02 March 2009
Pet Profile: Happy Birthday, Mr. Zanzibar
So it's a certain being's birthday, and I feel the need to gush about him. Zander the Howlin Wolf, my giant 125 lb. Golden Retriever, is five whole years old today!
Zander has many names and he answers to them all: Zanzibar, General Zandissimo Franco, Walter (my mother liked this name, and so did he apparently), Zan Zan and of course just making a "Z" sound with one's mouth elicits quite the affectionate brushing. The only problem with using any of these names? He hugs you with enough force to take down even the sturdiest human.
I've been walking down memory lane since I realized it was Zander's birthday, and I have to tell this story since Zander has always been so much a part of my life. When I decided to go to graduate school, I was living in an apartment with a very good friend of mine. I don't think I could have wanted anything more than to cast myself into the wind and pursue a field I really believed in (and still do, despite any whining or crabby provocation....or student loan debt). I have been writing since I was a little girl, and I have loved dogs since I was a little girl, and Zander's story is very much intertwined with the work I do every day.
Imagine the year: 1991, third grade. I *begged* my parents to add a Golden Retriever to our family. Of course my parents have always been dog people so they happily obliged my birthday request, but what we learned from that dog has/will last(ed) me a lifetime, even if Nikki died my freshman year of college (long life for a dog her size).
So as a pet owner for almost my entire life, what have I learned? Well, for starters, I've learned not to take on too much responsibility at once. I decided at a pretty young age that kids were not something to jump into lightly when, after the dog had gone on a terror following six hours home alone, my mom and I spent most of the night cleaning up and/or mending things that had been in her warpath. Pets tend to make clear just how responsible one must be to maintain and/or mend a human life.
I also learned what it's like to nurture another being. When Nikki was a pup, I was also a human pup, and thus walking and running her every day until she passed out into puppy paradise was no problem, but as I got older, I realized that dogs need just as much care as humans do, often if not more. When my roommate/best friend and I--PJ, for those of you who know him--adopted Zander, I threw all of my energy into raising him. When we moved to Pullman, Washington, I don't think I noticed how different everything was for several weeks because I was so invested in acclimating this fragile yet strong life into his surroundings.
When I met Ian and his dog, it seemed as if our dogs had met their soul mates, and it was pretty clear that I had met my match in Ian. Ian/Erin and Zander/Zelda have yielded to a slightly hairy (them, not us...) family, and I take the greatest joy in spending each day with them and our new addition to the family, the very grumpy and always affectionate rescue kitty, Johnny Cash the Cat with Black.
The dog praise continues....
One of Zander's favorite things to do (and perhaps what makes him such a great companion) is to hug the person he loves, even if he only hugs your hand. He can hold this pose for quite awhile, or at least as long as my arm can take (which isn't long given his size, I'm afraid).
I'm sure pretty much everyone has seen this photo before not to mention it was taken when he wasn't full grown (!), but I'm always blown away by the proportion. His head is twice the size of mine! And I am definitely not tiny at 5'10".
When Zander met Zelda. A great love story, no?