February is the month of love and I’d like to celebrate the life of one of my great true loves, my pug Oscar. We lost Oscar on January 14 after sixteen and a half remarkably joyous years – much longer than pugs are expected to live. I’m sure it was love that kept him alive. In fact, Oscar had at least 9 lives, and one of his nicknames was “the energizer bunny”. Nothing could kill him or keep him down – not ingesting an entire turkey net with metal clamps at both ends, not eating an entire block of rat poison (yes I was TOO a good mommy!), nor a myriad of other things, some much less savory than these that we will not detail here. Oscar and I were soulmates – both terribly hedonistic and putting pleasure above all else. Just as I would wither on the vine without loving touch so would my son and pal, who demanded massages on a daily, neigh, hourly basis. During his last years the massage had to be gentler and kept to his upper quadrant as his poor hind legs were a bit too tender from arthritis. He always needed to be “touching”.
Oscar was as stubborn as me, or I guess more so, because he usually won. I’ve often said it’s a great thing for me that he was born with such a lovely temperament because had he been anything more than cutely ornery I would have been in terrible trouble. He taught me a really big lesson regarding the battles vs the war. He also gave me the greatest gift – one that I was perfectly petrified I would never have since I couldn’t have children – the gift of unconditional love.
I’ve never known a more expressive face, human or otherwise, and we had multitudes of conversations – me with my words, and he with his eyes, mouth, and ears, and tail, and feet, and neck, and yes, even his voice. People often commented “how can he be so comical and so regal at the same time?” He was so social all of his life (to put it mildly; another nickname was “ho”) – he went virtually everywhere with me the first 2 years, ALL stores (except grocery as I found out it wasn’t allowed). He has been to doctor’s offices, mechanics, hardware stores – in fact Beck’s Hardware in Walnut Hills cried with me the week Oscar died. He was beloved by so many – often his welfare was asked after before mine. Even at the end of his life when he was blind and deaf, once he caught a whiff of someone new in the house he found his way to them to greet them.
Oscar had the worst breath on the planet. Some of that had to do with the fact that he was attacked by a Jack Russell Terrier and had to have his whole right jaw stitched up, and he never completely healed. As destroyed as he was, he gave kisses to the vets and techs who helped him that night. As a result, he started losing teeth on that side, and some in front, and his tongue lolled out all of the time. When he was asleep and that tongue was sticking out I swear I could have eaten him with a spoon.
There is not a soul on the planet that was more interested in food in all of its components than Oscar. I know I know, dogs all love anything to eat, but Oscar was different (of course). He was a gourmand. His absolute favorite was crispy salmon skin, and he loved a good cup of coffee with cream and sugar. Sadly Oscar was born into a litter that was not kept with its mother for very long, and food was tossed loosely into a playpen for the puppies to fight over. As a result Oscar’s only issue was coming from a culture of “fear of not enough” – like so many of us come from – and he, like we, manifested his perceived lack in mysterious ways. One of Gordon’s favorite Oscar food stories revolves around a T-Bone steak. Oscar weighed 20 pounds. A T-Bone was about half as big as he was. We thought he’d enjoy gnawing on the bone. What could it hurt, right? A gift we thought! So we put him in the front yard and gave him his bone. He immediately took the long end of the T and swallowed it. No, he didn’t choke…he just kept trying to get the wide end of the T into his mouth and down his gullet. We, in quick hysteria, rushed to him to save him from sure suffocation, but he would have NONE OF IT. Growling and biting down and digging in he demanded to be left alone to HIS bone as he hacked and chewed and hacked and chomped…and as Gordon RIPPED the bone from his throat that tail just started wagging like “who, me? C’mon…whatdya have to go and take it from me for?!?” and immediately the love was restored. Always, love restored. That tail wagged so hard it hit both sides of his head. It’ll never be goodbye my boy – you’ll always be with me, unconditionally loved.