Friday, June 8, 2012
In the winter of 2004 a strange little creature showed up on the doorstep of our family home. At first when my Dad saw her he thought she was a pile of dirt and leaves. Upon discovering it was an injured dog on the brink of death who was eating the cat food on the front stoop my mom decided to spend the next few nights sitting out on the porch trying to hand feed her. When she finally became so weak that she couldn't shy away from us we picked her up and carried her to the pool bathroom and cleaned her up. It looked like she had been attacked some larger creature, possibly a coyote, and her left ear was torn apart and full of maggots. Most of her hair was missing and her teeth were rotten. She had a cataract in one eye and she was almost completely deaf with a pronounced neurological tremor. We took her to the vet assuming they would suggest she be put down but after a thorough examination Dr. P (our trusted family vet) said there was nothing wrong with her that some antibiotics, TLC and patience couldn't fix. He also said that he would have put her age around 11 or 12 years. The loose skin on her tummy was a telltale sign she had given birth to several litters of puppies and her expertly cropped tail was evidence that someone had put a fair amount of money into her cosmetic enhancement. But she wasn't an identifiable breed...unless Dr. Seuss had started some covert breeding program...and she was the most ridiculous looking creature any of us had ever laid eyes on so she certainly wasn't bred for her beauty.
We initially named her Hughie after the frontiersman Hugh Glass, who in 1823 survived an attack by a grizzly bear, set his own leg, used maggots to treat his own gangrene infection and somehow managed to crawl 200 miles from the forks of the Grand River in South Dakota to Fort Kiowa near Yellowstone. However, the more I looked at her the more I wanted to call her Odie and then when I said it out loud she actually cocked her head and looked at me. So it was settled...she was Odie.
She immediately took to my Grandma who was still living at the time. The devotion she showed to my Grandma led us to develop the backstory that she must have belonged to a little old lady who passed away and then whoever took care of her after the little old lady's death must have driven her to a park and abandoned her. The mysterious origins of Odie aside, she adored my Grandma and could often be found at the foot of Grandma's bed as Grandma Dorothy would sit there and do her crossword puzzles. In the mornings Grandma would fry her a plate of eggs and occasionally treat her to a little bit of Hershey bar. Actually, the last conversation I had with my Grandma in the hospital was about Odie. She wanted to know if Odie was missing her and if I was still making Odie eggs. The answer was yes to both questions.
After Grandma passed she transferred all of her love to my Dad and could usually be found laying next to my Dad in bed, riding with him on his quad up at the ranch near Yosemite and begging for food from guests at our bed & breakfast. She liked bacon and chocolate. If a guest was eating and not feeding her she would reach a paw up and tap their thigh to remind them she was there and to hurry the hell up and give her a piece of bacon. Few people that saw her could resist. Furthermore, few people could look at her goofy little face and not make a gushy, "Awww..." noise indicating that they thought she was the most ridiculous, pitiful yet adorable little creature they had ever seen.
If the experts were right about Odie she probably 19 or 20 years old when she passed on June 6th. In her lifetime she had managed to survive a severe Coyote attack, septicemia, a heart attack, being lost in the woods of Yosemite as a partially deaf and blind dog, choking on a giant piece of hamburger meat and being euthanized.
The hamburger incident occurred a few months back when after begging my dad for some of his late night hamburger snack Dad flung her what was left of his patty. Rather than chewing, she inhaled the thick burger and the next thing I knew my Dad came running in to wake me up because Odie was choking. My mom yelled at me to attempt the Heimlich maneuver saying, "Well you're an EMT...you know how to do this stuff right?" I replied, "They don't train us how to do it on twenty-five pound Dr. Seuss dogs!" I did attempt a Heimlich but to no avail...thus a finger sweep was in order. My mom held her down, my Dad held her jaws open and I used my longest slenderest finger (the middle one) to scrape out the giant chunk of hamburger. She was able to breath again...and all was well.
Then there was the attempt at euthanizing her. As she was so old and incontinent we thought that perhaps it was best to let her go with dignity in the comfort of her bed, eating chocolate chips and watching her favorite show "Storage Wars" on A&E. She basically was given enough sedatives to knock out a horse and survived it. As my best friend Chastity put it, Odie was saying, "Nuh uh...I ain't ready to go anywhere yet...not on my schedule."
But in the end Odie passed away this week at home. It was completely unexpected. She spent her last day playing in the backyard, following her favorite person (Dad) around, sleeping on his feet as he worked in the garage at his bench and then simply didn't come back in after going out to go potty later that evening. There was never going to be an easy way to say good-bye to her. She had lived so long and defied the odds so many times already I guess I just sort of figured she was going to live forever. An odd thing happened though the night she passed. I was walking to the kitchen and strolled by the picture of my grandmother that I keep on the piano. It's a photo of my grandma playing Scrabble. It was her favorite thing to do on a Saturday night and Odie usually slept on her feet as we played. As I walked passed the picture I stepped down into the living room and rubbed the dust off of it with my thumb. I never do that. But I felt the urge to. When I walked back into room where we were all watching television my Dad walked in and said that he had found Odie. I had this odd feeling at that moment that almost five years to the day since my Grandma had died, Odie had gone to be with her. I am not sure what system of beliefs that scenario I just described fits into. I don't know that I care. But it is what I felt in that moment.
So anyway, I just wanted to make sure I took a moment to memorialize a wonderful little soul that graced us with her presence.