Lord Zachariah the Forgetful: A tribute to our precious Grandad Zach
To know Zach is to love Zach. The grandad of the rescue, he arrived in October 2018, and to say that he has had an impact would be putting it mildly. An enormous character with a heart to match, he has provided endless entertainment, and his carefree attitude and resilience is an inspiration to us all.
I first met Zach within a couple of days of his arrival at Dogs 4 Rescue. He’d been saved from the pound along with another boy, Ziggy, as they’d both been struggling to cope in kennels and were in danger of being euthanised. Little more than a pup, Ziggy wouldn’t have to wait too long before finding his forever home, but sadly, Zach’s chances were much, much slimmer. In addition to being old (est 15), he was deaf, partially sighted and suffering from a number of other health problems including canine dementia and spondylosis and of course he was a staffie. His vet bills were already considerable and they would continue to mount the older he got. I remember Emma telling me that I would likely be seeing a lot more of him because “no-one wants to adopt the old ones and definitely not the staffs.”
Since that day I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time with the old boy, through fostering, taking him for walks, and sometimes just hanging out with him at the rescue. In that time, Zach’s had many a valuable lesson to teach, and I’d like to share some of these with you:
1) Snuggling is best
He taught me this on the very first night that we fostered him. We went up to bed, leaving Zach tucked up under a duvet on the sofa, snoring away, fast asleep. Being deaf as a post, he didn’t even stir as we left him and went up the stairs. “I bet he’ll sleep through ‘til morning,” I thought to myself.
I should have known it wasn’t going to be that easy. Just a few minutes later, as I got into bed and turned out the lights, I heard the pitter-patter of doggie footsteps on the stairs. Having fostered a few dogs previously, I figured that, like the others, he’d eventually settle back down and go to sleep, so I decided to leave him to it. Ten minutes passed, then twenty, then half an hour, and the pitter-patter continued as he paced up and down, interspersed by the occasional soft thud as he bumped into a wall or a door before continuing on his mission. Eventually I decided enough was enough and went down to check on him.
All it took was for me to lay on the sofa next to him and that was it – problem solved! Of course, I had to lift up the blankets and let him get under with me, so that we could snuggle properly, but the change in him was incredible. His whole body immediately relaxed and within seconds he was sleeping soundly. I don’t know if it’s his deafness that means he feels more secure with someone close to him, or it he’s just a bit of a flirt, but either way, if there’s someone for him to cuddle up to, whether it’s one of his many human admirers, or one of his doggie pals, that’s where you’ll find him.
Surprisingly enough, despite having to spend that night with him on the sofa, and the two that followed, despite the farts, the snoring, the overheating, the attempts to sit on my head, I think Zach has a point – you really can’t beat a good snuggle! There’s something comforting about having a furry friend cuddled up to you at night, and I slept wonderfully, waking up bright and early, feeling rejuvenated and ready to start the day (even if lazy Zach wanted a lie in). I’ve even bought special waterproof sheets for the sofa in case he wants to come for another sleepover one day!
2) The world is our toilet
That brings me nicely onto the next lesson, which is a very simple one. If you need to use the toilet, no matter where you are, just let it go – someone will always be there to clean it up for you! Ok, so maybe this one doesn’t apply to everyone, but it’s certainly Zach’s philosophy! Maybe it’s his dementia, maybe he’s just stubborn, or maybe he knows how handsome he looks in his special nappies, but one thing’s for sure – no amount of persuasion is going to convince him that pooing in the middle of the kitchen isn’t the best idea! Still, we love him all the same.
3) It’s good to laugh
He probably doesn’t realise it, but if there is one thing Zach is good at, it’s making people laugh. His daily antics are somewhat ridiculous but he always manages to find a way to make us smile.
One of his favourite tricks is pulling everything down off the table or the sides. Sometimes it’s food – he’s been known to steal the odd pizza every now and then – but it doesn’t have to be. He’s not fussy. Anything he can get hold of will do just fine – bowls, coats, leads, tins of paint…..yes, that’s right, PAINT! I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much as I did the time he decided to “help” with decorating and splattered a tin of white paint all over the kitchen floor. Somehow he managed to walk away without a single drop on him and left poor Em and Lou to clean up….typical Zach!
Then there’s the way he always has to be front and centre when there are treats to be had. It doesn’t matter if he’s fast asleep on the opposite side of the room, even though he’s completely deaf, he somehow always knows that you’ve got something delicious and he just has to have it! He comes trotting over, barging the other dogs out the way with his big head, then stands and stares until you inevitably give in and hand over the goods. And if your fingers happen to get in the way, well that’s your own fault, you should have been more careful!
For all the additional work he creates with his nonsense, making a mess and annoying the other dogs with his constant pacing and his stubbornness, he repays his debt a thousand times over by bringing joy and laughter to Dogs 4 Rescue on even the most stressful and difficult days.
4) You can win anyone round, if you’re charming enough
I can’t figure out exactly how he does it, but I challenge anyone to spend a little time in Zach’s company and not fall in love. Not only was he the first to make me realise what a wonderful breed staffies are, I always say that he is pretty much solely responsible for converting my partner Rob into the dog lover he is today.
Rob has always been supportive of my fostering passion, agreeing to have the dogs in the house to keep me happy, but he was always a little wary, never truly trusting them, and when it came to feeding them, walking them, and cleaning up after them, that was my job, not his. It wasn’t until he met Zach that I saw a complete change in him. Zach took a shine to Rob, and with his typical disregard for personal space, he made himself comfortable on Rob’s lap right away, not really giving him a choice in the matter. Surprisingly enough, the feeling was mutual, and if anything, Rob was a little bit smug that Zach had chosen him over me! They continued to bond throughout the weekend, and when Rob actually volunteered to take him out for a walk, I knew that Zach was truly a special dog who had managed to achieve the seemingly impossible.
Even Rob himself can’t explain to me what it is about Zach that he found so appealing, that totally changed his perception of dogs, and taught him to enjoy their company, but now he looks forward to fostering each weekend almost as much as I do! Then there’s my parents, who sadly are very much members of the “never trust a bull breed” club. Even they are powerless to resist Zach’s charm. In fact, if he didn’t insist on weeing all over the place, he’d be welcome to visit them anytime
Perhaps the most important lesson that Zach has to teach us, is the answer to a question that you have probably heard before, and may have even asked yourself, when it comes to talking about elderly and unwell pets – “Wouldn’t it be kinder to put them to sleep?”
In Zach’s case, I would argue that the answer to that question is most definitely, no. Not only does he bring joy to so many lives, he’s living proof that dogs, like people, can continue to live full and happy lives in spite of illness and old age. Yes, he has his off days where he might feel a little under the weather, but the same can be said for any one of us, particularly as we get older. On his good days, Zach can be found pottering around the playground, or snuggled up in the staffy pile on the kitchen sofa. He has regular visitors who take him for walks or spoil him rotten during sleepovers at their houses. And when the treats come out, Lord Zach always get more than his fair share, because, let’s face it, nobody can say no to that beautiful face.
We’ll never know how and why Zach ended up in the pound, scared and broken, but he is one of the lucky ones. It takes a very special person to adopt an older dog, to bond with them only for them to be taken away after a few short months or years, and Zach’s chance will probably never come. But fortunately he’s oblivious to that. All he knows is that he’s safe, he’s happy, and he’s loved, and with the help of his kind sponsors and supporters, we can make sure he stays that way for however long he has left.