Earlier this week I had to say goodby to my dog of 15+ years Zoe.
The first time I met her she didn’t pee on me like Babe did on Farmer Hoggett.But we did regard each other when, after six solid months of walking dogs at the local dog shelter, I opened the cage, she jumped on me, I walked her on the beach and didn’t want it to end.
And it wasn’t long after that when she started massively improving my business.
I was already taking short beach walks, maybe a mile or two, on the regular.
But it wasn’t until I got Zoe when I started taking much longer daily walks (5, 6, 7, 8+ miles) just to get the excess energy out of her (I once had a dog groomer refuse to take Zoe as a client again unless I ran her on the beach first, even though I already was doing just that, if that tells you something…) when my marketing game took off, sped past most of my peers, and has kept me far ahead to this day.
I was listening to — and re-listening to — top notch marketing trainings.
Over and over and over.
Day after day, for 4, 5, 6 hours at a time.
And, also, night after night, as I’d walk her on the beach at least twice a day.
Take Email Players subscriber and the man universally regarded as the world’s greatest living copywriter Gary Bencivenga’s Farewell DVDs. I put them on my MP3 player, and listened to that seminar some 25 or 30 times before I stopped keeping track.
Just imbibing his wisdom over and over and over.
Eventually I basically “owned” the info in my mind.
This was late 2007.
By the end
of 2008 I’d doubled — probably tripled or even quadrupled — my business’ income, and can trace a lot of that to those trainings, that I listened to over and over and over. I distinctly remember applying that info to each and every sales letter, and was banging out controls left and right.
Same with the great Matt Furey’s original email course at the end of 2008.
I put the audios onto my MP3 player and got to walking Zoe.
I listened to it, walking Zoe on 6, 7, 8, 9 mile walks each and every day for months… just absorbing the principles, ideas, and strategies over and over and over. I don’t know how many times I listened to it. But it was probably around 20 or more times before I finally moved on to something else.
And so it was with all the other trainings I consider “must learning.”
Everything from the Michael Senoff interviews with Jim Camp, Barry Maher, Stan Billue, Bob Bly, and a guy named Mike Samonek (who used media publicity and space ads to sell his Special Effects Cookbook)… to an interview David Garfinkel gave to the late John Ritz… to the Gene Schwartz Breakthrough Advertising interviews with various A-list copywriters & marketers that Bob Bly hosted many years ago… to Dan Kennedy’s Magnetic Marketing lead gen talk he did for the Peter Lowe conferences as well as the Magnetic Marketing course itself (the one from the 90’s, pre-internet, I still listen to it regularly and get ideas)… to the interviews Dan Kennedy did with Peter Montoya (about personal branding) and Walter Bregman (an old school Mad Man guy) for his NO BS Gold Tapes (circa 2003 — don’t ask me where to find them, I have no idea)… to Sean D’Souza’s System Seminar talk from 2008… to the interview Ken McCarthy did with Gary Bencivenga… to Paul Hartunian’s Million Dollar Publicity system… to the interview Doug D’Anna did for one of my own products… and the list goes on and on and on and on.
There were quite a few.
And these guys would probably think I’m creepy how much I stalked their minds while Zoe stalked the beach… day after day, and week after week, for months and years… all the way up until about a year ago, when I could barely walk her the .3 miles to the water at all.
I never would have done all that listening and learning otherwise.
Without Zoe I doubt there’d be an Email Players newsletter.
Or even a fraction of the books I’ve written — including fiction.
As I got many ideas for all my books, ads, sites, businesses from walking her.
It was the same with market and product research. I was a freelancer and doing my own deals back then. And due to the above learning spree, I was rapidly having opportunities handed to me. That meant I was also having to do a lot of research — sometimes very fast — on markets I did not necessarily know that much about like golf, self defense, college funding, and weight loss.
Interview and talk for hours to my clients, record the calls, and listen on Zoe walks.
Over and over and over.
Until I could practically recite the entire conversations back verbatim.
I’d ask them about the product, the market, the customers, stories they could tell, problems nobody was talking about that the market had, how their market approached life, what words they used to describe problems, how current events where affecting them, their politics, their ethics, their professions, and the list goes on.
Some of these calls were 2-3 hours long.
And I’d load them in my MP3 player, jingle the leash to Zoe, and get to work.
Hours and hours and hours of walking Zoe listening about the markets I was selling to. Combine that with the trainings I was also listening to and I was writing ads, emails, lead gen, whatever it was I was being hired for, or doing in my own deals, that were 10, 50, maybe even 100 times better than they’d have been otherwise.
Not even an exaggeration.
I can see it in my old work BZ (“Before Zoe”).
All because of walking my furry “silent partner” so much.
Fast forward a few years later:
I had been running a ridiculously profitable and engaged Facebook group called elBenbo’s Lair. A group that was basically a big social experiment, and that also became the basis for my Social Lair book and how much of the SocialLair social media platform (I co-own with Troy Broussard) is structured.
Anyway, I was always thinking of ways to get the group riled up.
Lots of highs and lows — admittedly almost like a benignly abusive relationship.
And one of the “highs” I started doing in there was what I called:
“The Zoe Tapes”
I started walking Zoe on the beach, turned on the phone’s video recorder, and began teaching about whatever was on my mind. At first I did it just as a way to keep the group engaged. It was also a way for my horde inside there to meet Zoe, as I talked about her so much people felt they really knew her.
And I daresay literally 60 videos later they DID know her.
She was as much a fixture in their lives as I was each day.
And it was some of the most valuable content I ever recorded.
It also made me approach content creation differently, too — going even less stuffy and “professional”, and even more lax, loose, and leisurely, with no regard for production values or lighting or sound quality, with more emphasis on the relationship, connection, and the lesson being taught.
But also very human, and very relatable and consumable.
Just like all great marketing tends to be.
And it’s influenced every piece of content I’ve created since.
Including Video, audio, or text — and especially emails.
All because of Zoe.
Frankly, if you’ve ever benefited from any content I’ve created, you can thank Zoe. She was a big part of my education, my application, and my edification when it comes to all-things marketing, business, copywriting, persuasion, and anything else you see me talking about.
Zoe’s influence over my life wasn’t just business though.
Everyone loved her.
And I mean literally everyone who ever met her loved her.
Including an ex-girlfriend who usually hates dogs (by her own admission), and used to say “I know she is a package deal with you…” as if it was a negative, only for her to change her tune completely and suddenly start cuddling with Zoe on the regular.
Later on, when Stefania got pregnant, it was the same thing.
You couldn’t have pried Zoe off Stefania with a crowbar.
Zoe clinged to Stefania day and night (even snubbing me!)
We were just talking about how, when she was pregnant with Willis, and I’d go for a long ten mile walk (by this time Zoe could not walk that far, limited to 1 or maybe 2 mile walks), I’d leave the house, and 3+ hours later… return to find the two of them in the exact same spot sleeping and snuggling.
After Willis was born Zoe decided to become his guardian.
We have video footage from the cameras in Willis’ room of Zoe using her head to bull open the door, walk in, make sure Willis was safe, then walk out — all without any of us noticing she even left.
She just did it as a matter of routine.
And when Willis started walking last Spring, they spent a lot of time running back and forth on the deck together.
Anyway, I could go and on and on about Zoe.
And I will — from the business-side — in an Email Players issue.
I haven’t even scratched the surface of what Zoe has done for me and, by extension, my customers & clients who have also benefited from her existence.
So I’ll just end with a bit of bitter sweet irony.
When I got Zoe, the vet estimated her age after spaying her to be 2 or 3.
That was in 2007.
So she was at least 17 or 18 years old when she died earlier this week.
And yet, she was rarely ever sick.
I don’t know if it was because of the high quality food (I only got her the expensive stuff) she ate, the alkaline filtered water (
quite anti-inflammatory) she drank, the genetics she inherited, or a combo of all of it. But she didn’t really start to slow down and have problems until about a year ago. And it gradually went down hill over the course of 2022 until she went from sleeping in bed with us every night waking up to a small “Hersheys kiss-sized” turd on the blanket… to sleeping in the den (her own “wing” of the house) due to excessive panting keeping us up… to me coming downstairs each morning to a pile of poo on the ground or in her bed… to her going
blind and starting to step in her own waste and track it all over (I called it “the crime scene” — as it looked like one, except with poo instead of blood) when I had to start seriously thinking about when I’d have to put her down, while desperately hoping she’d just go peacefully in her sleep.
The things she loved most were now denied to her:
Running, jumping, long walks, sleeping in the bed.
She couldn’t even see or hear by the end, and she barely ate.
About the only thing she could still do was smell and walk, and even walking was hard.
And that’s where the irony comes in:
The first few weeks I had Zoe, in a moment of stupidity and impatience, I almost considered taking her back to the shelter since she made it hard to do any focused work. She kept peeing on the carpet, pacing, and darting all over the place nervously. And I really needed to do focused work to pay the rent as my business was in some unstable economic territory at the time.
She eventually straightened out of course.
But like those first few weeks I had her, when I found it impossible to do focused work with her in the room, it was the exact same in her last few months, where it was impossible to do focused work in the room. Since mid October until she passed on December 27th, I averaged — not an exaggeration — about 3 hours of sleep each night.
I considered 5 hours to be a lot of sleep, if that tells you anything.
And the reason why is, she had lost a lot of her marbles (did not always recognize Stefania or even me at times), would sometimes tremble in fear at not knowing where she was… and could no longer control her pooping or pee.
i.e., the morning crime scenes.
She also paced and walked around in circles constantly, wearing herself out.
And I was basically a one-man hospice for her from midnight to 3 or 4 in the morning.
Then, at that time, Stefania would take over for a few hours while I got work done.
I have long preached that the first hour belongs to you. i.e., always do your own stuff before anyone else’s — client, boss, or otherwise. But for the last few months, the first 3-4 hours belonged to Zoe.
Just another bit of irony she left us with.
Bottom line though is this:
I had the privilege of having Zoe for 15+ years — which was just shy of a 1/3 of my life. Those were good, healthy years so her passing was certainly no tragedy. And she worked her way into every corner of my world from business, to my fiction (the “Shadow Pup” chapter in my 8th novel “God Blood” was 100% inspired by the pic of her shadow I once took below), and she even adorns the cover of my Markauteur book which I had blown up and framed as a family portrait that now hangs on the wall in my den.
Zoe was more than just a silent business partner.
She was also a friend.
She was a family protector.
And she was the single greatest teacher about patience I ever had and probably ever will have. Patience was something I thought I had. But this past year made me realize I had much to learn about patience, and still do.
So RIP Zoe, my good friend — my best friend.
My theology might be skewed, and the following will probably sound dorky. But I like to think Zoe’s up there playing, running on the beach, jumping, and resting on a cozy bed, while eating a pile of treats. I also like to ask God to give her a pat on the head each day for me, and tell her that her dad will see her again someday, and to keep the beach ready.
This is the second “RIP” email I’ve had to write in the last two weeks.
Usually I write maybe one of these every 5 or 6 years.
But I figure the older I get, the more often I’ll be writing them.
And you know what?
I don’t like it all that much…
So to end on a positive note, I mentioned the Zoe Tapes earlier.
And about four years ago I made one of them public on my blog.
Here it is: