This picture was taken last June. The dog on the right is Ruthie, and on the left is Zeus, my parents' dog. Both appear to be fascinated by something edible in someone's hands.
Yesterday my parents had to send Zeus to the Rainbow Bridge. He was 11 years old, and had osteosarcoma.
Zeus was picked up as a stray when he was about a year old. Best as anyone can figure, he was a Saint-Pyr mix. Only about a year after my parents adopted him, they learned that he had horrible hip dysplasia, so bad that he either needed very expensive hip reconstruction surgery, or else he needed to be put out of his misery. Of course, my parents chose the surgery, and Zeus spent many years taking brisk 5 mile walks with my Dad.
At first, Zeus had fear-aggression towards all dogs except Elektra, my parents' alpha terrier. Elektra (who lived to a ripe old age herself) used to put Zeus in his place, and he'd take it, despite that he was several times her size. Surprisingly, Zeus eventually overcame his fear of other dogs, and even enjoyed playing with them. When he visited us in 2005, he had a good time playing with Ruthie, even though he was already fairly old by then.
Zeus was a wonderful, loving companion to my parents. He was also great with my kids. Even though he didn't live with small children, and only visited with them occasionally, he was very tolerant of their noise and wildness, and seemed to genuinely enjoy their company. He was always gentle with them, too. When Thing 1 was 4, she tripped and fell directly onto the sleeping Zeus's open mouth. She started crying that he'd bit her, but we'd all seen it with our own eyes: she'd fallen onto his teeth! She wasn't even scratched, and poor Zeus just seemed distressed that she was crying.
Several years ago, I ended up stranded at my parents' house over spring break when I ruptured a disk in my back. During the month I lay flat on my back, Zeus was a devoted nurse, cuddling next to me in bed oh-so-gently and keeping me company when I was miserable.
My parents haven't been dogless for 17 years, and they say their house is much too empty now. They're already talking about getting another dog or two, and I'm sure they won't be dogless for long. We all know, however, that there's no replacing Zeus. He was a good dog.