Zeke the Labrador lives to keep his owner alive

Zeke the Labrador lives to keep his owner alive

The first time it happened, Gerald Rittinger was driving to buy his gravestone. His diabetes was getting worse. Doctors had just diagnosed him with prostate cancer. They gave him six months.

 

Gerald’s wife, Jeanne, was in the passenger seat of their Lincoln that day. Their puppy, Zeke, was supposed to stay in the back seat. But the yellow Labrador kept putting his big paws on the console between them, inching forward. They headed north on Interstate 75 to his family cemetery in Kentucky. After about three hours, Zeke stood up and began barking. “Down! Zeke, get down!” Jeanne scolded, tugging at his collar.

 

Zeke leapt up, nuzzling his wet nose against Gerald’s neck. Licking his face. Laughing, Gerald tried to push away the puppy. But Zeke wouldn’t back off. His barking got louder. The dog became so agitated that Gerald had to pull off the highway. Seconds later, Gerald had a seizure. “If he had still been driving,” Jeanne said, “all of us would have been killed.”

 

That was 12 years ago. Gerald had his headstone engraved, planted it in the graveyard, then came home to die. But Zeke wouldn’t let him.