Sentiment is a strange thing. Most of the time it comes cheap and easy like when we think of a pleasant childhood memory. Every once in a while it hits like a ton of bricks like when you lose a loved one. Generally we want to avoid being overly sentimental as it means we are spending too much time looking back. Occasionally we avoid it because it’s painful and exposed us to the simple fact that nothing is permenent. Today I am sentimental because a great friend of mine is dead but it took me a while to understand what that meant.
Ozric Grass was born a boxer puppy on tax day April 15th, 2003 and moved into his home on Roma street that June. His owner Kate Grass is one of the most wonderful women I’ve ever met and gave him the best home anyone, especially a dog, could want. He had a sister, Bonzai Grass, who liked to give him kisses when he tried to sleep or relax. I don’t think he minded it too much.
Most people wouldn’t claim that Ozric was the sharpest tool in the shed. I like to think it was a staged act giving him an out from having to do the tedious things we make our dogs do like fetch and rolling over. He was a master of getting people to pet him with his patented stance over your crossed foot or leg. Eventually all succumbed to the pressure and gave him a good petting.
He was a caramel color which would eventually match the linoleum flooring we installed in 2011 thus naming it CamoflOZ. His hair was short and soft and didn’t shed a great deal. While he didn’t mind having his head petted he loved it when you got his shoulders, back, and hindquarters the most. If you didn’t know this it was fine as he would adjust himself so your hand found its target. Of course he had his tickle spots on the sides of his neck and at the bottom of his sternum which would set his right back foot in a good kick.
Of all the memories we have of Ozric arguably the most memorable were from feeding times. Even at 9 years of age whether it was breakfast or dinner if you didn’t know it you would have thought that it was the first time he’d ever been fed.
In the mornings it would start at the bedside with a speech as clear as day. Not so much a bark as a moan crossed with a yogic OM. He would start low and relatively quiet and then it would grow in volume and length. Naturally this was accompanied with a spinning tail and tap tap tappy front paws. For good measure he would take a break and give a good down dog stretch and then pop right back to his ritual of getting you out of bed for the purpose of delivering him his rightful breakfast.
Things would only grow from there as he goaded you towards the food container. As soon as the lid rotated open and he heard the scoop grab his portion up a whirling dervish would appear. Front legs would hop 8 to 12 inches off the floor as anticipation boiled over. Next would come the helicoptering as he knew he needed to move out of your way and towards the bowl yet he also needed to keep an eye on you to make sure you remembered where to go. Once the path was set and a fairly certain agreement was made that you would make it there he would sprint the ten feet to his bowl. From there he would gesture exactly where you might want to consider placing the food by repeatedly jutting his face into the bowl and then bringing it back up to make eye contact with you. Occasionally he would get a bit over excited and kick the bowl across the room.
Placing the food in the bowl required some timing on your part. First of all you had to allow his head to get out of the way. Second you wanted to expel the food and remove your hand in time else it also become part of breakfast. Once deposited a feasting that only the shipwrecked may understand would commence and within 32 seconds all remnants of the meal were vanquished. However just to be certain all had been consumed the Oz would check back with the bowl no less that three or four more times to sniff out any crumbs and thoroughly lick everything clean.
His feeding habit is what first tipped us off that something was not normal. On Monday night we noticed that he ate slowly and not all at once. By Tuesday he wasn’t interested in his food at all. We gave him some rice and garbanzo beans and decided to take him to the vet on Wednesday. With nothing immediately apparent they opted for blood work and by Thursday it was determined that his Liver was not working and that he was experiencing pain akin to the worst bout of flu you or I have ever imagined.
Kate took the day from work and spent it with him at home laying together in peace. We talked about what to do and what the options were. Sure we could hospitalize him for treatment to fully determine if it was liver cancer or something treatable which still would probably not end in a positive outcome. The other option was to choose an unselfish route and give him a dignified moment with both of us there holding and loving him.
Last night we made the decision to give our friend a final moment with us before letting his pain and suffering end. He went calmly, peacefully, and beautifully. Just like we will always remember him. Ozric left us on June 21st of 2012. He was a 9 year old boxer and his liver failed him. He is survived by two parents and a Bonzai.
I like to think that we choose to live with animals because it makes us appreciate living more but also because they are our companions and teach us as much or more than we teach them. Ozric taught me that every meal is a feast. That nap times cannot come often enough and that being touched my someone you love is one of the best things in the world. With that in mind I will think of him happily and regularly as I try to remember that all of our time here is short and special. Love you buddy.