, we should all be so peaceful about moving on to whatever’s next when we know it’s time to do so.

Zeke bids you a happy life.

(Image via Sarah Agan)

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