Zany the Life Preserver

Zane’s a seven-year-old white lab who’s lived on Bainbridge Island his entire life. Technically his name is Zane but everybody calls him Zany. The name fits him well, as it might many labs. Bouncy, full of life and love, every moment something new to explore and savor, that’s the breed norm.
His owners were having a very bad year, and by autumn things were spiraling downward past unemployment (after 25 years at the same job, Dad was laid off) into marital separation and moving off island.  Robin, the fourteen year old daughter, and Zany, her inseparable pal, were hanging in there like a couple of shipwreck victims clinging to a single preserver. But it was a precarious hold. And it finally slipped away.
Zany needed to find a new home.
This was not a casual decision by any stretch. Indeed, it came well after the resolutions to move and break up the marriage. It was probably the hardest decision of them all. But with looming financial disaster and a new rental in the city that wouldn’t allow dogs (Robin was moving with her Dad into Seattle near Lake Union while Mom took a job in San Jose), the family tried to focus on what was best for Zany.  And Zany had always lived on island, with space to run, water to swim in, and trees to pee on.
The initial attempt at homefinding proved disastrous too. Thinking they were doing the right thing by not burdening friends, the family placed an ad on craigslist. In typical good intentioned-but-naïve Island fashion the ad read “Free Lab to good home.”
The rats came scurrying out of the walls.
The poor folks were inundated with overly casual and downright dubious inquiries from places like Nigeria. Even relatively local responses from, say, Bremerton, were often from inebriated and/or drugged Internet trollers. More often than not an email query would consist of less-than-one-line blurbs such as:
”Still got the dog?”
“Does it like cats?”
“He a chewer?”
I’m being generous here with the spelling too.
Needless to say none of these meth labs got hold of poor Zany. The family pulled the ad after a few tearfully frustrating days. Following that, a friend who’d been watching the events unfold found a wonderful family in Idaho that was very interested. They came over for a daylong visit one afternoon and, upon leaving, all parties decided Zany had his new home!
Except during all the commotion nobody asked Zany his opinion. Yes, he seemed perfectly pleased with these wonderful people who’d come to see him and took him on a long walk for some reason. Quite unusual that walk was, yes, but he’s a friendly sort and there were those treats in their pockets.
But when the kind folks returned a second time about a week later Zany was having none of it. There had been a lot of luggage lying around all week, the kind that appears when the family is going somewhere. The energy around the house had been very off, his beloved Robin was often in tears, something radical was going on.
So Zany hightailed it to the chicken coop for a couple of hours, ignoring all calls.
It was Robin who found him of course, perhaps she’d known he was there all along?, and with her soothing voice she coaxed him out and gently into the backseat of the (now baby-talking) couples’ car.
I’ll leave the rest of this scene to your imagination. It was quite heartbreaking. Suffice it to say the car rolled down the driveway with Zany peering out the back window, the gravel seemingly making a thunderous crunching, as if amped up for effect on a bigscreen.
The family just stood there. Robin claims she was physically unable to move, her legs simply couldn’t walk.
Meantime Zany and new family barely made it to the next scheduled ferry where they were the last car on, giving Zany a full view of his adored island as the boat pulled away. Though the ride was short, the couple thought perhaps they should go upstairs and get their new boy some water. At this point the boat was perhaps a hundred yards offshore.
The passenger side door was barely cracked when Zany bolted out, skidded down the tarmac and sailed (dock-diving-dog that he is) off into Puget Sound. As an instant crowd gathered at all vantage points alternately cheering him on and pleading for him to come back, the bobbing head of Zany quickly disappeared until, off in the distance several minutes later, the tiny image of a dog could be seen coming ashore, giving a quick shake, and continuing on.
Zany was going home.
The rest of the story was witnessed by anybody who might have driven the main road between the ferry dock and central Bainbridge that bright October Day. It was the glorious site of a magnificent muscled Labrador retriever straddling the centerline in a nonstop sprint.
By the time he was within blocks of home, word had reached the family many times over, via their cell phones, that he was on his way.
They were still transfixed in the same spot when he came barreling back down the driveway, virtual waterfalls of tears now flowing on all concerned. It was even okay that this wet filthy slobbering dog knocked Robin over and drenched her in saltwater and dog kisses.
There was no point in discussing it further. A better decision had been made for them after they’d been too overwhelmed to judge correctly. Zany wasn’t going anywhere, he wasn’t expendable, he was perhaps even the necessary element to help survive the rest of it.
They’d just have to move to a place that took dogs.
End of story.
Epilogue from Zane’s family:August 15, 2012
For those of you with a soft spot in your heart for animals and those who knew Zane, we put Zane to sleep late yesterday afternoon.    

Two weeks ago, we took him to the Vet to look at what we thought was something caught in his throat.  It turned out to be a massive invasion of cancer in his lungs.  The Vet said on a scale of 1-10, the cancer development was a 10, and gave him days to live.  

The nice thing about cancer is that you get a chance to say goodbye.  Every day he did his favorite thing – retrieving the tennis ball in lakes and rivers –  feasted on food that we normally wouldn’t feed him, and enjoyed unlimited treats.   We had an amazing time with him.

Yesterday, it became harder for him to breath and the look of despair began to show in his eyes.  While he still gave us looks of love and affection, and his tail still wagged, we decided that it was best to be a day early than a day late in putting him down.

He was a sweet, sweet dog.  A loyal  “Best Friend”, and we will miss him dearly.

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