Goodbye Ollie

Certainly the hardest thing about life with dogs, is the short time we get with them. Last year I wrote a series of posts about a Great Dane named Ollie. Ollie came to a shelter I work with, the Animal Adoption Foundation in Ross Ohio, under tragic circumstances and became dangerously aggressive within weeks of being adopted out. Ollie’s adopters returned him to AAF, where – with a little guidance from me – the shelter’s amazing staff and volunteers taught him to trust and to safely be amongst people again.

It took two years to get Ollie ready to leave the shelter and to find him the right home, and boy did he find the right home. Ollie lived his last year or so with Jen, an active rescue volunteer who has a house full of rescued dogs, including a few misfits that most owners would have a tough time managing. I don’t think Jen has done or read much about training, but she’s one of those rare souls whose kindness and love for them dogs seem to intuitively understand and trust. Ollie spent a really wonderful year with Jen. In spite of all the odds against him, he got to experience being a much-loved pet in the very best of homes. No matter how long I work as a trainer, the evening that I spent helping Jen introduce Ollie into her household – and the feeling that I had when I left knowing that Ollie had finally found a home – will always be amongst my happiest memories.

I got a call a couple of hours ago informing me that Ollie bloated last night and could not be saved. I don’t know the details, but I know that Jen was with him and take comfort in that. Ollie was a special dog. There was something magnetic about him that created an extra-special place for him in the hearts of a great many people who work with a lot of dogs and witness a lot of sad stories. I live a long way from Jen and haven’t see Ollie in a long time, but I ran into Jen at a huge local dog event last weekend. She said she might bring Ollie up the following day, and I of course wanted her to let me know if she did. She told me that I was one of many who had stopped by with the same request. I wasn't surprised. Ollie had a big fan club.

Goodbye Ollie. Thanks for all that you taught me. I’m glad I knew you.

The House Dog's Grave (Haig, an English bulldog)

I've changed my ways a little; I cannot now
Run with you in the evenings along the shore,
Except in a kind of dream; and you, if you dream a moment,
You see me there.

So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
Where I used to scratch to go out or in,
And you'd soon open; leave on the kitchen floor
The marks of my drinking-pan.

I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do
On the warm stone,
Nor at the foot of your bed; no, all the night through
I lie alone.

But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet
Outside your window where firelight so often plays,
And where you sit to read--and I fear often grieving for me--
Every night your lamplight lies on my place.

You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard
To think of you ever dying
A little dog would get tired, living so long.
I hope than when you are lying

Under the ground like me your lives will appear
As good and joyful as mine.
No, dear, that's too much hope: you are not so well cared for
As I have been.

And never have known the passionate undivided
Fidelities that I knew.
Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided. . . .
But to me you were true.

You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.

Robinson Jeffers, 1941

Goodbye Ollie

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