by Susan Bandy
I am heartbroken to share with you the recent passing of our beloved German Shepherd, Zaffa.
He had been eating, drinking, and going for walks as usual. His energy seemed a little lower, but he’s a senior fellow estimated at 10-12 years old with some arthritis in his hind legs. The morning of his passing, he was in the dog yard when he collapsed and quickly went unconscious. We rushed him to our veterinarian, who immediately attended to him, but was unable to save him. He never regained consciousness. The vet exam revealed a mass in his midsection and the ultrasound confirmed fluid in his belly: a fast-growing tumor that had burst.
It’s been devastating to lose our special boy. Zaffa was such a big presence at the sanctuary — physically, energetically, and vocally. There are so many reminders… the nose prints on the window; his favorite red ball; the bite marks on the doorknob. His loss is felt by all of us, especially his pal Dolly.
When it comes to animal adoption, that familiar question of who actually rescued who is relevant. Zaffa was a teacher and the lesson that he insisted I learn was leadership. This is a dog with a history of abuse who was irresponsibly trained to attack. An imposing set of teeth combined with poor judgment made it imperative that I establish my authority as leader of the pack for the safety and well-being of all. Zaffa fancied himself as Head of the Household, so I had my work cut out for me in the shape of a sharp learning curve.
Upon reflection of my time with Zaffa, I have also come to realize the value of inspired action. I had not planned for him. I happened to view his adoption profile one evening, and the next night at 10:00pm, an email alert hit my inbox: Zaffa had been moved to the “To Be Destroyed” list and would be killed the next day at 12:00 noon. I knew nothing about this dog and had no place to put him at the time, but logic had gone out the window. I leaped out of bed and pledged a $200 hold with the shelter, which gave me a window of opportunity to save him if I could show up at their Brooklyn location before noon the next day. I showed up. I looked into that dog’s eyes and filled out the paperwork on the spot. The next few weeks were a blur of activity, getting him vetted and arranging for foster care while I dealt with the purchase and move to the farm. We finally arrived home together and the training began: he learning basic manners and I taking a crash course in leadership.
In those early days, I recall noticing just how closely related German Shepherds are to their canine ancestors. Zaffa’s gait and mannerisms fairly shouted “wolf!” I’ve been a longtime fan of the book ” Women Who Run With the Wolves” by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. As I watched Zaffa lope around the yard, I chuckled to myself that perhaps I’d found my wolf with whom to run. Truth be told, I was actually the “Woman Who Cleaned Up After the Wolf’s 53rd Supposed Accident on the Carpet.” But yes, I suppose we did run together — each of us teaching and learning. We ran together for three years, and I’m so glad I took the risk to follow my heart that day we met.
Goodbye, My Friend
Zaffa, I’m so grateful that you were part of our family. Thank you for being my teacher and guardian. Light, love and blessings to your beautiful, brave soul. Your spirit will always have a home here.