In August, our dog Bowie passed away at the age of 15. He was part of our family for 12 years. We were deeply saddened, but we knew his time had come and he’d lived a great life.
In October, we decided to refill our hearts and our home with a new dog. We looked at a few different shelters, met a few dogs, and then we met The One. That special pup we wanted to spend the next decade with. A spry little yellow dog — possibly a Carolina Dog? — who looked like a fox, with pointy ears, a curly tail, dark-rimmed amber eyes, a black smile, and a white underbelly fading up to gold.
Above: Bowie (left) and Ziggy (right) on Mount Tabor.
He Could Lick ’Em by Smiling
We decided to name him Ziggy Stardust, in honor of our musical hero and our previous dog. Ziggy came home with us from the Oregon Humane Society on October 1, and he settled right in.
When we gave him permission to get on our couch, he immediately leapt up on it and rolled over on his back to get belly rubs. He looked weightless when he jumped — like he was levitating — and he could leap straight up or sideways. We joked about his VTOL capabilities.
Ziggy was two years old and knew all his basic commands. He was smart, playful, attentive, and a total sweetheart with us. When given a treat, he would take it with an uncommonly light touch. He loved running and wrassling with other dogs at the park. As a young retriever, Ziggy was energetic, but he could calm down quickly. We were overjoyed with his personality.
We weren’t the only ones who fell for Ziggy. He quickly became a local rockstar and got admiration from everyone he met. We planned to announce our new family member on social media in November.
You can probably guess this story is about to take a tragic turn. If you want to skip the sad part and see our happy memories of Ziggy Stardust, you can visit our Time Tunnel page devoted to Ziggy.
Below: Ziggy gettin’ wiggly for belly rubs.
The Worst Week
Just over a month after Ziggy adopted us, the unthinkable happened. On November 3, Ziggy seemed lethargic. At first we thought he’d eaten something that disagreed with him. He showed no improvement the next day, and he was drooling. We called our vet and were able to get him in the same afternoon. By that time, we were wondering if Ziggy had somehow injured his mouth or throat.
At the clinic, they saw he was dehydrated from not eating or drinking as much as usual. They gave him fluids and drew a blood sample. The doctor was a relief vet who has worked in emergency rooms. Paul mentioned the possibility of an oral injury, but she thought Ziggy probably had a passing illness.
When the doctor tried to look in Ziggy’s mouth, he was especially uncooperative. The doctor decided not to press the issue, and we didn’t think to press her on it — she’s a professional and presumably knows what she’s doing.
We were told to wait for the blood analysis. It was a Friday, and the results wouldn’t be ready until Monday. Ziggy was sent home with anti-nausea meds, which he did not need.
The clinic called with preliminary results on Saturday. Ziggy had a very high white blood cell count. The doctor suggested it could be bone cancer. They asked us to approve a more detailed analysis of the blood sample. We were stunned.
On Monday, Ziggy’s drool had blood in it, and we started to panic. Our vet was booked up, so Paul took Ziggy to Dove Lewis for emergency treatment. They determined that, yes, he’d sustained an unknown injury and his tongue was severely infected. Ziggy was sent home with oral antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and painkillers.
The ER vet told us Ziggy would be in a bad way until the antibiotics did their job. So we tried not to freak out when he was still sick on Tuesday.
Early Wednesday morning, November 9, Ziggy laid down on the landing outside our bedroom, then couldn’t stand up. With Anina in tears, Paul carried Ziggy to the car and went to a 24-hour ER. It looked like Ziggy was going to die during the drive.
At that third clinic, the doctors did all they could. But it was too late. Ziggy passed away. Two doctors had two different theories as to the cause. Whatever it was, the infection got so bad it killed him. And we’ll never know if his life could’ve been saved had that first vet visit gone differently.
We are emotionally devastated. Outside of losing family members, this is the worst emotional trauma we’ve felt in many years. It’s one thing to lose an elderly dog when you’re prepared for their passing, but it’s a whole new level of pain to suffer the sudden loss of a young, newly adopted dog — especially when it was a preventable death.
We fell hopelessly in love with Ziggy. We were so excited to spend the coming years with that joyful furball and to share his joy with our friends. Instead we are bonded in our shared grief. We tell this story so that he’ll be remembered.
Farewell, Ziggy Stardust. May your spirit roam free.
See our happy memories of Ziggy HERE: