During the past few months, I’ve become accustomed to being awakened by a breathing alarm clock, emitting either a solid series of barks or a shrill, urgent yipe.
This morning, neither these sounds nor the digital alarm clock stirred me. I awakened to silence, five minutes ahead of the alarm.
As I’ve also become accustomed to doing, I padded the short distance to the kitchen where Ozzie has been camping for the night because the medication makes him both hungry and in need of constant potty breaks. The mother has the 2:30 a.m. (or so) feeding covered; potty pads take care of the rest.
But today, the clack of claws and low, rolling grunt of a greeting are not there. Instead, there is only an empty bed laying against the bank of cabinets. And that’s when the reality of all hits me like a freight train.
My boy is gone.
Yesterday was the day that I have long dreaded and yet known was coming since July. We had to let Ozzie go. The lymphoma had taken over. And while he was a super trooper, with new tumors appearing externally on a daily basis, I couldn’t relinquish him. He was still mobile and able to eat and anxious to be a part of everything around him.
Hell, two weeks ago, he dropped a squeaky toy at my feet!!! Unless you knew – or touched his tumor-riddled back or throat – you would never believe this dog was sick. In just the past week, it had become more visually obvious: tumors began to cover the top of his head.
On Monday, that tide started to turn. The mother, who has long been an opponent of euthanasia, began to soften to the notion. That was my first sign. There was also a noticeable shift in Ozzie’s behavior. A look in his eyes that went beyond tired, or even exhausted. It was more of a resignation. We decided that I should call and make an appointment yesterday. I did so with a great deal of reluctance, hanging up at least three times before finally waiting long enough for someone to answer. When he didn't eat yesterday morning (this dog NEVER missed a meal), that was confirmation enough for me.
It was ironic. Here I was trying so hard to hang onto a dog that initially, I had not even wanted.
We were less than a week past the loss of our first Yorkie in 1997. That occasion had marked the first time I’d ever had to put down an animal, despite having lost scores of them through the years. I had decided that day in the vet’s office that I never wanted another dog. So, it was not surprising when, by the end of that week, I balked when the mother wanted to “go look” at puppies. That Saturday morning though, I was in for a huge surprise.
When the alleged breeder (who was licensed, but horrible) first asked me, “Do you want to hold him?” all I could think was how that spastic little puppy, then 11 weeks old, was going to be a wiggle worm. Yet the second she handed him to me, he stopped moving. Before I could hold him at arm’s length (to avoid all of this puppy nonsense), he had nestled in the crook of my arm and gently flopped his head against my shoulder. “Are you lovey?” I asked this little 3-pound furball – and he promptly reached up and licked my cheek.
I was toast. There was no way I could leave him there. It was as if he knew that I was the one he had to win over. And he did. And while all of the animals I’ve ever had (with the possible exception of my childhood cat) have loved me, but always gravitated to the mother – her being something of a Dr. Doolittle – Ozzie was indelibly mine.
For much of the last 14 years, his was the first face I would see in the morning and the last I would see at night.
His face, pressed against the full-view storm door, would greet me most nights, a chaotic barking fit and happy dance to follow. He had a continual flow of energy and was my constant, ever curious, companion no matter what I was doing. Hey … whatcha got? Show me! Can I eat? Can I play with it? Where you goin?! Come back here! Nevermind. I'll come with ya.
One of many nicknames – though the most consistently used – was Moosie. (I had dubbed him “the moose” because he had grown so much in his first year, I was convinced we would have the world’s first 40-pound Yorkie. He actually got up to more than 16 pounds. I used to tell him that he was TWO standard Yorkies!) I never had children but I always joke that I have three "babies:" My boys (Oz and Toby the Cat) have fur; my girl (Pearl) has wheels.
But now, the Moo-Man is gone from my life. That is a fact. Yet, with an equal degree of certainty, I know that he will never leave my heart.