King of the Labs

For the last little while I’ve been sitting on the couch with Zeus, watching Tater Tot play with the trains that Santa brought.  It’s like having our own little reality show, because there’s nothing like watching a 2-year-old’s imagination at work.

As I was rubbing and scratching on this old brown dog, it occurred to me that I’ve never really introduced you to Zeus.  


Big Zeus.  Mama’s Sweet Angel.  Chocolate Thunder.  Take your pick.  He answers to all those names.

I suppose one reason I’ve never written about him is that I don’t even know where to begin.  He’s been with us since about seven months after we married, and he’ll be 14 on his next birthday.  In dog candles, that’s 98.

When we married, my husband had a dog who was about two-and-a-half.  She was a yellow lab/golden retriever mix named Belle, and even though she and I got along fine, she was most definitely my husband’s dog.  After a few months I decided that I needed a dog of my own.  And since Belle was, um, a little rambunctious, we thought it might be a good idea for her to have a playmate.

We heard about some friends from home whose dog had had a litter of puppies, and there was one chocolate male left.  I’m not going to lie to you when I tell you that it was love at first sight.

These people kept their Labs outside (Horrors!), so Zeus was a little brown ball of dirt and fleas, and he rode home with us on the floorboard of the Jeep, snuggled between my feet.  We got him home, gave him a bath, and introduced him to Belle.  She immediately became a mama dog.  She loved him, and he loved her.  For the next seven years, they were inseparable.  Zeus has never been quite the same since Belle died.  Some people say that dogs don’t remember other dogs.  But I’m here to tell you that when Belle died, she took a little bit of Zeus’s spark with her.  

Here’s a picture of the the two of them.


Here’s a picture of Zeus as a puppy.  We’d taken him to a park with a dog pond.  Check out his huge ears!  The yellow dog walking away from the camera is Belle.


I had never raised a big dog from a puppy.  With Zeus, I was in heaven.  He was my own personal teddy bear, and we were perfectly happy to snuggle up on the couch together.  We still are.  

Zeus has his own set of peculiarities.  He’s afraid of the vacuum cleaner.  Now that he’s old and moving around isn’t as easy as it once was, he either stays in his chair or goes into the next room when I vacuum.  But when he was younger, he hid from it.

The flashlight used to send him into an absolute fit.  Bless his heart.  He’d chase that light and try to catch it until he was nearly dead on his feet.  Our first house was in the first phase of a new development, and ours was the last house on the street for several years.  Everything to the east of us was an undeveloped field, and Zeus and Belle would frequently get away from us to explore the vast wilderness.  Nine times out of ten, we could get them to come right back to us by getting our huge flashlight and waving it around.  Zeus would follow it home and chase it right through the front door.

One of his best tricks was catching dog bones.  We’d put the small dog biscuits on his nose and he would throw them up and catch them.  Then he learned  to just barely move his head and catch them as the slid off.  The deal was that he kept getting treats as long as he caught them, but when he dropped one to the floor, that was it.  His record was 14.  His eyesight is now so poor that he can’t do his trick.  But let’s be real.  He doesn’t have to work for anything anymore.  He gets plenty of treats just for being Zeus.

My husband is hot-natured, and as much as he loves our dogs, he just can’t stand having them snuggled right up next to him for a long time because he gets so hot.  Granted, Pearl is like a walking radiator, and Hatch and Duke are as good as electric blankets set on HIGH.  I like to snuggle with all of them, but after a while, even I sometimes get a little uncomfortable.

But Zeus?  I’ve never once had to move or move him away from me because he’s too hot.  I swear, I could sit with that dog right next to me all day — outside on the hottest day in July — and never be uncomfortable.  My husband says it’s because Zeus adjusts his body temperature to match mine.  He may be right.

Several years ago, I had a minor surgical procedure and when my husband brought me home and put me to bed I could NOT get warm.  After putting several blankets on me, he went off to find more.  By the time he came back with an armload of them, including an electric blanket he’d pulled out of the storage bag, I was perfectly warm.  Zeus, without being called, had climbed up onto the bed and gently laid down as close as he could get to me, his head tucked under my chin.  I don’t know how to describe it other than to say what my husband said, which was, “It looks like you’re wearing Zeus.”  I fell asleep and woke up about four hours later.  Zeus was still there, and I was still warm.  He didn’t move until I did.  Have I mentioned how much I love this dog?

Like I said, Zeus will be 14 this spring.  For the most part, he’s pretty healthy and I’ve convinced myself that he’s going to live 14 or 40 more years.  His typical day consists of sleeping, being loved on, eating a couple of dog biscuits, roaming around the yard if he feels like it, and waiting for supper.  He has his pick of where to lounge, and the rest of us work around him.  As my husband says, he’s earned the right to pick his throne.

After all, he is King of the Labs.



6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tatersmama
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 01:05:39

    Oh my goodness… isn’t he a gorgeous boy? That final pic is just as sweet as it can be and I love the gentle look in his eyes!
    I used to have a choc dog, but he was my ex’s and I still miss him like crazy. Funny how they can grab your heart and just not let go, isn’t it?


  2. Calista
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 11:08:18

    I love big dogs. Lap dogs are cute, medium sized dogs are fun, but there is nothing quite as lovable and more human-like than a big dog. There has never been a dog sweeter than a lab. Give him a big hug!!


  3. Melanie
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 12:51:29

    I do love labs. They’re just the sweetest natured dogs and he’s a beauty. Loved your stories about him too.


  4. Meg @ Spicy Magnolia
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 13:35:57

    Oh, I’m so glad you introduced us to Zeus! He is so handsome! And I love hearing about his personality traits, how he snuggles with you, and how much you love him. Your post brought joy to my heart this morning as I read it; you know how much I love my Lab…they really are sweet puppy angels!! Oh, and I love your nicknames for him, too! The pics make me want to give him lots of lovies. 🙂


  5. Jenny
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 22:28:51

    I swear those are the sweetest stories. I could just cry. It really makes me miss my Bella. There was never another like her. She was half lab, half one night stand. 😉 But she was my best friend. I got her in college when we lived in a house in midtown. The policemen all knew her when they came to our street (tells you I was really in midtown). All of our neighbors let their kids walk her. She became the heart of our street. I miss her terribly.


  6. Kim H.
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 10:12:19

    Oh this one brought tears to my eyes… what a sweetheart! I’m so glad you introduced us to the big man.


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