In Memoriam: Zorro (1995 – 2009)

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My stepfather found Zorro wandering the streets of San Jose during a violent rainstorm. He was skinny, starving, dirty, and covered in fleas. He called me from the car, “I found a dog like Abigail. I’m bringing him to you.”

Zorro was, of course, nothing like my parents’ neurotic virgin ice princess chihuahua. He was plucky, gregarious, gallant, and warm. The first day we met, he curled up in my lap and fell asleep. Within 24 hours he was following me wherever I went.

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He was never much into toys, but when we first got him, he liked to have things. He would steal chopsticks, shoes, balls, paperclips, and hoard them. He used to steal potstickers, too, and hide them in plain sight on the food of our bed, after digging a “hole,” of course. He was very proud of his accomplishment. This was before Miss Cleo joined the family.

About six months after we adopted him, Zorro began showing signs of epilepsy. It began with one seizure, increased gradually to the point where he would have clusters of seizures every other Monday, in which he would go from Grand Mal to Grand Mal, never really regaining himself. The vets said we should consider putting him down, we said there had to be another way. Using a combination of traditional drug therapy, acupuncture and Chinese herbs, we helped Zorro beat epilepsy. His last seizure was sometime before Labor Day, 2002.

When we moved to Texas, Zorro adjusted well. Ice and snow were new experiences for him, and he would often give us the patented Slitty-Eyed Look of Doom before going out, but he coped, and when he came back in there were always warm towels and cuddles.

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A couple of years ago, we came home from a trip to South Dakota, and when we picked Zorro up from the kennel, we were told he had a heart murmur. He was put on enalapril, and that kept him stable for about four months.

In February, 2008, we were told his heard murmur had progressed to a stage six, of six stages, and lasix was added to his medicines. His heart was enlarged and was pressing on his trachea, but he didn’t act sick, and was coping.

Last Halloween, we woke up to find Zorro refusing food (shocking for him) and with his pulse visible as a tremor in his entire body. We rushed him to the vet, and were given an antibiotic, and vetmedin. Within 24 hours he was his bouncy perky self, though his cough was a little worse. We were cautioned at that time, “One morning you will wake up and he will not. Or you’ll have to make a decision that his fight is over. Hope for the first.”

Last Tuesday, we noticed Zorro having trouble chewing, and on Wednesday saw the signs of an abscessed tooth (swelling under the eye). We made an appointment for an exam, and a dental if needed, and got him an antibiotic. On Thursday, he saw the dentists, who said there was no tooth to pull, and felt that with Zorro’s heart condition, the best course of action would be to leave him on the antibiotic. When he came home, the abscess began to drain.

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On Saturday morning, Zorro refused food, but took his meds. On Saturday evening he took the meds, and ate, but had to be coaxed. His breathing was labored, but we knew he was on an antibiotic, and he’d bounced back from conditions that seemed worse.

On Sunday afternoon, we came home from seeing a movie (Coraline) happy that our foster dog, Blue, had been adopted. Zorro came to greet us, but didn’t jump, just walked slowly. We petted him and soothed him, and tried to get him to take the meds he’d refused in the morning, but he kept turning his head away. We kept trying every couple of hours.

Around six, I emailed a friend and asked her for a reference for an emergency vet, because I noticed blood in Zorro’s spittle, and because he was panicking if either of us left the room (not normal for him). In the car, I tried bribing him, “Make it through this,” I said, “and you can have all the French fries you want.” We took him to the clinic and they put him on oxygen and injected lasix. They talked to us about what our options were, and said their preference was to keep him over night. They left us alone to discuss what WE wanted, and we’d just come to the decision that we would NOT leave him, when they rushed back in, “He’s crashing,” they said, “We need you to be with him.”

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They were holding him so that his airway was clear, and blood was pouring from his throat. They asked if we wanted them to perform CPR as his heart was not beating regularly. We said, “No. Just make sure he doesn’t hurt.”

We were gently ushered around the operating table where they laid him in a warmed receiving blanket. We touched his paws and scratched behind his ears and told him we loved him, so the last thing he saw was us. He didn’t struggle, and didn’t seem to be in any pain.

They left us with him for a few minutes, and offered to let us take his body back in the exam room but it was too hard to be near him without any of his vibrance left. (I have this issues with human deaths too, and avoid open-casket funerals because I don’t like seeing people I love looking like wax fruit.) Later, they asked if we wanted to bury him, or wanted him cremated. We chose the latter, and his ashes will be returned to us later this week.

Zorro went to the Rainbow Bridge at 8:46 PM CST, on Sunday, February 22nd. He was loved, and he will be missed. Chris and I extend our sincere thanks to the folks at Parkway Animal Hospital and the Airport Freeway Animal Emergency Clinic, as well as to all of our friends to tweeted, texted, emailed, and called to express their support during the last day. Please be patient with us as we grieve…Zorro was like our child.

Zorro in 1998
Zorro in 1998

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 In Memoriam: Zorro (1995 – 2009) by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.