Sunset’s Chocolate Zamboni “Zam”
NW2, PKCH-S, PJCH-B, PGM, PD, CL4-S, CL4-F, CL3-R, CL2, NA, NAJ
August 13, 2002 - June 6, 2017
Oh, my nose!
I’d be lying if I said you were an “easy” dog. As an agility partner, you were just this side of impossible. You designed your own courses, used the table as a launching pad, visited judges and ring stewards, and jumped over the ring gates to visit your friends. You once dock-dove off the top of the A-frame—prompting audible gasps from the audience and scaring me half to death—only to land solidly on your feet and keep on running into the tunnel ahead. And those were your good days!
As an adolescent, you were a punk. When we were at the park one day, I leashed you up quickly to prevent you from chasing after some sort of wildlife. You pulled suddenly and mightily with your full heft, caught me off-balance, and dragged me face-first through pricker bushes in your quest to go play with said wildlife. Playfully, you preyed on small, stick-wielding children in the park, sometimes snatching the sticks out of their tiny hands and running off with them before I could catch you. You caught on quickly that the small ones were easy targets.
You were so obsessed with chasing toys in water that you once broke my nose with the force of your thick cranium, slamming into me when I bent over to pick up a ball and throw it into the lake for you. When I slumped to the ground, doubled over in pain, bleeding heavily, and nearly unconscious, your only response was an indignant, “Get up! Why have you stopped throwing my ball for me?” You were not impressed that your ball-fetching time was cut short by a trip to the emergency room.
Any time a bystander would comment on what a good, well-behaved dog you were and how lucky I was to have such a good dog, I would just smile. With memories of pricker bushes and a broken nose never far from the front of my mind, I’d think to myself, “Yup. I’m the lucky one.”
My companion and teacher
Honestly, I was very lucky to have you in my life for almost 15 years. In all our pursuits—from agility, nose work, and training demos to hikes, vacations, and car trips—I am grateful to have had you as a companion.
During a hands-on training workshop at a ClickerExpo conference, you convinced me to trust you, a social-butterfly Labrador in a room packed with people and dogs, to lead my completely blindfolded self halfway across the room to a specific chair. And you did it swiftly and accurately, leading those around us to applaud.
As my Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) training partner, you made me look good: you were happy and comfortable in the workshops, totally focused on the training tasks at hand, and always ready to spring into action and get to work. You were a fun dog to work with on shaping new behaviors. You were unflappable. You never got frustrated during a training session and were ALWAYS willing to try new things. Every time the clicker and treat bag came out, you wagged your tail with so much vigor and enthusiasm that I became convinced it might one day detach from your backside.
I could take you anywhere with me—outings, vacations, agility and nose work trials, weekend training seminars, hotels, other peoples’ houses, and even a gigantic veterinary conference. I could trust that you would be well behaved and completely comfortable in any environment. You greeted every visitor as if they were your best friend, whether you’d met them before or not. That exuberant, tail-wagging Labradorian greeting was part of your trademark sociability.
You loved going to the vet. I mean LOVED it. You wagged and bounced your way up to each vet and technician, with your desire to greet a friendly stranger always overriding any previous procedure that might have caused you discomfort. This irrepressible joy at greeting veterinarians carried through from puppyhood right up until your very last visit.
When you were diagnosed with kidney disease and your blood values looked pretty ominous, I pressed your vet to give me a best guess as to how long you had left. Hesitatingly, she said, “It’s hard to guess, and I hope I’m wrong ... but based on these numbers, maybe three to six months.” That was 19 months ago.
You were never one to go with the flow and do things the way they were “supposed” to be done. In the end, it wasn't even the kidney disease that got you. And, on your very last day with us, you managed to make the vet and I crack up with laughter at your antics. In death, just as in life, you did things on your own time and in your own way.