When Stockton resident Chrissy Davis was in a state of depression several years ago, she leaned on Zen, her peppy and active Weimaraner, whose only goal seemed to be improving Davis' mood.
He would sit with her for hours, and his infectious enthusiasm for playing games with his sister, another dog named Patience, kept Davis going.
She eventually healed, but Zen soon became the one who needed her support. He battled canine valley fever for months before he died on Aug. 1 at the age of 4.
"He was meant to be my angel, and the fact that he was dying and I could not do something about it was heartbreaking," Davis said.
Zen's main treatment of taking anti-fungal medications is the same as humans. The uncertainty of veterinarians not knowing what was wrong with Zen also illustrates the difficulty of getting to a diagnosis of valley fever.
"I just feel like no one knows their dogs can get it," Davis said.
Toward the beginning of July, a News-Sentinel reporter met Davis and Zen before his death and discussed the disease that Davis had never heard of — until her dog was diagnosed with it.
That day, Zen was feeling well despite his bloated stomach, which was filled with fluid. He ran around, grabbing a tennis ball and returning to Davis' side in a never-ending game of fetch.
Davis adopted Zen from a Weimaraner rescue when he was a year old. When she went to go visit him, he stood on his hind legs, and it looked like he was giving Davis a hug.
Zen first came down with symptoms similar to bronchitis and was put on antibiotics about a year ago.
Then he became really sick, and she took him to University of California, Davis. Doctors thought it was his spleen, but once they opened him up, they found out his spleen was fine.
However, the doctors did discover Zen was suffering from valley fever. There was fluid around his heart, and doctors drained about seven liters.
After the surgery, his heart kept filling up with fluid, and Davis would take him in to get the fluid drained.
Doctors said he needed another surgery where they would scrape the fungus from his heart, but he died before he could get the surgery.
Similar to human valley fever treatments, Davis turned to alternative medicine while Zen was sick. He was on vegan food, received a host of vitamins every day and went through several sessions of acupuncture.
One of the frustrating things when Zen was sick was that the family had to pay for everything, because Zen did not have insurance. Davis held bake sales, started a Facebook page and a blog, and sold a book of poetry to fundraise for his care.
Now she wants to help other pet owners who need assistance to pay for their valley fever treatment.
Davis is starting a nonprofit called "Zen Speaks Against K9 Valley Fever."
"It's awful. People don't know that their animals can get this, and lots of animals die because veterinarians don't know what it is," Davis said.
For more information on Zen's story or Davis' nonprofit, go to "Zen Speaks" on Facebook.