The story of Zoey Mojave began for us with the death of our Pointer, Choko. Choko died in January. He had lived with us for eight years, from the time we adopted him and he dove onto my husband’s lap for the brief ride home, licking my husband’s face and spinning in excitement as I strained to focus on the road. In March, we drove four hours to meet Zoey, at an appointment sanctioned by the Weimaraner Rescue group which was boarding her at a pristine private kennel behind a Modesto suburb orchard. When we arrived, the kennel owner wasn’t there but her assistant was expecting us. Despite the assistant’s pearl-smooth skin, she was graying at the temples and might have seemed a bit beleaguered, were she not so determined to do a good job.
“We’re here to adopt Zoey,” I stated matter-of-factly.
I can’t explain how but I knew from the moment I saw Zoey’s photo on the Rescue website that she was going to be our dog. In that photo, taken through the bars of her kennel, she appeared empty-eyed, slightly thin, sad and a bit lost but not as tragic as some of the dogs I saw–or as our Plott Hound, Grecko, when he dons a pathetic face in an attempt to earn an extra scrap of meat. Grecko and Choko grew up together and, prior to the Pointer’s death, didn’t spend a day apart.
I knew that the assistant’s query–“Sight unseen?”–did not refer to concerns about the Weimaraner’s appearance. Bright yellow eyes, soft fawn fur. People commonly approach us to tell us how beautiful Zoey is. She is luminous like a movie star, or a monk.
But she is a Weimaraner. And a Weimaraner has the canine equivalent of a MENSA-qualifying IQ, sufficient stamina to run a marathon and enough slight of snout to snatch your dinner before you notice that she’s near.
And Zoey was a rescue. Had she been neglected? Abused? What sort of life had she lived? Had her owners cared for her? Deeply? At all? Would her behavior become predictable in time or had she suffered unrecoverable trauma?
Sweet was the word that caught my attention on the Rescue site in the sparse description next to Zoey’s photo. And then: Found tied to the door of the shelter.
The loss of Choko was incredibly hard on our family; we really needed a Sweet dog. We didn’t require a perfect dog but we neither could we handle a particularly challenging one, at least not temperament-wise. I wasn’t even certain that we were ready for another dog but Grecko was sleeping all day and my husband wasn’t sleeping all night and while browsing rescue sites I saw Zoey’s photo next to the word Sweet. “We’re coming for you Zoey,” I cooed, even before I realized what I was saying. Then I set to work on my husband.
“I’d prefer a Pointer,” he said, in a tone which did not invite discussion.
Oh, the poor Pointer, I thought, to be compared to Choko, our ever-faithful companion and fellow desert sojourner for so many years.
Gently I pointed out to my husband the unfairness of such an arrangement. Adding tactfully that Weimaraners and Pointers have similar traits…both are highly intelligent, agile, fast, high-strung, affectionate, demanding and rewarding (all qualities my husband loved in Choko)…after which my husband sort of…conceded.
Before he could change his mind, I filled out the application on the Weimaraner Rescue website. A couple of days later, we were notified that they thought us well-qualified. They did not think, however, that we would be allowed to adopt Zoey.
“She’s young and healthy,” they said. “Most likely she will be adopted by someone ahead of you on our waiting list. But one of our representatives will contact you about other candidates that might be suitable for your adoption.”
I was at a loss as to how to explain to them that we were already in love with Zoey (even my husband, by then, had succumbed to my cooing of Zoey’s name.) So we waited. In silence.
And two days later, received a call. “We think Zoey would be perfect for you.”
No one knew Zoey’s real name of course and by the time we met her I wasn’t prepared to assume that she could easily adapt to one more change.
We added “Mojave” a few weeks later when I learned from yet another volunteer in the Rescue organization that Zoey had been Found tied to the door of the shelter in a small town on the edge of the Mojave Desert. The shelter was operated by the police department and consisted of a kiosk and several outdoor kennels. The town had a tiny budget so rescues were held for only one week before they were euthanized. No exceptions. The Weimeranar Rescue group discovered Zoey on the town’s website but couldn’t arrange transportation north for her in time, so one of the police officers took her home because he thought she was too Sweet to die. Northern California Weimaraher Rescue sent a car for Zoey as soon as they could. They delivered her to the private kennel where we met her for the first time. That morning, after observing Zoey in an outdoor ring with Grecko, the kennel owner’s assistant said, “I don’t think these two will have a problem.”
Zoey climbed into our car. And slept curled on my lap for the entire four-hour drive home.
Shortly after we arrived, she pulled a roasted chicken from the counter onto the floor and nibbled at one wing. We rinsed off the bird and ate it.
In the days that followed, Zoey embezzled a tower of toilet paper (she uses it to make confetti,) two tiny yellow blankets intended for a neighbor’s baby shower, a bottle of blueberry honey, three pens and an avocado.
Nights we put her to rest in an old overstuffed chair at the foot of our bed. She shimmied over the top of the chair onto our bed and slinked up the mattress until she lay between us, silent as the moon. When ordered back to her chair she pretended to sleep until we snoozed before she set out on the prowl again.
Despite many groggy mornings, we gradually all became friends and eventually fell in love. Even Grecko, whom I was certain would die of a broken heart after losing Choko and who was at first peeved by Zoey’s energy and antics, fell in love with her. Now the two of them constantly frolic and Grecko is more vivacious than ever, it stunned me to realize one day.
My husband still mourns Choko but Zoey leans against his legs and climbs onto his lap and nuzzles him with the fuzzy tip of her head and leaps toward him when he walks through the door so he can’t help but love her and in loving her he is happier.
I am grateful that Zoey has completed our family. She loves us, deeply, generously, exuberantly…and we her.
We recently traveled to the Sierras with Zoey but have not yet visited the desert. We have been reticent to go, with so many perfect memories of Choko.
But we are contemplating a trip to the Mojave…
Author’s note: We would like to extend our genuine thanks to Northern California Weimaraner Rescue, a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing Weimaraners. NCWR provided pre-adoption screening of Zoey, medical care for her pre-adoption needs, and generous post-adoption support in the form of shared knowledge and experience.
Weimaraners, due to their abundant intelligence and energy, require acute supervision and a huge investment of love in the forms of frequent attention, affection, discipline, play and exercise. Popularized in modern culture by photographer William Wegman, these dogs do not–without extensive training–sit still for dress up and portraits. Please adopt responsibly.