Ever since he was a puppy, Zeus was too big for his body. The tiny brown-eyed Siberian Husky pup had over-sized ears that made him look like some kind of furry radio antenna. And his moose-paws! Those paws were better suited to a horse than that little fuzz ball we brought home in the Summer of 1995. They were so big, poor Zeus would often trip over himself trying to hop onto curbs or come barreling at you when you visited his tiny personal kingdom: the backyard.
Even with those giant paws in the way and ears that only served to drag up wind resistance, Zeus LOVED to run. He's a sled dog. That's what they do, I guess. We could take him on a 2-mile walk/run/pull, and he wouldn't get tired. If you took him to the park and let him off the leash, he would run around in circles, sniffing trees, snuffling smelly things, and nuzzling any neighbor kids. He would go and go and go and go and go ... until you made him stop.
So let's just say when we let my sister "take him for a walk" wearing her roller blades, it was not a recipe for success. (She's OK, I promise, but the dives she had to take in order to stay out of traffic and below 20mph were probably hard on her knees).
With all that bigness in mind, though, you should know that the biggest part of Zeus was always his heart.
Zeus never learned how to bite or really growl. He was a mess when other meaner dogs came around. He just didn't have a mean bone in his body (unless a stranger came into the backyard...). Instead, his preferred weapon was his tongue. Zeus would lick your face, your hand, your shoes, your hair--whatever was conveniently in front of him. It was either his way of showing affection or his way of getting your attention so you could show him affection.
Like everything else, that dog's heart was too big for him.
This little story is probably the best example of why I love Zeus, and most dogs, as much as I do:
When he was younger, my little brother, like many of us, played little league baseball. One summer day, he went out in the backyard to practice his swing with his metal bat. While taking cuts, he didn't notice that Zeus had loped along to come say hi. On a very hard backswing, my brother felt a thud and heard a crack followed instantly by a pained yelp.
The bat hit Zeus full in the mouth, cracking several of his teeth. I don't even want to think about the kind of pain it caused. From what I hear, Zeus (understandably) didn't react well--lots of yelping, running in frantic circles, and confused looks. Worse, I'm certain that my brother didn't react well either. He was so upset by the whole thing--he'd just hurt his best buddy--that he started to cry.
While my brother was crying in the backyard, as my Mom tells it, Zeus noticed. He perked up and immediately stopped yelping. Picking himself up, he trotted over to where my brother was kneeling. Zeus simply put his head in and began to nuzzle my brother, licking his face, grinning in his dog-way through a ruined mouth.
Zeus was just a big, loveable, wonderful dog. He was happy, and he loved to run.
At the end, he couldn't run anymore. He could hardly walk. He could move and eat, but that effort tired him out. Even in his weakened state, though, Zeus' heart was just the same big love.
We all said goodbye in our own ways this last week. He licked my hand one last time.
Today, Zeus became too big for his body for the last time.
He's running again. And he's loving it.