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The Heart of My Guide Dog Zoe

March 30, 2016


The Heart of My Guide Dog Zoe


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Two weeks ago this evening, on March 16, 2016, at five o’clock, the heart of my beautiful and most beloved Leader Dog Zoe ruptured. Since my eight-year-old Zoe had always been so healthy and since we had taken a walk around eleven o’clock that morning, my precious guide dog’s passing was extremely unexpected and is still, in many ways, unbelievable to me.


On Monday before her passing, Zoe coughed four times; then, on the next day (March 15), she coughed only twice and more lightly than the moderate coughing of the previous day. On these two days, as usual, her work was perfect; and she was very willing to work. On the morning of March 16, as soon as she arose from her dog bed and walked just a few steps, Zoe coughed more deeply and for a longer period of time; thus, I decided to make an appointment with her mobile veterinarian. Fortunately, he was able to set an appointment for 3:45 on that same day. Since my golden retriever/black lab mix coughed only once more lightly that morning, I decided that we should try a short walk around the block. When she guided so well, I let her lead me around the block a second time. After we picked up my mail in the tower building of my apartment complex, Zoe seemed well enough for our walking around the block a third and final time. I never dreamed that walk would be our last walk together. What a perfect guide she was to the very end of her too brief life!


A half hour after we arrived at home, I gave her two medium dog biscuits for her lunch. I thought that all was well. However, after taking her outside for her usual “park time” at 2:50 p.m., Zoe re-entered the townhouse panting lightly; then, for the first time in the almost seven years that we have been together, she did not want a small dog-biscuit treat. Suddenly, I realized that something was wrong. Approximately 3:15, the veterinarian called; after I gave him an update of Zoe’s condition, he said that he would arrive here in ten or fifteen minutes. In that time period, my guide dog became uncharacteristically listless.


After giving Zoe a thorough examination, taking a blood sample, and administering an anti-nausea injection, her veterinarian left at four o’clock: we had hoped that Zoe’s only problem was an upset stomach. Our vet had planned to call the next day to check on Zoe’s condition and give me the results of her blood work on Friday.


Of course, we had no idea how gravely ill Zoe was. I had no idea that I was spending my last hour with my cherished Leader Dog.


Due to her death one hour later being so unexpected, I arranged for Zoe to have an autopsy. Shortly before noon on Friday, March 18, a veterinarian called with the results of Zoe’s autopsy. The preliminary report was faxed to me and states that Zoe had “a right atrial hemangiosarcoma with rupture and widespread metastatic disease, hemangiosarcoma.” Also the report notes: “The clear cause of death was cardiac tampanade due to the ruptured atrial neoplasm, which led to acute hemopericardium. The pattern of metastatic disease, which is widespread yet most concentrated in the lungs, is typical of hemangiosarcoma with the primary lesion occurring in the heart.” The report summarizes that “this gross presentation is quite distinctive for hemangiosarcoma in large breed geriatric dogs.”            I find some comfort in Zoe’s having passed away at our home–that her heart did not rupture while we were crossing a street nor walking down a city sidewalk.


Today I received the final report of Zoe’s necropsy, and it confirms the results of the initial report. What these two reports do not indicate is the extent of my broken heart. Each minute of my day revolved lovingly around my Zoe. Although I will miss her always and will forever praise her extraordinary ways, I have already applied for a fourth Leader Dog and can hardly wait to welcome another guide dog into my home and heart. Yes, even a broken heart can love another Leader Dog.


I may spend much of the remainder of my writing life writing about Zoe and dedicating whatever I write to her–my sweet, highly intelligent, nearly perfect, loving inspiration and guide. As I did every night of our time together, I thank her for being the best guide dog and companion. How she did bless my life, and how I do hope that she truly loved being my Leader Dog!


In addition to thanking my remarkable Zoe, I also have many people to thank for their support and caring during these past two weeks; however, in this week’s blog, I will thank specifically only our veterinarian, special friends Jenna and Nick who took Zoe and me to the animal emergency center on March 16, and my sister who was with me from March 17 through March 28. “Thanks” is such a small word for all that you four have done.


Somehow, I know that only another Leader Dog can lead me to a brighter day. As I wipe away even more tears, I look forward to my fourth Leader Dog.


* * *


In loving memory of Leader Dog Zoe–

born: April 23, 2007

puppy of: Breezy (Black Labrador Retriever) and Quincy (Golden Retriever)

Leader Dog of Alice J. Massa: June 6, 2009-March 16, 2016

died: March 16, 2016


* * *


With thanks and blessings to all who have been in touch with me during these past two weeks,



March 30, 2016, Wednesday




From → Uncategorized

  1. Dear Alice. Words can’t come close to the sadness I feel for you. Though this is true, please also know that I am so very glad that your life was graced by such a sweet, loving, faithful creature as your Zoey.
    There is nothing quite like the love we feel towards our pets, our friends, for their love towards us is undeniable.
    I wish you nothing but the best as you move towards tomorrow. Your strength of spirit will always prove to be an inspiration to me.
    God bless.

  2. Alice, I’m so glad you’re writing again. I hope you will also write about your new dog. I’m sure he or she will provide you with companionship and great memories.

  3. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–You were blessed to have Zoe, and she was blessed to have you. Her love for you was clearly evident. Her beautiful coat and well-groomed appearance showed the devotion and care she received from you. She was truly a “lucky dog” and your new dog will be the same. Thinking of you at this difficult time–Sue

  4. With great sadness for the loss of your loving and masterful Zoe, we are thankful for your strength and courage to move forward. You both had a marvelous life together, so may you long embrace your wonderful memories. Heartfelt sympathy with love . . . Carole

  5. PJ Lumb permalink

    Oh, Alice, my heart and prayers go out to you for your loss of the beloved Zoe. Your story, this tribute to Zoe, is heartwrenching. For as long as I’ve been reading your blog, Zoe has so often had a starring role. Your deep love and appreciation for Zoe was always evident. And from that place, we, your readers, couldn’t help but love her, too. Thank you for sharing your love, your loss, your pain and your open heart filled with hope.for another perfect guide to bless your life. Zoe will live in your, and my heart, forever. Blessings and peace, Dear Alice

    • Paula–I hope you know how very much your especially kind comment has meant to me on this particular morning as I feel my Zoe’s presence so much in these early hours of April 6 (three weeks after her passing) and as I still await word of when I will receive my fourth Leader Dog. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your understanding and caring thoughts. Thanks for reaching out on this day. Blessings to you and your family–Alice

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