More than 6 years ago, I was somewhat new to the shelter community and the way in which I would shape Bound Angels. I came across this dog that some claimed was a purebred Belgian Malinois, I realized he had many Mal traits, but there was a lot of other stuff going on. Zeus was a handlful. The disclaimer I had to sign was 3 pages long. My friend Shannon Keith said, I’m impressed that you would take on a dog like him, he’s gonna be impossible to place. “Hard to place?” What did she mean? he’s beautiful. Well, she was right. I had Zeus for almost a month in an expensive boarding facility here in Malibu. I spend hours every day training him… he was a challenge. He was aggressive to people and dogs and was a monster to handle. He tried to go after me and my own dog, Silly. Yet the training persisted. A friend courtesy listed him for me online and I received ONE call – ONE. It was from Lori. She wanted to meet Zeus and see how he would fit in with her family. Her, her husband and Joey, her young son. I was concerned. He was a big dog. Although I’d done a lot of training, I was still worried. I drove Zeus down and showed them the basics of dealing with a big guy like Zeus. They were down. Joey took to Zeus and Zeus took to Joey. They were, after all, about the same size.
Well, I left Zeus with the Deals that night and it was a match made in heaven. Over the years I’d always hear from Lori bragging about Zeus. She brought him up to me to visit a couple of times and I cherished seeing my friend again. I knew in my heart he was in his perfect home.
I don’t know much of his story before arriving at the shelter, except he was found as a stray by a cop, put in the shelter where he lived for over 5 months. That was the West Valley Shelter LAAS. His time with me was about learning what he needed to know to be a dog. It tested me as a trainer to deal with some of his behaviors, but he’s a perfect example how structured, balanced training can counter aggression, bad manners and everything else.
About a year ago the sad news came that Zeus was diagnosed with cancer. Lori told me about it and I held out that it wasn’t yet his time and I was right. Not sure how I knew, but I did. I had an amazing connection with this guy. Lori always kept me up to date on Zeus and I welcomed every call. It was always good news, until last week. For some reason I knew, my heart sank. Zeus was on his final journey. I cried, Lori cried and I knew that this day would one day come.
Lori gave Zeus over 6 years of love and the best life any dog could imagine. He was her best friend and she was his life. She gave him life and the chance that no one else could or would. He lived as a king and left this world as one too. When this last day came, Lori gave him the dignity that a warrior like Zeus deserved. She and Joey took him in, held him, told him how he was loved and saw him onto the next journey.
It’s with tear-filled eyes that I write this. It is with tears of joy and happiness that I share Zeus’ story – knowing he almost didn’t get out of the shelter, but he did. 1/2 of his life we knew nothing about but the half we know about was paradise. He found his human and Lori found her dog. He had a perfect life. He lived a respectable, long life; over 12 years. He felt love and dignity up until his las breath. I wish every dog could know the love that Zeus knew – He knew love.
The experience with Zeus made me better man, a better rescuer, dog trainer, a more caring person and it helped shape the core of Bound Angels’ mission. If it hadn’t been for Zeus, I might not have ever seen the path to helping so many dogs. Thousands of dogs are alive today because of our work and so much of that work was molded by my original journey with Zeus. So I thank you Lori for your dedication to this sweet boy, for making his story possible – for making his life. Without you Zeus would have ever had this life, you are a hero.
And most of all, thank you Zeus for having shared your life, your journey and your spirit so freely on this earth. I’m grateful that we met and look forward to the day we meet again – across that rainbow bridge!
If you care to see the dog that I met and the dog that Zeus became, you can watch the video below… more can be found on our youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/boundangels
Here’s a photo of Zeus in his prime with his mom, just the way I remember his best!