We weren’t looking for another dog; we’d just lost one that Carlos had for years before I came into the picture, and we weren’t ready yet. But we had a friend who found a dog, brought him into her house, named him … something … I don't know. She loved him; her kids loved him; her big dog didn't.
So she asked us to dog sit for a week, and then all of the sudden, we had him; he was ours and we named him Ozzo, so of a take on the Spanish word for Bear because he looked like a Black Lab puppy, and we were excited to have a larger dog after having a Poodle before, and so we took him. Another rescued animal in the house. I sometimes wonder if we rescue animals or if they rescue us. I think it's a bit of both.
And we waited for him to grow. And he did. He got a wee bit longer, a touch taller, and a bit wider; but not a big dog. Apparently our newest family member was maybe Black Lab mixed with … wait for it … Dachshund. So, he wasn’t going to be a big dog, in fact he turned out to be even smaller than Dengosso, the dog we’d just lost. He was, to paraphrase Jack MacFarland from Will & Grace, a "pocket dog. Slip him in a briefcase, a manpurse, a shirt pocket, and you're good to go."
But oh what a dog; as sweet as could be and he could run like the wind and leap into the air for a stick or a Frisbee … both of which were bigger than Ozzo. We used to take him into the backyard when we moved to Camden and throw a stick and he’d tear across the lawn after it, scoop it up and come running back; a little dog, scarcely a foot long carrying a four-foot branch in his mouth and coming back so you’d throw it again .
A tiny little lab-wannabe who chased the cats, until the cats chased back, and loved you like nobody's business. remember Tuxedo and Ozzo those first few days; Tuxedo hadn’t been with us too long then, but he sat atop Ozzo’s crate and would wait until the dog woke up and stepped out, and then Tuxedo would tap his head, as if to remind him that Tuxedo was in charge. He liked Tuxedo, but he loved Tallulah, and those two would curl up and sleep together in the sun.
The only time Tuxedo couldn’t wrangle Ozzo was when the doorbell rang … on Frasier. TV doorbells make that tiny little motherf***er go nuts, barking and barking at the TV doorbell.
In Miami, his best friend was a neighbor’s Satin Bernard, and when they’d walk the dog we’d take Ozzo out front and he’d run at that dog, and jump on that dog; the Saint Bernard would lay in the ground and Ozzo would crawl onto him and sit there like a king, yet looking the size of something a Saint Bernard would leave on your lawn.
In Camden, where we rented a house before buying, a neighbor would walk by with their Great Dane, Lilly, and Ozzo would beg to go outside and ‘play’ with the giant; and they would wrestle on the front lawn, this ginormous gangly dog and out little Pocket Ozzo.
A wild man who loved walks through the neighborhood and sneaking cat food when his Daddies weren’t watching; a loving little man who would follow you into the office and sleep by your feet while you worked at the computer; a crazy man who had never seen snow until we came to Camden, but loved running and digging into that cold icy stuff on the ground until his tiny feet grew cold and he demanded to be carried into the house.
A happy old man who loved going for rides in the car even if it was just to the recycling center to take trash and such; he loved standing on the seat with his head out the window, ears flapping as we drove; and he went nuts when I took him with me to pick Carlos us from work, or from band practice. As soon as he spotted Carlos he would go nuts running front seat to back and back again crying for Carlos to get into the car.
Me? He loved me screaming at him playfully, and he would run up and down the hall and into the living room circling the couch and take off again, trying to prove he was the Big Man of the house in the Pocket Dog body.
The past year or so his health declined; his eyes were going bad and his hearing wasn’t so good. He developed arthritis in his hips and we started taking him to the back yard through the garage because the stairs off the deck were difficult; there was less running and jumping and more sleeping and resting. Carlos and I talked about his life, and the quantity versus quality and spoke to the vet about that; it would be our decision and this week it was made for us. The last few days his arthritis was so bad he could barely stand, and if he sat he had trouble getting back up. Neither of us wanted to see him like that and so, again, for the third time in 18 months, we made that call.
Ozzo was with us for over twenty years of laughter and sticks and balls and running and jumping and snow falling. One of my favorite pictures of him was taken on a weekend trip to the mountains when he sat on a dust road and cast a long, Big Dog shadow.
That shadow will stay over us for a good long while.
RIP Little O, you’ve earned it.
I'm gonna take a few days off and just remember this Little Man. Back soon.