Thursday, November 5, 2009

Remembering Oscar

It doesn’t seem fair. As soon as I posted a story about Teddy, a former foster dog, I heard from my friend Ilona, who adopted Oscar from me years ago. It was one of the saddest phone calls I’ve received. She was inconsolable. She came home from babysitting her granddaughter to find Oscar had died with no warning. The only sign was that he seemed tired and wouldn’t eat that morning. 

Even though Oscar was adopted through Southern California Lab Rescue, I confess he wasn’t even close to a Lab, but when I was at the Escondido Humane Society, picking up a Lab, here was this gorgeous white dog with kennel cough, and he came home with me too.

So after the un-Collie (Teddy), I brought home an un-Labrador. I remember the president of Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue reminded me once that this was not Seattle Mixed Breed Dog Rescue… but I was incurable, and I don’t regret it.

But now I was in San Diego, and Oscar was my latest project. Before he went to his home with Ilona, he had a lot of fun at my house. One day, he was digging up on the backyard slope in the iceplant. His head was practically underground, and his white tail was waving like a frantic flag in the air. As I watched, about 10 feet away, a gopher popped up out of his hole and watched Oscar dig. I swear he was leaning on one elbow and laughing at Oscar’s futile quest.

Ilona is an incredible artist and seamstress with an adult son, Todd, who is autistic and lives with her. She has struggled for many years with burdens I can only imagine, and Oscar was a big help to her, bringing happiness into both of their lives.

It seems that we all need to write about beloved pets when they pass away in the hopes that this special animal will be remembered. I have done it; every writer I know does it. Here is what Ilona wrote in memory of Oscar:

To all my friends who knew Oscar,

My long time companion dog, Oscar, passed away suddenly today. He was 12 years old and was much loved by all who knew him. I adopted Oscar in 1999 from Labrador Rescue in San Diego when he was barely two. The terrible two's. Terry Albert was his first Foster Mom, and she became my long time friend because of our connection through Oscar. At first he was so full of energy the only thing that helped was training, training and more training. Oscar passed Obedience I, and his Canine Good Citizen award after taking the class twice and totally forgot much of what he learned, immediately afterward. But not long after that we went through his training to become an Assisted Therapy Dog and he had found his calling. All through the years that my Mom and Dad were in convalescence in Rochester, New York, Oscar visited the nursing homes with me and people loved him wherever and whenever we went.

In January of 2004 we adopted Heaven, who is a beautiful Golden Retriever female, aged nine at that time, and she became the love of Oscar's life. Until then he was pretty much a spoiled boy, but when Heaven came into his life, things changed. He and Heaven bonded soon after, and they have been inseparable buddies ever since.

Later in 2005, when my son Todd came to live with me, Oscar found another new friend. Many was the day when Todd would be having a difficult morning and Oscar, in his wisdom, would start acting silly---jumping on Todd's bed, grabbing his shoes, rolling on his back and wiggling around trying to get Todd to pay attention to him, and if that didn't work he would actually bark at Todd for attention. In the mornings when the bus would come, Oscar would insist on going outside to say goodbye to Todd, or he would bark in the house until the bus left. In the afternoons, Oscar would wait by the window for the bus to return with Todd.

He was like a shining beacon of joy, sticking his nose in everywhere, even when it didn't belong sometimes. But it was hard to stay mad at him for anything, with his sweet loving eyes and gentle ways.
It’s hard to know what to say after ten years with a friend who is with you through thick and thin and never asks for anything except to be petted, fed and loved. One can never be "prepared" for the final moment when their time comes to pass away. I miss him already, even though I know that ultimately he had ten great years with us and that is about all anyone can ask for. He will be missed for a long, long time.

Goodbye sweet Oscar. I hope you're up in heaven guarding my Mom and Dad.

Just a few weeks before his death, Ilona took Oscar and Heaven to a Blessing of the Animals event in San Diego. Ilona told me, “The Priest was so touched by them he blessed them twice! There also was a lady taking photos of the event and she got one really sweet shot of both dogs with the Priest. I was so happy that I did that, especially now that Oscar is gone.”

© 2009 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved. Blessing of the Animals photo by Tamandra at

1 comment:

Melodee said...

Terry & Ilona, I just saw this post. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my dear friend of 17 years in January and still miss her so much. I pray that the happy memories will carry you through the sad moments.
Jump Fur Joy
Santa Barbara, Ca