Zola and a parting of souls

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime shot, a moment of joy captured by an inexpensive camera that had no business taking a photo this precious — Willow The Best Dog There Is™ and her cousin Zola romping with wild abandon across a field. I took a lot of photos that day, most of them blurs or pictures of stationary dogs, but somehow this image also emerged.

We took our almost-year-old golden retriever puppy with us to visit a friend and colleague whose golden was six months old. The resemblance between the two pups was amazing, and a quick comparing of notes revealed we’d adopted from the same breeder, so our girls were cousins or perhaps even sisters from different litters.

They ran and ran together in the field and along a Lake Michigan beach until we were tired — THEY never tired, we did. It was a magical day that was repeated a few other times. We haven’t seen our friends in some time, but we think of the special kinship between the two goldens often, and I framed a copy of that little Nikon’s moment in the sun and hung it on my office wall.

You can see the resemblance; I have to look closely to remind myself that Willow is the one in the lead, being chased by Zola. They are beautiful animals sharing sheer joy.

And so my heart sank yesterday when Zola’s human posted photos on Facebook with the simple caption “Zola — Aug. 31, 2009 to Feb. 12, 2021.”

Willow is more likely to trot across a field nowadays, her mad dashes behind her now, and I suspect Zola aged with the same grace and dignity. They fill our hearts to overflowing and then break them, never to be forgotten, always remembered with love.

And every day we see friends and acquaintances on social media mourning the loss of their furry companions, but this particular one strikes especially close to home, as a literal death in the family.

I am grateful for every morning that Willow strolls in to remind me it’s time for her breakfast, and for every night that she steps up onto the footstool and then onto the bed to take her place at my feet, because I know a finite number of those mornings and nights remain.

Today, though, I remember a dog who loved the water and running and her human dad and mom with a depth that belied her youth. When the pain of losing her eases, the joy of Zola’s memory will endure.

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