Placed through Mastiff Club of America Rescue
Agent, Julie Nelson
I first met Zeus the day he received his Service Award (explained below) at the 2002 MCOA Specialty in Portland, OR. When I first sent out emails, asking for information about this extraordinary mastiff, Julie Nelson was the first to respond. What I have collected here is a mixture of writing from Julie, owner Florence Fiddler, and copy from an old MCOA Journal. The first winner of the MCOA’s service award, another Zeus, was owned by the late Nell Wright, for whom the award is named.
From Julie Nelson, Rescue and Working Service Dog coordinator
An MCOA member named Nell Wright adopted a Mastiff from Mastiff Club of America Rescue years ago. He was a favorite at the MCOA Rescue Parades, and he was well known as the "Great Mastiff" on Animal Planet, the episode about amazing animals that had saved their owners’ lives. Zeus saved Nell's life as she was in a diabetic coma and he got help for her. Zeus passed on several years ago, and Nell followed him over Rainbow Bridge shortly thereafter.
From Nell Wright’s love of her dog, Zeus, and her experience with him―as well as the exposure she received on Animal Planet―so was born the "Wright Outstanding Service Dog" Award. This hopefully annual trophy will honor any rescued or registered English Mastiff for "outstanding service to their owner.” The term "outstanding service" includes extremely important acts of service to owner or community. I hope this will encourage the public to view the mastiff as a working therapy dog, as well as a Service Dog for those with disabilities. And I also hope that local newspaper articles will follow when the award winner is brought to their attention. Good PR for the mastiff breed is always important. Nell Wright's family received the first MCOA Wright Service Dog Award in Nell's and Zeus's honor and memory in 2001, the initial year of this award.
Florence Fiddler received an award for her Zeus the following year. Florence runs a therapeutic foster home for children with psychological disabilities. Florence's Zeus is a working Service dog in the state of WA and a dear fellow. He was placed by rescue about 3 plus years ago. Florence's Zeus saved her from a low blood sugar episode and he gives day in, day out, working as a Service Dog in the therapeutic foster home for psychologically disabled children that she runs. I hope her story inspires you about the possibilities of our great breed. Florence was asked to write down how he "works" so it could shared here and so everyone could see that not all Service Dogs under the Americans with Disabilities Act guide the blind or fetch dropped objects. They have other wonderful, meaningful uses too.
From Florence Fiddler, after receiving the Mastiff Club of America’s 2002 Wright Service Dog Award
When Julie asked me to put into words all that Zeus does for this family and our community, I thought it would be easy. He is all that an English mastiff should be, size, attitude, temperament, all just right. He works with foster children who have Fetal Alcohol Effect, calming them during times of confusion. He makes the world safe for those who have extreme debilitating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There are days when some of the kids wouldn't be able to go outside the house if he wasn't with us. Or do their therapy sessions.
For example, one little boy who couldn't go to school out of fear. He would get kicked out of school just to come home. Zeus brought him to and from school every day for two years, staying at school when needed for support. He made it possible for a little girl to do a full homework assignment for the first time in her life, by making her feel safe. He has kept the impulsivity disorder kids from running out the front door. He has helped old people here get up out of chairs. He has helped me off the floor when I have my arthritis flare-ups. Yep, easy to write about a dog that does all that.
Zeus knows when my sugar is going down a half hour before I do. I have the opposite of diabetes, my sugar can drop dangerously low in a matter of minutes. He carries my little sugar pills around for me in a back pack and tells me when I need to eat by insistently barking at me when my blood sugar is getting too low. Zeus tells me when one of my foster children is entering a manic state and needs medication by signaling me. He knows how to talk to these kids to make them understand how important it is to hold on. Yes, he means the world to this family, but he means alot to many others also.
Zeus filled one old woman's last two years of life with love, and gave her something to be dedicated to after so many losses in her life. She brought him lunch on a regular basis. He was the only one she allowed to slobber in the house. He made her smile when the world was a frightening place.
Zeus comforts the caseworkers at the CPS office on my many trips there. They have hard jobs, filled with pain and sorrow. Their days get very long and very draining. He comforts them, gives them a reminder of how good it can be, he gives them hope and eases their emotions.
So there it is Julie, only I can't figure out how to put in words all the rest he does for me as the caregiver of these troubled kids. I can't figure out how to talk at the end of the day some days, ... when I have worked with these kids all day with the mental illnesses and how hopeless I feel that I can't cure it, how he then comes and lays by my feet and looks at me and tells it will all be OK, don't worry, let it go. And he means it, and suddenly, the day drains off me and away. And I put my hand on his head, he stares me in the eye and says he will not abandon any of us, he will be here, hard times or good. And when you look in his eyes and see the depth of his devotion to the family, and the community, and the world, you can believe that you can go on for one more day, help one more kid, one more elderly person. You can do it because Zeus will be there by your side making it all OK, making it work out.
How do I write about the miracle of a best friend, a friend that not only makes you happy, but touches your very soul with his wisdom and kindness? I don't know the words to say it. My heart says it. Zeus probably knows the right words, but he won't brag about himself that way. But he knows, and I know, and anyone who touches our lives in any way or meets him knows. He is special, he is Zeus, the one and only. He is a good old dog, and he deserves so much more than we can ever repay him. Mostly though, he just wants a good scratch, a comfortable bed, and to be near to those he loves. This much we can give.
Thanks Julie, for knowing it would work out. For the hours of training us to know this dog and in having faith in his ability to work with me and the children. I would only hope that more people can find their "Zeus" for their lives.
So, this is the best I can do. I can write about what he does physically each day as a service dog, how he makes it so we can have a life, so we can function "out here" with the rest of the world. But I can't put to words the miracle, nope, they will have to find their miracle friend and then they will know the depth of the heart and the depth of the soul that only a best friend can reach. Zeus is the life jacket in the troubled sea of life.
PostScript from Florence
Zeus passed away two Decembers ago. It was the hardest day of my life. Things have not been the same since; life is very hard to face without him. There are many things I just stopped doing. He was the best. We had records in his rescue file that indicated he was 13 years old at the time of his death.