(Editor's Note: Zeus was one of the therapy dogs that served as part of a small group ministry at the Landenberg United Methodist Church until he recently passed away. His handlers, Paul and Kathy, wrote the following tribute to him, describing his activities as a therapy dog.)
Zeus, beloved companion, fellow explorer of natural world, and therapy dog for the elderly, autistic children and the READ program, passed to the next life on May 22, 2013. In Greek mythology, Zeus was the God of the Sky and thunder. Zeus, the tri-color collie, named himself. On the day I got him, we wasted no time to go on a walk through the woods. He ran up on this huge mountainous rock and looked down from it. To me, he posed like Zeus. The name stuck, and throughout his time on this planet, he lived up to the name.
Zeus lived life by always looking to explore, share and get me involved. In this zest for life, Zeus escaped death many times, always pushing his limits. One cold day, after running at the dog park for a couple of hours, he decided to jump into some freezing water to cool off. While I was cold, Zeus, with his three coats of fur, was hot. He jumped in and soon began to sink, with his coat collecting water and ice crystals. I jumped in after him and we both now were sinking. Call it luck, call it divine intervention, call it Zeus... someone came along and helped pull both of us out.
One of the most traumatic events of Zeus's life was when he was kicked by a horse while we were hiking. The horse had lifted him by his upper jaw and threw him in the air. He was airborne and he ended up landing on his back. With his strength and determination, he walked with me two miles back to the car so I could get him to a vet. His upper jaw had been cracked in half and his upper jaw and teeth were hanging. He recovered from this incident and had a new respect for horses!
You would think after traumatic instances like these, a dog would learn to cower or be aggressive. However, Zeus, who lived for excitement, also lived to help others live parts of their day with meaning.
He was a member of KPETS as an active and working therapy dog. His range was wide enough that he touched the lives of everyone from autistic children to seniors in eldercare facilitates. He was an awesome therapy dog. He taught me that giving love and spending time was worth more than anything.
At eldercare facilities, he touched many people, making everyone laugh with his antics and did many tricks with them. He knew the route on the floor and would actively look for specific people he wanted to visit before making his general rounds. He knew the day and the time for the eldercare visit, and would remind me at home when it was time to go. One lady touched me dearly when she told me that all she ever wished was to touch a collie again. She had had one when she was younger and missed him dearly. I know Zeus showed them love and kindness in his gentle ways.
He was also involved with the READ program at the Oxford Library. When the children would stop reading he would put his paw first on the book, and then, if they did not continue to read, he would gently place his paw on their leg. They loved him and he enjoyed the children. He was one among several KPET dogs awarded the key to the town of Oxford for his participation in the READ Program.
Zeus also worked with the autistic children at the Nottingham School. The four children there would read to him and then we would all go out in the field and play invisible baseball. He chased invisible tigers with the kids and we all rolled down hills with Zeus, making sure everyone was okay. He brought joy and learning to the kids there. And while this seems like only a dog playing, Zeus would also sit still with his head up and look at a child who was speaking to him. With Zeus's help, the staff could also listen to the children when they needed to talk about something or share how they were feeling at the time. It was like he listened without presumption. I am so proud of him.
Zeus left this world on May 22, 2013. I wanted him to die with dignity. He had shown me the power of love and kindness and how much joy one can experience by helping others. He was a very unique dog that I was blessed to have had in my life. I taught him and he taught me!
He will always have a special place in my heart and he taught me that if we give animals all the things they need like exercise, training, games to play, a job to do and fun, they will give back to us more than we ever expected!