Just after our son Daniel died, a friend of my daughter's gave a gift of two black Labrador puppies. He thought that puppies full of so much energy and love would help her, and the rest of us, through such a difficult chapter in our lives. One was male, and one was female and so our daughter named them Sebastian and Zelina. Since our daughter was a senior in college at the time, I had to pinch hit quite a bit with their toilet training, feeding, vet visits, and then their visits to the vet for spaying and for neutering. I didn't really mind because they were dear puppies, and because our black lab/Weimaraner mix Mark was elderly and was dying, and because it almost seemed to me that these puppies were here to ease the pain of Mark's impending passage. Mark passed quietly not too many weeks after he was introduced to the pups. It was as if he too, knew we would be in good hands.
Sebastian and Zelina enjoyed life on the farm with alpacas, horses, chickens, guineas, cats, and managed to dodge the copperhead snakes. They enjoyed water, running, and the other dogs we had here. I can never remember their being inflexible or difficult with any other animal. Time on our farm surrounded by forests passed quickly as it always does. Our daughter bought a home in the same rural place, but works a great deal and so she thought that Sebastian and Zelina should stay here where they were well adapted. Before long, our daughter had a new baby and her hands were full, and so we were glad the two black labs had remained here with our other dogs.
In May, 2015 it was hotter than usual and humid a bit more early than it usually is. One morning I found Sebastian lying outside the kennel, He was febrile. Long story short, the vet believed that he likely had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and so she started doxycycline. I was actually more concerned than I would be for a lot of illnesses, because he seemed truly frightened and possibly in pain. It looked to me as if we had recognized his illness too late and started him on medication too late in the course of the illness. I told Sebastian that if he were to die, that I would take good care of his sister Zelina for the rest of her life. He took me up on that, and died rather quickly that morning, never responding to the doxycycline.
Zelina had been tightly bonded to her litter mate, but had no choice but to make friends with the other dogs we had here. She was easy going, pleasant and kind, and we were pleased that her life continued long after her brother's had ended.
This summer I realized that Zelina was thirteen years old, which is a pretty good age for a large dog. She had no discomfort with regard to her joints or paws which is so often a problem with aged large dogs. Her hips seemed fine. Usually, we start them on glucosamine and chondroitin, but she was still jumping and running well without discomfort. I did notice that she was thinner this spring than is desirable, and so she was wormed as per our farm's protocol. I also noticed that her gums looked sore, and so I gently brushed her teeth and gums using a diluted .15% solution of chlorhexidine gluconate, which made quite a difference. I decided to watch those gums in the future and perhaps brush the gums more often. Zelina also began to get gray hair on her face, which I have seen on these dogs, often in the last year of their lives. I resolved to spend more time with her, and tell her more often how lucky we had been to have her as a gift. We feed our elderly dogs twice daily here, and so, this afternoon when my husband went to feed the older dogs we found her. Zelina had walked in from the outside to her indoor kennel, and collapsed and died when she was about halfway on her bed. Her eyes were open and judging from the absence of rigor, she had not been dead long. I suspect she had a myocardial infarction at about age thirteen and a half.
For a large labrador, thirteen and a half is not a bad run, although I am still very upset. Each of the animals here brings us joy, but they also mark the fact that time is passing quickly. Our children have grown and there are little grandchildren who visit the farm now. I am comforted by the fact that Zelina will see Sebastian and the other friends she had while she was here, but I am saddened by the passage of a loving and dear canine friend who was happy to see me whether I was feeding her, or gently brushing her teeth and then gently squirting her gums with nasty tasting mouthwash.
I'll miss you Zelina, and so will the rest of us. Please tell Sebastian and the others we miss and love them all.