Death of Old Oscar
Oscar, The Dog Who Smiled
Death of a Beloved Pet
Oscar is the name of Tiny's dog. She is my sister in law, and she usually refers to Oscar as Baby. I'll explain more about that later. He is about 14 years old (98 in dog years) and one of the most relaxed and loving dogs I've ever known. But what makes him so unique is that he smiles. He smiles a lot. Like every time he greets someone, he comes up to them, smiling. Well, it's more like he's baring his teeth, and the corners of his mouth don't turn up as they do on those dog food commercials, but his tail is wagging wildly, so you know he's happy to see you. I don't know how he ever developed this talent, but it's very disarming. It can also be a little confusing, too, the first time he rushes up to greet someone, though. Seeing teeth and tail wagging at the same time doesn't always make sense to a stranger.
Oscar came into her and her husband's life after Oliver died. Oliver, the first of their remarkable dogs who, too, had a very unremarkable pedigree. He, like Baby, was a mixture of Chow and mutt, and both had identically calm and friendly temperaments. Oliver, however, never acquired the talent of smiling. When he died, they decided to try and find another mixed breed similar to his, and, against all the odds, they were successful.
Old Oscar Loved People, Especially Children, and Swimming Pools
Oscar was a rambunctious pup, full of life and energy like most puppies are. His curiosity and love of people made him the perfect pet around children and endeared him to everyone he met. He didn't like getting into the deep water of the swimming pool but could be found standing on the steps, chest-deep on any hot day, cooling off. We've had lots of parties at my sister-in-law's house, and the pool is always the centerpiece of these summertime get-to-gathers. My brother-in-law will be grilling hamburgers or chicken while the kids are splashing wildly in the water. Children having fun in the pool always excited Oscar. He ran around the swimming pool, barking and threatening to jump in, but chest-deep water was his limit.
As Oscar aged, along with his owners, walks in the neighborhood and through the adjacent park, became their preferred daily exercise. His pace had slowed from the teenager he once was, but the sight of a squirrel or rabbit could still prompt him into a surprisingly quick dash. Over the past few years, Tiny's indulging her 'baby' with chicken that she had cooked, especially for him, was the joke of the family. But, we all had to agree, Oscar was worth a little pampering.
When The Time Comes, It's A God-Send To Know a Compassionate Vet
Today, I was allowed to come by and say goodbye to my favorite canine. This dog had etched a place in my heart next to the one a little Cocker Spaniel, named Princess, had made there years before. They both had advanced into illnesses that left them in constant pain, and the sympathy that one feels for them outweighed any desire to let them continue suffering. After a lengthy consultation and the lack of options, she and the Vet agreed that Saturday would be Oscar's last day.
When this same situation happened to my family 26 years ago, it was no less gut-wrenching to end our Cocker's life. She was howling in pain despite the drugs and to cling to some notion of a miracle cure seemed selfish and cruel. Unlike this day, mid-April 2020, things are vastly different than that day, April 1994. As I write this, we in Texas, the nation, and the world are in the grips of the COVID 19 Pandemic. Driving up in front of the Vet's office and allowing someone in a mask to come out and lead Baby into the building to be euthanized just wasn't an option for Tiny.
It May Be The Best Thing For Oscar, But It's Hard On His FamilyClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Surprising Thing About The Vet Who Makes House Calls
A worldwide pandemic, as we are finding out, turns everything that we have come to know as normal behavior, upside down. But in Oscar's case, this has had some unexpected benefits.
The Vet came to Oscar, making an old-fashioned house call. When I was faced with the same ordeal years ago, I drove to the Vet's office. This decision doesn't sound like much, but our dog, named Princess, was deathly afraid of going to the Vet. No matter the reason for the visit, she would begin shivering uncontrollably as soon as we turned into the parking lot. Leeroy told me that Oscar had the same fear when it came to Veterinarians.
Oscar was at home, comfortable, and at ease with his family. Even if things had been as before, taking your pet to the Vet's office and putting them through this ordeal, seems unnecessarily cruel. This Vet was calm and caring, and I believe her experience and empathy towards the family relieved everyone's stress. No matter how rational the decision is to end a pet's life, there's always the nagging feeling of guilt. After all, it's the humans that make this choice, not the pets.
After having greeted her and settled down, the Vet gently gave him an injection of muscle relaxant. It took only minutes for Oscar to lie down and fall asleep. The four of us petted and cooed over him, and there was not a dry eye in the house. Each of us knew that the next injection would stop his tender heart and rip ours apart.
She and I then removed Oscar to her vehicle after confirming that he had passed. She then delivered him to the pet crematorium and promised his owners she'd bring back the ashes in a week or so. This action was over and above anything, I have ever heard of or would have expected.
Final Thought About The Process
Families in all seasons of their lives have pets, and ending their lives takes a toll. I don't think death ever gets easier...maybe harder as we get older. With social distancing and "shelter in place" requirements, a pet may be the only companionship many Seniors may have. Some extraordinarily kind and compassionate professionals can help make this stressful process a bit easier.
A crisis has the potential to bringing about both good and bad behavior in people, and lately, we've been seeing some of the best from trained, caring medical professionals. Seeing the tender touch of this Veterinarian has given me an awareness of a service that I had no idea even existed. Even though social distancing and mask-wearing seem to take away the personal touch, what I witnessed today may have turned some of that downside, back up.