Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Zeke the Wonder Dog

| December 26, 2010 8:00 PM

I have helped raise fish, birds, three dogs and a dozen cats; I found a way to love snaggle - toothed Nicholas and Soot, two cats that did not return love very well. And then there was Zeke.

I should have known; he was too cheap. At $75 he was a bargain when male yellow Labradors were going for $200. We obtained his services about 1979 and he went to doggie heaven (pity the other dogs there) about 1992; Ezekiel of Lantern Lane was his official AKC name but there was nothing official about Zeke, ever. In his prime he weighed an even hundred, every ounce ready to go at a moment's notice.

Zeke did not like sleeping indoors, even in Flagstaff, Ariz., where temperatures frequently go below zero. We did not catch on at first because he loved being inside during the day. He made his wishes known by eating through interior doors - three of them. On his doctor's advice, I commissioned a top of the line doghouse and a $700 run back in the mid-80s when that was big money. Zeke went over it, under it and through it. I could not imagine chaining a dog inside a fenced area but Zeke took to it immediately. Maybe he felt absolved of his sacred duty to escape.

Al Villegas, my neighbor, met Zeke through a garage door. Al was working outside when he saw a black spot; moving closer, he saw Zeke's nose. Later that morning he saw the rest of Zeke who had eaten his way through the plywood garage door so he could play with the neighbor kids.

One morning, I looked outside to see 18 inches of snow but no Zeke. Looking again I saw the same black spot in the snow that Al had seen through the garage door. Zeke was underneath the snow sleeping peacefully. I don't think he ever slept in that custom doghouse again, rain or shine, heat or 20 below zero. We moved it to Sandpoint so he could continue to ignore it.

For a Lab he was slow to swim and did not hit the water until he was about 2. Fred and I went canoeing in a big Arizona lake leaving Zeke tied to our VW Camper. He let us get to where we could barely see him before he broke the rope and took his maiden swim. We were worried; if he tired there was no way to haul a wet hundred pound dog into a canoe. As always, we underestimated that dog. When he reached the canoe, he swam circles around us; his maiden voyage was about three miles and he showed no signs of being tired even then.

Fred wanted Zeke to become a hunter so he tanned a squirrel tail one winter. The first day of spring training Fred came back furious; Zeke had eaten the training tail. He also tried to make him a sled dog; Zeke caught onto that game immediately but Fred forgot one thing - brakes. Zeke returned home an hour later still pulling the sled he had thrown his young trainer off less than a block from the starting point in front of our house.

In Sandpoint we lived two blocks from Lake Pend Oreille. How Zeke opened a double hung window I don't know but he then jumped from a second story window to go swimming in a lake he had never seen. Every day Zeke and his buddy, the Spotted Snifter (aka, the Nehers' dog from across the street) went to meet the postman and dutifully assist him for about a mile. His best trick was when my two kids would go out on the lake with rafts and call Zeke who came as fast as he could paddle; one kid would then grab Zeke's tail and the other kid would grab the first kid and Zeke would tow them to shore - over and over and over again until, inevitably, Fred and Jennifer got too tired to continue. Zeke the wonder dog never tired out until we laid him to rest. I miss him all the time.

Tim Hunt, the son of a linotype operator, is a retired college professor and nonprofit administrator who lives in Hayden with his wife and three cats. He can be reached at linotype.hunt785@gmail.com.

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