As many of the Athens community and a few across the nation have heard, Zues has passed away. He was my “boy”, companion and service dog. He lived to be 8 years old. Will I have another service dog? Yes. In fact, I have already been blessed with an 8 month Border Collie. I will train another Great Dane also so I will have 2 service dogs and I don’t over work them.
So, let me tell you how Zues lived. Zues was born in my home on 29 September 2008, and I had the privilege of watching him come into the world along with his siblings. In 2009, I was retired from the US Army and began my journey into the dog training field. During this time, Zues began to pay a lot of attention to me, like licking my arms and legs. I had no idea at the time, but I was becoming a type 2 diabetic. Within 6 months after I retired, I was informed I was a diabetic. I denied it at first. I even found myself in the Emergency Room being told I had to start taking medicine for the diabetes.
All this time, Zues was becoming what I thought at first was overly obsessed with me, more adamant toward me, until one day when my glucometer was reading 500 plus, and I was feeling terrible. A friend of mine told me that Zues was trying to tell me about my sugar levels. I thought he was nuts, but I began to pay attention to Zues’ actions when my sugar levels were high and low. When my glucometer was reading high, Zues was licking my finger tips, arms, or legs (when I wore shorts). When my glucometer was reading below 100, he would paw at me or push me with his muzzle and give me a direct look like I needed to pay attention. That probably saved me from being in a car accident a few times. I even learned through research that there was such a thing as diabetic service dogs also known as Diabetic Alert Dogs (DAD).
Let me tell everyone: from the start, I never intended Zues to become a service dog. But Zues was born with the ability to detect sugar levels and was not trained for this. It was all natural for him. After I trained him for basic obedience, I began to test and ensure that he would act properly in public. As many of our community saw, he was very well behaved. So began our journey together for 7 years that he would serve me. Folks, having a service dog is such a blessing because with Zues, I almost always knew when I needed to take my insulin. Did he miss sometimes? Yes, but that would be due to different situations.
Zues met a lot of people over the years. When people asked to pet him, I allowed it. For those who think I should not have, Zues was a big dog and I wanted to ensure if I became incoherent or unconscious he would not panic. I exposed him to thousands of people over the years, and he still was able to do the job he served me for. Through me allowing him to meet different people, there are those here in the Athens area that found they were either pre-diabetic, diabetic, or even hypoglycemic (low blood sugar levels). I really got a kick out of him alerting on my Mom. I would hear her say things like “Tattle Tale,” “Snitch,” or “I know,” and the eyes rolled with that. But his Grandma loved him so much.
Now I didn’t just throw a vest on Zues and walk him into the stores, restaurants, and hospitals. I made sure I was in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act for service dogs. I found that there are quite a few people who are ignorant of this federal law passed by Congress, and I had to face different kinds of ignorant people in different places. However, I remained diplomatic, even to the point of a Huntsville Police Sergeant threatening to arrest me. That was a shock for me because I believe if someone holds the position of supervisor, they should be well aware of the law. But, I lived through that and learned.
As the years passed, Zues would go to different functions and places with me. Athens Walmart was one of our favorite places. Another place we frequented was the Madison Planet Fitness as seen here with us leaving after a workout.
We were asked to speak at different events, and at one we advocated for service dogs through a Boy Scout meeting at a friend’s church.
Our last event together was the Athens 2016 Christmas Parade. We rode on the back of Maggie Chandler’s parents’ truck, representing her dog sitting business called “It Takes A Village.” During the last part of the parade, I saw my mom in the crowd, and she videoed us going by. When I said “There is Grandma,” it shows him popping his head up looking for mom.
On 9 December 2016, I was having Zues re-evaluated for a class 2 heart murmur he had been diagnosed with in December 2014. Apparently, the excitement was too much, and he went into cardiac arrest at the vet’s office. The vet did all he could, but Zues passed on.
Let me tell you all, there is life after death for a dog. Some of my readers will know what I am talking about. On the night of 19 December 2016, I thought I heard Zues barking in the backyard, and of course, when I looked he was not there. (No, my cheese has not slid off my cracker, yet.) Later that night, I heard his dog tags rattling, and I awoke. I went to where the noise was coming from, and I promise that the noise came from where his ashes were in a box, sitting on top of his collar and tags in a beautiful velvet bag given to us by Paws Memorial. The next day, I had a pain block procedure done where they put me under. When I awoke in the recovery room, my mom said I kept talking about Zues being there and I even pointed to where he was. She said I kept talking about him being a good boy.
So, I know that he is with me, even now. I look forward to the day we meet again. Another treasure in Heaven for me.
“Remember to love your dogs because they love you. Maybe not the way you want them to, like chewing up your favorite shoes or what not, but that is just love chewing. Be thankful for the time you have with them always.”
By: Joel Allen