“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it…and have dominion…over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
Through Christ I am able to retain my peace and joy, despite the pains of this life piling up like dead leaves. Staying firmly planted beneath the shadow of my Father’s protective wings has been a deep necessity, as I continue walk steadfastly in Faith. I’ve felt a bit Job-like over the past few months, but in turn there has been a great release of my spirit; a release forward, into the calling upon my life. The most impactful interruption came with the loss of my precious dog…the dog God led me to adopt less than four years ago. This is the story of God, a girl, and an angel in the form of a dog named Zeus…
Meeting the Dog Who Stole My Heart
In 2013, God opened up the opportunity for me to rent a house from friends. It was a cute house with a fenced backyard in a very walkable neighborhood. As time for me to move in approached, I kept feeling led to adopt a dog. The sense I was supposed to do this was undeniable, right down to the breed and finding an adult dog. I supposed it was the Lord planting the seed, so I prayed on it a bit, then began my search for an adult, German Shepherd Dog. I checked the German Shepherd rescues and none of the dogs available really “felt” right…then I saw him: He was posted on a local animal rescue organization’s Facebook wall. Upon recognizing this was the dog, I reached out to the woman managing adoptions for more information.
It was a Saturday afternoon. I entered the busy PetSmart in Naples, Florida where the rescue organization brought animals up for adoption. I walked down the main aisle and there he was, sprawled out across the middle. At his size, he needed an entire aisle! The handsome dog was getting a lot of attention but as I waited to meet him, overheard conversation that he was sweet and beautiful, but too old or too big. In my eyes, he was perfect! I spoke with his foster “dad” who was there with him; he reiterated the general consensus with families not wanting Zeus were his size and age. He relayed in brief about the dog’s story and how they’d rescued him from being euthanized about a month prior.
I sat down on the floor next to Zeus and talked to him. As I stroked the dog’s head he began taking to me, then suddenly gave me a big kiss on the face. The foster said that was a first, he hadn’t shown that affection to anyone in the month they’d had him. That is exactly when I knew Zeus was meant for me. But, his loyal blood showed itself when the foster needed to use the restroom…Zeus got really upset and tried to find him. (I would soon figure out that behavior was separation anxiety…)
A week later, I went to pick Zeus up at the foster’s house. It was interesting how at home he’d made himself but after living on the hot Florida streets for goodness knows how long, who could blame him! It didn’t take much coercing to get him into the back of my SUV…apparently his favorite word was “ride.” On September 7, 2013, off we went, to start our lives together…me and this 120 pound, hairy beast!
Every Good and Perfect Gift Comes from Above
God gave me the gift of caring for Zeus. I hadn’t had a pet of my own since age 19. I carried around guilt for years over having to give up two rescue cats who trusted me (it took years to accomplish this) due to moving. Only through the inner workings of the Lord Jesus could I be open again. God knew what he was doing by pairing me with Zeus. You see, this dog had his own heartbreaking story of being abused and abandoned. He was left for dead at age 9 because his owner had addiction issues and I heard had gone to jail; he couldn’t find a home for Zeus, not even in his family, so let the poor old boy roam the streets. We had a lot in common. And, we were both a bit set in our ways when we first met, but learned to trust and relax, through the love we found for one another.
The vet who initially checked Zeus upon being rescued thought he was 13 years old, however, the vet I took him to and I agreed 9 was more likely – the dog had a lot of energy and great strength. Whomever his previous owner was must have really loved and taken good care of him until his life went downhill because Zeus was one well-behaved, well-trained, loving and very intelligent dog. Manipulative…but also big pile of furry goofiness! He loved to be silly and receiving positive attention. I gained his trust by spending a lot of time with him, loving on him, plus taking him on multiple walks or runs a day.
It didn’t take long for Zeus to feel at home, but we had bit of a rough start due to his anxiety. On the first full day I had him, I left him alone and uncaged while at church. Zeus did a huge no-no; when I walked in and saw, the dog was immediately remorseful and submissive by giving me his belly. It was my fault, not his and I told him so. But he had still done the “bad” thing and knew it. Despite being “sorry” he was caged for the first couple of months when no one was home. Thankfully, he didn’t mind it. After leaving him out for short spurts, I felt he trusted me enough (i.e. always coming back) to be left out. We also battled here and there over his will vs. mine, but despite the rumors you can teach an old dog new tricks, or at least meet him halfway.
Zeus, at first, wasn’t very receptive to men; if one came in the house for any reason, I had to hold tight and tell them to proceed with caution. He nipped a couple of men, including a cop who was stopped in the neighborhood (he asked to pet him one day while we were walking; he was a former K-9 cop and missed his GSD’s) and the vet. Both men understood and stated it was a trust issue because his former owner was a man. He finally warmed up to the vet but always stuck to momma’s legs while visiting.
Zeus quickly grew to love me and give love to everyone he met. He was a good protector of me and our home, especially from the cats and raccoons who would violate the perimeters of the back yard! It was amazing to watch the speed such a huge dog could muster while chasing a cat to the fence! When they built a dog park in our neighborhood, it took him a while to behave enough, firstly, to go in then to be let off leash. Zeus obviously hadn’t been socialized much but eventually realized he was a dog and not human! He didn’t seem to know how to “be a dog” and not be mommy’s protector. I got to experience Zeus’ paternal side as he always took to the puppies first! It was comical to watch as he tried to fit in and keep up with the younger dogs.
In 2015, when Zeus and I moved to Ohio, a new chapter of his life began: he gained a fur brother and “dad.” He learned to hike in the woods and find himself deep pools of creek water to cool off in. He experienced snow for the first time and made “snow dog angels.” Zeus learned how not to act around deer, especially not to go near a fawn after witnessing a huge doe chasing “brother” through the yard in punishment! It was wonderful to watch him experience so many new things!
Unfortunately, after a bit of time passed, I recognized something in Zeus changed. It was as if he began to age more quickly or perhaps decided to take a back seat to the “new men” in our life, but his personality was different. In hindsight, I understand it was fear. Despite taking to the man I married, he absolutely sensed the hurting, angry person within and it made Zeus cautious. At first he would play his usual mediator role by standing between us when spats occurred. But over time, Zeus cowered at his angry voice, and as things grew more intense, the dogs hid.
Apparently, during the few times I was away from home for more than a day, Zeus would try to escape the house. One time he actually got the door open (or so I was told… it wouldn’t have been the first time he’d tried this since I adopted him so I believed it). Unfortunately, I eventually understood why: The man I married was an addict; I concluded that while I was away he was doing things in the house and exhibiting behaviors around the dogs that scared them, especially toward the end of the marriage. It reminded Zeus of his previous owner. After I had gone away unexpectedly once, it took weeks to get Zeus’ nervous stomach to calm down and him back to normal. I’d left him for several days while traveling, prior to getting married, with my mom or a friend, and he’d never had such issues.
It pained me to know I’d subjected my sweet boy to anything that would have caused him emotional harm and vowed to never leave Zeus alone with him again if I could help it. After leaving the marriage, I actually got my “old” dog back for a while! His level of energy and obedience were restored; he was a very happy puppy again. We had both been under a lot of oppression and stress; I never realized just how sensitive this dog was to my emotions and the toxic environment. My dog was hurting because his momma was hurting. Like me, Zeus was happy to be in a healthy environment again.
As Zeus and I readjusted to life in peace and quiet, new challenges arose that would effect him adversely and eventually change his life…