My Four-Legged Family and How Much We Have Gained From Them.
On August 23rd, 2005, what later became hurricane Katrina, hit South Florida as a tropical storm. It quickly moved across the state, picking up strength in the Gulf of Mexico, eventually hitting Louisiana, the Florida Panhandle, Alabama, and Mississippi. It slammed into Louisiana as a Category 5 hurricane, causing wide spread damage and flooding the city of New Orleans under 15 feet of water.
Ziggy’s story begins somewhere around the New Orleans area, and as the story goes, a few days prior to the landing of Katrina.
Barely four weeks after the hurricane hit Louisiana and eventually dissipated on August 31, we heard of a van with several rescued dogs and puppies making its way to South Florida from the area of devastation. A good Samaritan had put a few adult dogs into his van, and along with several puppies that were placed into cardboard boxes, began the trek of some 800 plus miles to the Ft. Lauderdale area.
The recipient of this barking, crying and whining cargo was to be a lady who owned a horse farm in the outskirts of Parkland, and who had volunteered to temporarily take custody of this bunch of mutts, until future homes were found for them.
We had just lost Snowy, our 14 year old Corgi-mix to liver failure, and shortly after Chewy our 15 year old full blooded Collie of old age. The house felt empty without a wagging tail or two, so after ascertaining the address to the farm, we decided to go take a look.
When we arrived we were led to a small horse barn with large piles of hay dispersed all around, where a dozen dogs of all ages, shapes and sizes lounged around. Large metal water bowls were scattered throughout and a large pile of dry dog food sat in the corner of the barn.
A furry orange ball with four tiny legs, a thick muzzle, and semi-floppy ears, emerged from behind a pile of hay. This little thing, not more than five or six weeks old, stumbled from side to side as it made its way to one of the water bowls.
Looking at the underbelly, I realized it was a male. This was a good thing, since the last three dogs that had allowed us to share their company, were female, and my three daughters wanted to try a male for a change.
As he satiated his thirst, I decided to scoop him up and do a closer inspection. The first thing I noticed as I held him in one arm and ran my other hand through his body, was his obvious undernourishment, as well as one other very interesting detail. His tail was zigged at the tip.
Immediately, I proclaimed out loud: “Hey girls. This guy has a crooked tail! The tip is zigged” My middle daughter, who has been known for funny jaunty outbursts replied: “Ziggy! That’s Ziggy.” Well, needless to say, Ziggy came home with us that afternoon.
Ziggy needed a lot of TLC. After a couple of trips to the vet to get rid of a nasty case of ticks, fleas and parasites, as well as receiving all the necessary shots, he began to grow and proceeded to take over the supervision of the two female cats we owned.
He was a great cop, making sure any potential feline squabble was dealt with quickly. He also guarded the back yard for any intruding squirrel. Even kept an eye on the children while they swam in the pool. Although they were all expert swimmers, if he noticed they ventured to the center of the pool, he would immediately jump in the water, gently grab their arms with his large mouth and guide them to safety.
Years later, after the two female cats with whom he was raised, had passed away, he now has a new roommate. Boomer, a male tuxedo cat that follows Ziggy no matter where he goes, and helps to tacitly keep him entertained, in his old age.
Ziggy’s individuality and love for family connections emanates from deep inside him. He feels comfortable and grounded when he is with us, and we feel the same when we are around him. He is a calming influence and a great companion. He has taught us empathy, loyalty, love, compassion and unity.
Being with him has put us closer to animals in general. Personally, I can say that my understanding of the world we share with all other creatures has grown exponentially. To be fair, it is not just Ziggy who has contributed to my personal connection to the world we live in and share with all other living things.
It has been my association with dogs like Snowy, Chewy, Maggie, Raggs, Dr. Watson, and now Ziggy. It has also been my association with cats like Abaya, Periscope (yes — Periscope!), Meeka, and Boomer, that has allowed me and the rest of my two-legged family to grow as humans.
Ziggy can barely get around now. His arthritis and hip problems have forced him to wear a brace with handles by his shoulder and hips. We use these handles to help him get up from the floor, since his legs are just not what they used to be.
We walk him a minimum of four times per day as this is the only exercise he gets. His appetite is not as hardy as it was, so my wife hand-feeds him and tries to mix in people food as an enticement.
Since he can no longer climb the stairs to come up to our bedroom and sleep next to our beds, as he has done for most of his life, I will occasionally sleep downstairs in the sofa in order to keep him company.
Extreme, you say; perhaps, but considering all the years of pleasure and company he has afforded us, it is the least we can do for this old mutt.