Let’s get the obvious out of the way: he was beautiful. And not just some conventional, average beauty. His good looks were of the striking, exotic, supermodel kind. We couldn’t bring him anywhere without reams of compliments, questions about his breed and background, and requests to pet him (not a good idea).
He was our golden boy, our reverse-raccoon with pale circles around his eyes, our dog-icorn with a pronounced bump on his head that confirmed his magical properties. We often joked he was made of spare parts, with Cheeto legs and a pipe cleaner tail. He had the thickest, softest fur—which Dan once stuffed into a birdhouse, proclaiming it furnished and move-in ready. He was our handsome-chansome, with a million nicknames and songs in his honour. Ollie Burger, Burger Boy, the Mean Bean Machine, Auj-Wean, and Mister, to name a few.
His life was riddled with challenges. Two cancer diagnoses, two bad legs, two major surgeries, allergies, digestive issues, near-crippling anxiety, and fear-based aggression. He tried to give off the aura of an intimidating 80-pound tough guy, but the smoke detector would send him underneath the back deck, teeth chattering. Sometimes he would lash out and bite but would slink back in remorse later.
Make no mistake, Ollie could be a hard dog to love, but we loved him harder, and the rewards were exponential. More than the challenges, I will remember all the fun and all the love.
Ollie had a lot of passions. He would jump and dance as soon as he saw his leash. He loved the snow and would collapse mid-stride to roll in it or plow his face through the cool drifts (but he hated the water). He loved squeak toys and could sense any within a mile radius. He’d sniff them out, and pluck them from the tall grass, or howl at the door one was locked behind. He had a love-hate relationship with the car, loving trips to the camper and cottage but shaking with fear on the journey. He loved sleeping in weird positions, getting underfoot, and Christmas. In the last year of his life, he developed a new hobby: eating the pockets out of our coats and jeans for any remnants of treats.
Ollie has taught us so much about life. That it’s not fair, but that you can make the most of it. Keep a positive attitude and enjoy the little things—even in the face of adversity. You can do hard things. Attack your problems head-on and set firm boundaries. Pursue your passions and joy with reckless abandon.
Ollie has also taught me about the kind of man my husband is. I once told Dan’s mother that I’d never have to worry about him leaving me, because Dan clearly doesn’t give up on those that are lucky enough to be loved by him. Most people would have given up on Ollie (and me). Not him.
Grief is a manifestation of love, so our grief is enormous. It’s buoyed by gratitude for the time shared, but the injustice at his struggles and our loss is a heavy counterbalance. We’re going to miss the hundreds of things, large and small, that made Ollie Ollie.
With time we’ll learn to live with Ollie-shaped holes in our hearts. But for now, we’ll cry with abandon. We’ll leave the nose smudges on the front window, where he loved to verbally-assault passing dogs. We’ll let the tufts of soft fur swirl in the air conditioning, like the snow he loved so much. Still, our home will feel empty without him.
If you knew and loved Ollie (and to know him was to love him), please consider giving to the Dartmouth SPCA where he was adopted from, or another pet charity of your choice. Or buy a special dog in your life a pupcone or squeakie from Ollie, with love.
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