Yoga Dog

ZsaZsa, aka. “Yoga Dog”

This dog was deeply spiritual, as anyone can see. She participated in meditation with me every day, keeping still for a full 15- 20 minutes. She was known to sit in a back room while yoga class was going on. When we were done, she gave everybody a kiss, and demonstrated upward and downward facing dog, with perfect alignment.

ZsaZsa wrote a book, Woofs to the Wise, about civility and clear communication, even though she was a poor typist. It is a story unfolded through a series of emails between ZsaZsa and her Baby Boomer Auntie Ness from Philadelphia. You can’t tell by the look on her face, but ZsaZsa was particularly enthusiastic about this project.



ZsaZsa once checked out the Apple Store to see if there were any Treat Apps available. She had to settle for checking her email.

ZsaZsa was a Cover Girl Model! Well, actually a Back Cover Girl Model. She appeared on the back cover of the SPU Quarterly magazine, Etc. and became quite the celebrity on campus. You can see why:

ZsaZsa had her own email address:

ZsaZsa sat for not one but two portraits, painted by Emily Kane:

ZsaZsa’s book, Woofs to the Wise: Learning to Lick at Life and Chew on Civility, is  available for purchase through her website,, from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or, easiest of all, from me! She was quite pleased with the way it has turned out - clever, funny, poignant, and beautifully illustrated. ZsaZsa can still pawtograph any copies for you.

From Woofs, here is ZsaZsa at Norm’s, her favorite restaurant:

The humans obviously were too unruly to be let in.

ZsaZsa helped me to maintain an active FaceBook page, replete with photos (of her, obviously), poetry, and messages for all her fans. She had a loyal following.

Here is her obituary:

It All Happened So Fast

Way too fast.

I think of Ashland in early June.

It really was her favorite place to be

A place to be off leash (No matter

about City Ordinances; she was

(Almost) always perfectly behaved.

And she had an appreciation

For literature and art.

OK, so one day she crawled under

A gap in a closed gate, and we heard

"Who let this dog into my yard?"

As if she was terrorizing the place.

Actually she came back out

Amazingly quickly, considering

How she always felt entitled to wander into

The neighbors' houses, nose around

Just a bit, never for too long,

Never seeming to want to

Wear out her welcome, because,

You never know, she might just have wanted

To wander back there another time.

Intellectual stimulation, Merka calls it,

The way she would sniff,

But I would observe her

Take it all in with her

Wondrously expressive eyes:

Eyes that would look into our souls;

Eyes that would light up our lives;

Laughing, gorgeous, knowing eyes;

Eyes that maybe had seen it all before;

Eyes that easily compensated for

Absence of a tail; unforgettable eyes.

So, in Ashland she thrived. She was

Welcomed in a dog-free hotel, and

Why not? She wasn't really a dog anyway--

More like a little person in a fur suit

With a great heart, and an extra one

On her back, as if to tell the world that

Her heart was bigger than her body

Could contain. ZsaZsa the Brave

She was called in puppy school,

And brave she was: no non-resident dogs

Could get by her home on the dock,

Not without a voluble protest, in fact,

She was reluctant to let other dogs

Even walk by up the street. There she would perch,

On the corner of our roof, situated just so,

So that she could monitor the comings and goings

In all directions, ever vigilant.

As for coming into the house, it was


Not even her steady boyfriend,

The clueless Peloton, he of bad manners.

Oh, for a while he was tolerated,

Until one day, she couldn't take it

Anymore. From then on, all rendezvous were

At his pad, or on the street, where

They would walk, like Mutt and Jeff

(And you know who might have been smaller,

But would never buy the Mutt moniker);

He would drag you, while she

Would hold you back, especially when she

Planted all fours; this rendered the

Concept of forward progress

Utterly meaningless, a sort of

Bull doggedness taken to

The nth degree...

Funny thing is, she was

Always better off-leash than on.

Nothing was ever funnier than

Watching the two of them

Going after each other, snarling

Growling, biting (but never drawing blood)

Lovingly. ZsaZsa would feint

And then pounce, give a head fake,

And then push with her tush.

This mayhem went on for over six years,

Several times a week. Handy to

Have your BF right down the hall.

Peloton had cancer and survived.

ZsaZsa was not so lucky.

The only thing that really got to her,

Other than intruding dogs,

Was skateboarding. The

Sound really drove her nuts.

Oh yes, well, squirrels, too.

It took her almost four years to accept

The fact that she could never

Catch one; to salvage her ego

She feigned loss of interest

Foregoing her special Squirrels-

Drive-me-nuts bark. Most

Menacing was her Let-me-at-'em

Bark, a near-hysterical display

Which at the time appeared not

To be effective with raccoons, yet,

Over the years, Must have done something

To influence the pests to move

Headquarters to another dock.

Bird-chasing at age three months

Nearly was the end of her

As she jumped out of Mary's

Arms at a gas station and gave

Chase to a flock of pigeons

Which took her across rush-

Hour traffic, four lanes, if you

Please, on a busy street.

Thinking back, it must have taken

Divine guidance for her to

Have survived that one, not to mention

Me running in not-so-close

Pursuit. She didn't try that again.

Puppy school. She was so fearless

ZsaZsa the Brave that she often got

Put in with the big ones for play time

Learning from squirrels, she would taunt

And squirm under the stairs, where she

Couldn't be reached. Survival skills.

She mastered so many commands

That we started to communicate in

Complete sentences, things like

"We're going to yoga; be back soon;

You're in charge." this would result

In her skibbling under the bed until

We returned. One command she never

Appeared to accept was "Come";

(This sans soucience is a bull dog

Thing.). We never bothered with

"Off" because people thought it

Was So Doggoned Cute when she

Would put her little paws on them.

In fact, she was billed to us, before

We first saw her, at 2 1/2 weeks as

Impossibly Cute, which she turned

Out to be. Also a Chick Magnate.

People would remember her, forgetting us.

We were not hugely jealous, only

A little. She was gracious enough on the

Street to stop whatever she was doing,

Usually getting intellectual stimulation

Through her olfactory system, and

Allow strangers to admire her, and

Even to pet or scratch her. She would

Invariably lead their hands to the right

Places, such as her flanks by wiggling

Appreciatively. Just enough, thank you,

And move on, I need to make myself

Ready for the next OMG I want one admirer.

She had a job at my surgical office. Mary

Would pack lunches for the two of us, and

Off we would go. As Official Greeter and

Entertainer, she would occupy the

Attention of a whole waiting room,

Until she got pooped out;

People never seemed to mind if I

Was held up with some emergency

Or other. It got so that patients would

Want to make sure ZsaZsa  was going to

Be there on a certain day

Before making an appointment. Now

Hospital rounds on weekends

Were a special treat. Nurses would stop

what they were doing and get

down on the floor to play with her, hopefully

Washing hands before further

Patient contact. Families would come

Out into the hall, requesting that

ZsaZsa be allowed to visit their

Loved One, often picking her up

And putting her on the bed. Not

Necessarily my patients either.

The Nursing Supervisor once took

Notice that ZsaZsa was not certified

But the floor nurses set her at ease

By saying that she was in training

Which was true, sort of.

Mostly she was very mellow.

She was great around people, especially

At parties, especially when

There were treats to be had.

Not that she would beg; oh no;

She was much too refined for that.

The trick was to hang around and be

Visible, while looking from your eyes

To the tasty morsel until you got the message.

She was especially adept at

Eating off chopsticks and

Licking Skinny Cows and

Chomping off corners of sandwiches.

She knew where all the banks were, and only once

Did she confuse a post office with a bank.

What an eye-opener that was. Cheap-

Skate post offices have no treats!

Tennis balls were her speciality;

We devised many games.

Hide and seek was one of her favorites.

She would try to cheat, knowing

That was against the rules.

If we were busy, she would play the game

By herself: push ball under little bed,

Or maybe blanket; go find ball. Repeat

Until overdone, so long as one of us is

In same room. Nosing ball back to me

On one bounce - what fun. Even better

To bat a tossed ball back. Takes

Concentration, coordination, and a

Strong snout. Going after several balls

At once was a riot, always knowing

Which was the Special One to

Get first. Somersaulting on the dead run

Over a tossed ball, massaging her own

Shoulders, one at a time, without

Losing control of the ball. She would

Amuse herself with certain particular balls

(They all looked pretty much

The same to us, but what did

We know?), pushing the chosen one around

With paws and scrambling after.

Not too infrequently (perhaps

Accidentally on purpose), she would

Need help reaching under a chair

Or a desk for the ball; she would

Summon us with a special bark,

Of which she had many; in this she was

Reasonably accommodating, since the game

Was never played without both of us

Readily available. Monkey in the middle

Was a big favorite. Mary often would relent

And let her have the ball. Then we would

Do Tug of War. Did you ever try this

With a bull dog? Interesting and often

Lengthy procedure. She had a different

Routine for each of us for her

Last potty break of the evening;

Once that routine had fully evolved

To her satisfaction, she never varied.

Which gets me to "pig in slops",

A real favorite, performed on

Nicely maintained lawns

(Mortuaries were always good.)

Some may call it "Roll over",

But we knew better.

One thing she really loved

Was to flop down in the hallway

And get dragged the full length

Of the way to the apartment door.

In this she would resemble a

Reclining dog plaster door stop.

And yet, in many other

Ways, she did not

Resemble a dog at all.

More like a celestial being made flesh.

Her best speciality was

Snuggling; this art she honed

To the highest degree. Only took

One or two months for her to

Commandeer her place

On our bed, training crate

Rendered superfluous. Always

Between us; the bar between

Parallel lines in an "H".

She would start the night

On her blanket at the

Bottom of the bed; before

Long she would nose

Under the covers. Often

Her little face would be

Right next to mine against

The pillow. A good sleeper

She was, mostly on her tummy,

Until the end, when side sleeping

Became the norm. We would say

"Flip you over like a pancake"

There she would be looking

Adoringly into my eyes upside

Down; tummy and chest-scratching

(hers, not ours) would go on for hours

Sometimes she would reach out

One front paw for us to hold

Always neatly manicured

She tolerated filing, because

There was always a treat

Afterwards; keeping the back

Outside nail in trim was

The main issue, being pigeon-

Toed. Timing for mani-pedis

Being determined by her

Sticking to the rug like

Walking Velcro. She also

Was OK with showers which

She took with me, huddling in a corner

Trying not to get wet; the treat here

Was getting rubbed down with

The towel; she would perch on my knees

And keep her balance; a little

Bundle of wetness. Best of all

Was the way she would hold

Perfectly still, head turned just so

For ear cleaning which was my

Job, and one which I loved

Cleaning out all the nooks and

Crannies in those fabulous

Features, especially soft in the back.

Ah, the way she would stop

Whatever she was doing

To listen to our voices

On the phone, ear

Angling just so to pull in

Every word from the receiver.

We spoke to ZsaZsa in complete

Sentences, and why not?

I am convinced that she was far

Wiser than we. Mary realized early on

That she was an Old Soul. I knew that

The music of Beethoven was somehow

Meaningful to her; once or twice I

Asked her if she knew the man.

Sometimes I suspected she

Actually was him. I should have played

All the late string quartets as a test.

She also liked to dance to ABBA.

Around and around she would

Fly in Mary's arms; the way she would

Put her arms around us while we

Supported her bottom and back

Was just like a baby. And why not.

She was our baby. She made Mary

A mother. There was no favoritism

In her approach, with us an

Equal Opportunity Pooch.

Of course, on the rare times I

Had to get STERN with her, she

Knew to run under Mary's feet

Or go straight into her office.

ZsaZsa had an office, too. It

Was under the bed. Her

Sanctuary until the end

When she lost interest in that

And most everything else

Except the basics: sustinence

And eliminations.

She helped me transition

From surgery to yoga.

I would bring her to my

New office, where she would

Wait, on her blanket, for

Class to finish, no whining

Unless we ran over; then

Emerge to give kisses to

Each student, personally

Delivered right to their mat.

After a few times, I stopped

Closing the office door.

Why bother, when she was

(Mostly) content to Stay

Put until we were done.

She would appear to sleep,

While keeping an eye out

For intruders, wildlife, and the like.

She wrote poetry, OK, doggerel,

That made people laugh.

She had wide exposure

And did not disappoint. Her

Final message reached

Two thousand and made

Many of them cry. Hard to

Read yet harder by far

To write. My muse she was

And remains, one would pray.

The disaster came on fast

From time of first noticed changes

To death was a mere month

From getting stuck in a remote part of her office

To a first seizure, to the Vet's, to

The ER with cluster seizures

To a second Vet was a downward spiral.

She abandoned her office (perhaps

She had her first seizure there; a clunk

Under the bed awakened me, light

Sleeper that I am). She stopped giving kisses

Which she always tended to be sparing with

By nature; stopped leaning in and

Angling the ears to accept kisses, although

Treats remained eagerly accepted.

Steroids made her a voracious eater, when

By nature, she was a private diner

When it came to dog food, preferring

To dine late (being French) and in solitude.

Fastidious throughout her life, she

Had few accidents, two famously

A matter of record. Despite all the seizures

Only once did she let go; even at the end

She managed not to soil the bed.

Oh, the end. Unforgettable. Haunting.

So poignant. So well managed.

She knew it was coming. She

Said goodbye to us with sudden

Penetrating looks, the like of which we hadn't

Seen in weeks. And kisses. Lots of them.

Spontaneously. To each of us. Separately.

We knew then. She had prepared us.

During the last night, for

The first time in weeks, she moved

From the bottom of the bed, to

Sleep or try to sleep between us

For one last time. She managed

A short, wobbly potty walk,

Ate a little, and went to her bed

Where we lay with her, holding

Her, and listening to her raspy

Irregular, labored breath, alternating

With panting; mental status was now

Severe obtundation. Amazingly, she

Rallied and gave us two beautiful, magical

Bonus Hours. She walked out for two final

Evacuations and in between

She ate her last meal: salmon,

A scone, and vanilla gelato. Not able to

Bend her head to drink, I dripped water from a

Moistened towel onto her tongue; she was

Completely alert, even socializing with

Our daughter and her BF. We had a lovely

Forty-five minutes on the sun porch

Together. As a family of three. She sat

On my lounge chair, and I massaged her

And gave her a final mani-pedi (You

Never know whom you might run into in Heaven).

Beginning to hyperventilate, I took her

Downstairs into the cool bedroom

And put her on my chest in our bed.

She had a big seizure, a succession

Of smaller ones and was no longer responsive.

When Mary joined us, she opened

Her beautiful eyes to look

At her mother once more.

There was that final seizure

And she reached her right

Front paw out to Mary,

Raised her hackles to the max,

And was no more. She left us

Gently, peacefully, and well-prepared

Without forcing us to euthanize.

She left us with so many

Memories and such deep

Sadness. And so much

Gratitude. For our beloved ZsaZsa.

Who we feel will never

Really leave us.

ZsaZsa the Brave.

Watch over us now,

Help us to go on

And grant us peace.

We love you so.

I prayed for a miracle, and

The Bonus Hours was her response


The miracle had already happened:

ZsaZsa had come into our lives

And made us a family

She taught us far more than we her

She said goodbye with kisses, looks,

And through a dream where

She quietly stepped into a shallow pool

And settled peacefully under the water.

Yet, in my dream, I brought her back,

Which was her way of telling us that

She will never leave us.

It began happening our first day

Without her; not including music

Played in class, the very first

Piece of random music to reach

Our ears was "Turn, Turn, Turn",

Utilizing the text of Ecclesiastes,

Chapter Three, the very text I

Chose for my Mother's funeral service,

ZsaZsa having left us on Mary's Mother's BD.

Mary produced a sweat pattern

On her back after Zumba that

Had more than a passing

Resemblance to ZsaZsa's head.

The kisses from Peloton,

Once we summoned the courage

To walk the well worn path

From our place to his

Alone, were actually from her.

Her presence is so powerful around us,

Everywhere we go. May it always be so.

May she continue to come,

When invited, to fitness

Classes, sitting

Quietly in the back, appearing in

Places she never was allowed to visit before.

Time traveling. Leaving a ball

To the side of the street,

On the one early evening we

Happened to be walking

Together down the hill

To the lake  -- the weather

Perfect for her invitation

For us finally to head to

Her favorite beach,

A place we had dreaded to revisit

Without her. She told us

To go there, together.

Leaving the ball in the

Spot she assiduously dug out

Over the years.

May ZsaZsa, with the help of God,

Continue to watch sunsets with us

For as long as there are sunsets

And we to watch them.

For we cannot admire the color, nor

Appreciate the splendor

Without her powerful presence.

May I jump up from the

Computer, realizing that I am

Cutting it close, and say "Come on,

Let's go get Mary" even though she isn't

There to go with, because in fact

She is.

You see,

ZsaZsa lives!

Thanksgiving will find us, together,

Back in Ashland, grateful

For our precious ZsaZsa,

Celebrating her too-short life,

Scattering her ashes in her favorite

Places, but keeping her essence

With us in our hearts, forever.