“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.” –Unknown
This letter is more for me than you as I need to do this to help me grieve and I know you struggled with your reading while you were here 😉 I will read this to Ellexis and Ella when they are older so they know how important you were to us.
I remember the first night I met you – it was the first date with mommy. Most people have to get approval of a parent or sibling; I had to get approval from you – a 140lb Bullmastiff. At first you scared the heck out of me; your head was twice the size of mine and you were bigger than any dog I had ever met. Mommy took us for a long walk along the ocean and I even got to walk you for a bit (mommy tried to get me to pick up after you but I don’t think I was ready yet). From that night on, not only was I head over heels for mommy, but I was also absolutely thrilled to have you in my life. You see, I was the boy that was allergic to everything growing up so I never had pets. Even though you gave me hives every time you licked me or cuddled me, it never stopped us – the hives were well worth the Ozzy love.
That summer mommy had to work at a summer camp which meant it was daddy’s big week. I was such a proud daddy as we went to the beach and went for walks every day. I was so excited to answer any questions that people had about you – “what kind of dog is that?” “Is he friendly?” “Is he like the dog from Turner and Hooch?” “How much does he weigh?”. That week I introduced you, much to mommy’s dismay, to McDonald’s drive thru – plain double burger was where it was at, hey Bear? Shortly after that, you started to see me as “daddy” and you became “my bear” – and we all knew who ran the show from then on, don’t we?
The next year, I needed some help bringing mommy a very special gift. You were a star in your role and you helped to make sure she said “yes” and that we experienced one of the happiest moments of our lives.
Memories of this time are camping trips, dog parks, you having mud baths and then daddy having to get you all cleaned up, and finding you “hanging out” with 3 coyotes in the back of our house. I like to think I saved the coyotes from you. You always liked a job – carrying mommy’s purse, carrying sticks, or carrying your stuffy (although I was a little embarrassed when you tried to do this on your walks).
In May 2007, mommy and I got extremely busy. Daddy was doing his masters classes as well as getting ready for a career change; Mommy was also making a career change and we had spent so much time looking at houses and planning the wedding that we may have spent too little of time with you. When you sustained your injury (stroke in the spine) and you had no movement in your hind legs, mommy and I dropped everything to be with you. You taught us how important it was to live in the moment and not get too caught up in the future. We made our home a fort in the living room and we lived there for weeks. We were told that you may never walk again but we believed that with love and determination and fight from you, you would walk down the aisle with us as our ring bearer in a few months. The way you pulled yourself to the door to greet me when I got home showed me that you were going to beat this injury. A few days later your tail moved ever so slightly. Then you kicked one night. Then you moved your right leg. We felt it was time for some physio for you so we took you to doggy hydrotherapy. A short time later, you were walking! Although you had a limp, you were doing it buddy! I will never forget the time that we were “walking” (I had to lift your back end) and mommy pulled up in the truck. You saw her and it was like Forrest Gump when the braces broke – you just started running! Daddy could not even keep up! There was no looking back after that – you had proved so many people wrong and DID walk down the aisle with your Uncle Vince at our wedding, holding a bag with 2 special rings for us.
The next 4 years seemed to fly by! You loved your new home with the big fenced in yard. You were a big reason we chose this house – it was so “Ozzy”. You loved going and seeing mommy’s dance studio and getting all the attention from the girls. We spent the summers camping, playing soccer, chasing the lawnmower, and hanging out in your puppy pool; if we were outside, you were with us. We spent the evenings by the fire; I will never forget when you crawled up between mommy and I as we were watching the meteor shower. You also loved the snow in the winters, catching the snowballs we threw to you. When you got cold you would curl up with us by the fire. Christmases were your favourite – you got to see all the family and rip open everyone’s gifts.
Last summer, our life was flipped upside down. Mommy felt a lump on your back leg so we got it checked out. The doc told us that it was one of the most aggressive forms of cancer and if we did not do something, we might only have you for a few more weeks. Unfortunately, we had no choice but to put you through surgery. You fought through this and within a week, you were back up playing hide and seek with mommy… but the lump had returned. You were not ready to go; we started chemotherapy. I cried so much when I had to give you your first dose; it felt so wrong to give you drugs that were going to kill so much of you. Just like all the other challenges you faced, you fought through this and even though you felt absolutely horrible, when I got home that night and saw you all excited at the top of the stairs with a stuffy in your mouth and I knew you were going to fight this cancer too. In a few months, 2 babies were going to arrive and we knew you were going to hold on to help mommy and daddy through this pregnancy.
As we neared the end of the pregnancy, mommy’s pain worsened and she was unable to work. You cuddled with her all day every day to make sure she got through it. In December, we welcomed 2 girls to the family. Everyone always warned us that you would not be good with the babies. You proved people wrong once again and showed everyone how loving and gentle you could be with our precious girls. Your snuggles near them and kisses on their heads were times we will never forget. We shared so many amazing moments as a family in this short time.
Around Christmas, you developed a bad limp (now in your front leg). Although, in our gut, we knew what that meant, we decided to end the chemo (as it was making you so sick) and just give you some pain meds. Even with your sore leg, every time I got home, you jumped up to give me kisses and to go and get your stuffy for me. Our walks became shorter and shorter and you needed more and more help. Two weeks ago, you could barely walk so we had some x-rays done; the vet confirmed that the cancer was now in your bone and you only had days/weeks with us. We had family sleepovers in the living room and tried to spoil you with all the yummy food you could imagine. Even up until your final few days, anytime someone came over to see us, you hopped up, ran around and greeted them with such excitement. Last Wednesday, you stopped eating. You got up for the final time to see Grandma and Grandpa. On Thursday, you gave everything you had to just lift your head and give daddy a kiss and mommy a shake of your paw.
We lost you on Friday. We told you that there would be no more pills and needles and that you no longer needed to fight. We told you that we would be ok now and that it was time to end your pain.
What we call “normal” in our lives is just not there. There is a huge hole in our lives and even with two newborn daughters, our house feels quiet and empty. I keep looking for you curled up by the fire or in the kitchen or outside playing in the yard. When I have a bit of leftover food, I want to pitch it to you. I keep hearing you snore at night. Mommy and I came home to the house for the first time without you and I need to tell you Mason (our cat) did just what you taught him; he was at the top of the stairs to greet us with a toy in his mouth. Mason is so confused on the whereabouts of his brother.
Bear, we will be ok; soon the amazing memories that we shared with you will fill that hole and the sadness will turn to smiles. People will say that you were “just a dog” but we all know that to be a lie. You were our first “baby”. We treated you like a member of our family. You were the centre of attention at our house and became part of us. People would always ask how you were doing because they knew you were our “baby”. You taught us unconditional love and how to live in the moment. Whenever I had a bad day, I knew that I would come home to you at the top of the stairs and my day would be happy. By the time mommy got home from work, I had nothing to complain about because you had lifted my spirits.
Oz, mommy and daddy need to get used to the fact that you are not here anymore. I hope that each day will bring less tears and more happy memories of you. I want to thank you for the journey you took us on. You were our best friend, our hero, our baby, our Bear. As mommy says, “we will love you forever… and a day”.
G’night Bear. Daddy loves you.
Thank you to George, Lyn, Pernille, Lisa, my beautiful wife and my family for the encouragement to use writing as a support at this difficult time.
Thank you to all my friends and family who have sent us supportive messages on Twitter, Facebook and through email. It has truly helped.
Beautiful tribute, Chris—-and as sad as I am for you to have lost your dog, I’m even happier that you had the chance to live with him, right?
Whenever someone I know loses someone close to them, I like to remind ’em that every sunset on earth is really just a sunrise in heaven. If that’s true—and I believe it is—Oz is chasing bones on a beautiful day today.
Now that’s a memory worth holding on to!
Thanks for sharing
Thank you so much for sharing your story and more importantly, your love for your beloved baby. As a fellow dog lover, our baby will be 8 in April and we’ve been through too many surgeries and emergencies. We will do anything for our Rascal to be safe and healthy. Thank you for reminding us to appreciate every moment. I will keep you and your family in my prayers as you get used to a new normal. Nancy
When I lost Kobe, someone said this to me:
“Dogs spend their whole lives being there for us, but there is a time when we need to be there for them. What you did was an act of kindness and unselfishness because you were there for your dog. You did what you did out of love and nothing else.”
Out of everything, that was the only thing that made sense to me during those times.
Your dog was extremely special and I know that we are better people when we have them in our lives. You were blessed not only to have Oz, but now to have memories that will impact you and make you a better person.
I am sorry for your loss Chris and will be there if you need anything.
What a lovely tribute to Ozzy, Chris! I have tears in my eyes now as I write you this comment. I remember grieving the loss of two of my wonderful dogs, and I wish that there was something I could say to make this easier. Just know that all of your friends and family, both online and in person, are here to support you during this difficult time.
Thinking about you and your family, Chris!
What an incredibly moving tribute to a cherished family member. I’ve never had a pet, as I am terribly allergic, so I have never known any of the experiences that go along with it. To be honest, before now I don’t think I truly appreciated how people felt about their animal family members, especially after the loss of one. Your post is touching and eloquent, and I thank you for letting us in on what must be a terribly difficult time. I hope that writing this has helped you and your family.
As I write this my fourteen and a half year old Springer Fanny is sleeping peacefully next to me and tears are in my eyes. Your post was such a beautiful tribute to the memory of your dearest friend. Anyone who has ever thought “it’s just a dog” has missed out on knowing the true friendship and love that dogs bestow upon us. Fanny has gotten me through my husband’s continuing illness and all the baggage that goes along with it and has never judged, only loved.
Hopefully, one day, there will be a new friend in your life.
I have no idea who you are but I am grieving with you. Your post made me cry.
I lost my dog July 2009 and while it does get easier, the hole never fills up. Sometimes I still cry over his loss, sometimes it saddens me to look at his favourite spots around teh house, a year and a half later, that still remind me of him. Oddly enough, sometimes I think I smell or hear him too. And while his shedding used to get on my nerves, now I long to find a single hair hidden away in old, packed up clothing or hidden in the binding of his bed.
The story you shared of your dog is a beautiful one. You can tell by his face in the pictures that Bear was all heart and a whole lot of love. I am so sorry for your loss and keep finding outlets to grieve over him: a scrapbook was mine and it now rests at the top of my bookshelf.
Also, this may sound absurd, but there is a “dog psychic” on Sirius radio (I don’t recall her name, but if you google it, I’m sure you’ll find it) and my very skeptic father called her, shortly after Elmo (my dog)’s death and she told us that he was very happy, he was in no pain, that he loved our new house (oddly enough, we moved a couple months prior to his death), that he loved us and all the special meals he got from us (we never fed him dog food, only home-cooked Italian meals) and that he was with an older couple (also oddly enough, both my grandparents on my mother’s side had recently passed, as well). While you never know how much of that “psychic stuff” to believe, to hear that he was happy, that he wasn’t in pain, and that he was safe (even if it was who-haw) was comforting in itself.
Good luck. I know there are many people around you to help you get through this.
What a wonderful tribute Chris. I feel for you buddy. Funny how pets can naturally grow into who the identity of your family becomes. I’ll be thinking of you in the coming days.
Thank you for this moving tribute, Chris,
My dog Lilly is 15. We’ve had a few scares this year. I will be returning to your piece, I’m sure. Thank you for reminding me to be brave.
You have expressed your love for Ozzy in such a beautiful way that I am still trying to compose my self as I write this. Aren’t dogs amazing vessels of love? I have never had anyone greet me so eagerly when I have returned home in the evenings. Nor have I had anyone know just when to cuddle or just when to sit quietly to give me comfort. I have been blessed to have had the love of three incredible dogs (Labs) during my adult life. Each one had special traits and quirks, but each loved my unconditionally. I still miss each one, and only cry now when someone reminds me of how much their dog loves them just as you did with this post. Ozzy was lucky to have you and his mommy, but you were much luckier to have known him and shared part of your life with him.
May the pain ease each day and may your family be stronger for having known Ozzy.
What an amazing story! It brought tears to my eyes. Nothing can ease your pain right now, but know that you have a lot of people thinking about you.
I am so terribly sorry for your family’s loss. Your tribute is moving, beautifully written, and makes abundantly clear the love you all shared. Please know that your friends and colleagues here share in your grief.
I’m off to hug my lab in honor of Ozzy and to send warm thoughts in your direction.
Wishing you and your family comfort, peace, and healing,
What a beautiful tribute Chris. Ozzy was truly an integral part of your family and he will be missed – by all whose lives he touched. Take comfort in the time you had with him and what he was able to bring to your life.
I needed to prepare myself to read your post because I knew it would bring tears to my eyes. I took in a deep breath and started to read. Your post made me laugh, cry, laugh again and then cry again, again, and again. “They” say some dogs have quite the vocabulary. It makes me wonder if maybe Ozzy was a better reader than you are giving him credit for. 🙂
Now that he is gone, there will be a big hole, but fill it with memories. How many remotes did he eat? Why was it so important that everything always be picked up off the floor? The fact that he was here to meet the girls.
You guys were lucky to have him in your lives, but also…What a lucky dog Ozzy was!
you did it again… more tears but so worth it. That is such a great tribute to Ozzy… he knew every day he was loved by both of you (and now the girls). When I would look after him, he would sit with me (on me!) on the couch and have one ear perked listening for you guys to come home. He would sleep and snore but was always on alert… waiting for you when you came to the door. Ozzy was very lucky to have you as family and you were very lucky to have him in your lives. Having Ozzy in your life and learning how much a pet means to a family has made you an even more incredible human being. I just loved it when he met me at the door (Grandma’s here!) and quickly went to get his stuffy for us to play with… will miss him. Luvya lots.
What a wonderful tribute to Ozzy Chris. I know how much you and Tonya loved him and will miss him. I wish I had the privilege of meeting Ozzy in person, but after reading this tribute I felt-like I knew him well. I cried the whole time as I read your praise of the greatest friend a man could have. Hugs
Chris, I am so sorry for your loss. Words help a little, time does wonders and laughter is the best healer. In time the skip of your heart will be when you remember the joy it was having Ozzy in your life. My thoughts are with your family during this time.
I am sorry to hear of your family’s loss. A friend of mine shared your blog with me and I had to write. Your letter of love to your beloved Ozzy touched my heart! We all have these special loves in our lives. My first was Rags. She will be forever in my heart. My current love, Scruffy, sits at my feet as I write this post. I am going to go play ball with him now.
Your Ozzy will be at the other end of the Rainbow Bridge, waiting for you…
Chris – What a great tribute to a great dog 🙂 I love how you have taken the time to put into words your memories and experiences with Ozzy. This will ensure that Ozzy lives on forever. I’m sure this is such a difficult time for you and your family, but you are doing it right by celebrating the time you were able to spend together.
Thank you for sharing this.
Sending your family and you prayers. Rosco has been really sick the last couple of days and I took him to the vet and he’s better, but when he gets sick I always think about “this day” coming and how I will get through and handle it. Your post gives me strength and reminds me its okay to grieve and even publicly for our friends understand and are with us. When the time comes this post will give me strength and remind me I’m not alone so thank you. Sending your entire family virtual hugs.
Chris, what a wonderful tribute to your beloved Ozzy! It’s been just over 8 years since we had to say goodbye to our Marti. It does get easier. Keeping you and your family close in heart at this difficult time.
My grandmother passed away about 10 days ago after her own battle with cancer, and so much of what you wrote here really resonates. I really got a lot out of this. The most important thing is to keep your memories close in your mind – that way Ozzy is never far from your heart.
I wrote a short tribute to my grandmother, as well, if anyone’s inclined to read it:
Chris… this is one of the most beautifully written posts that I have ever read. It took me back to the time when we lost our beloved Sheltie Toby and made me think about the fact that,at 9 years of age,we are going to have to face the pain again sometime in the future with our dog Skye…who is sitting outside on his mat as I write these words.
I can say to you that the pain does subside and now we talk all the time about Toby’s stories like the time he destroyed our new table and the time he cornered four neighbourhood cats! We laugh at this and remember just how much a little bundle of fur added so much to our lives.
Thank you for your wonderful post.
Very touching tribute, Chris. Sorry for your loss and thank you for sharing. My eyes are still wet.
Bill, that is a great picture in my mind. Thank you so much for that.
Remi, thanks for continue to share your vids and pics of your dogs. They always make me smile.
Nancy: yes, appreciate every moment. I am thankful that we had the last 6 months with the knowledge that cancer would soon defeat Oz. We made sure to cherish and record so many amazing moments.
George, thanks for your continued support. Your words truly help. Things are getting better every day. Your perspective helped me get through those guilty feelings.
Aviva, I have been amazed at the circle of people that have stepped up to support us during this trying time. So many have been through this and the words of many have truly helped. Thank you.
Erin, writing has helped me. It has taken me a week to be able to read the comments without tearing up. I was like you up until 6 years ago and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to have such an amazing pet – Oz taught me so much.
JoAnn – thanks for such a touching comment. Oz helped us through some terribly difficult times and we will always remember him for that. We will get another dog some day and a whole different relationship will develop that involves our kids. Oz will always hold such a dear place in my heart.
Claudia, wow, your words certainly resonate with me. When we find smells of Oz around the house, we all pause and enjoy those sensations. We have had some odd moments that seem to say that he is still around… not sure how to take them but these moments definitely make us smile. Thanks so much for your meaningful words.
Brad… your words sum it up perfectly. Our pets become a part of who we are.
Lee Ann… enjoy the moments with Lilly! I am so happy that you have had 15 years with her.
Paula… your words are so powerful and I know that I will always look back with the same love that you do of your dogs (as well as cherishing the many moments with future dogs). Thank you for your support.
Kathryn, thank you so much for your support and taking the time to connect.
Sarah, thank you for your words. Please give your lab another hug from Ozzy and me!
Cyndie, this past week has given us much time to reflect upon the great times we have had with Ozzy. The tears are beginning to turn into teary-eyed smiles. Thank you for your support.
Lisa, thank you so much for ALL your support through the past challenging 6 months. Whenever we see a chewed remote or think about putting every little thing away before we leave the house, we now can smile as that was just who Ozzy was. Please give Rio a huge “Bear” hug from the Oz man.
Grandma… he sure loved it when you came over (and spoiled him!). All the cool stuffies that you got him brought so many smiles to our lives (the lips with the cigar… the kookaburra from AUS was his fave.) Thinking of him wearing his “boots” from you and “prancing” around your house is something I will never forget. Thanks for all the love!
Wobbina (Beeners), the support that you have given me throughout this past year has been so important. There is nothing like a Beener hug to help the tough days. Thank you.
Anna, thanks again for commenting. Yes, the laughter of the goofball that was Ozzy is definitely helping us get used to life after him. Thanks again.
Mary… we have been thinking a lot about the Rainbow Bridge and the great images that result definitely help us. Please give Scruffy a big hug from us!
Justin, I never realized how helpful writing would be for me. Thanks for taking the time to read and share the post.
Shelly, thanks so much for your positive energy (that goes way beyond just this post). Lots of hugs to Rosco!
Linda, thank you for your continued support through these past months. It has truly helped having other dog lovers to share great memories.
Dogs give us things that we cannot get from any other place in our lives. Ozzy sounds like a true friend who has a special place in your heart. I know the true pain, sorrow and appreciation you get from this special friend, as I have lost my friend Abbe. She was a boxer. I miss her too. What I learned about relationships from Abbe I will take with me through life. Grieve deep but it is all worth it to have known the love.
Matt, I am glad that is post, as well as your post, has caused us both to reflect on the great pets and people that have been such an important part of our lives. The lessons taught to us will live on in us, our children, and our students.
Malcolm: the pain of losing Ozzy has sometimes given me thoughts that maybe I would not want another dog as the pain is just too much. However, the great joyous memories make it all worth it and although dogs are only with us for a short time… the moments spent make our lives that much better.
Shawn, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. The support of people like yourself has been nothing short of amazing.
Marilyn… it is amazing how pet owners can help each other so much through these difficult times. I hope that the post has made you reflect on the wonderful moments with Abbe. You are so right in how much they teach us about relationships. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
What you wrote was so touching and very moving (shouldnt have read it at work). Ozzy was a gentle giant that loved coming to visit us at the clinic even when it was for blood work or more xrays. We will all miss him greatly but know in our hearts he is off chasing rabbits and squirrels and is now pain free. You and Tonya gave him an incredible life and more. he was spoiled with both love and treats. he did love his Dairy Queen ice cream as i recall. hahaha
Like I said we will all miss him and hope that writing this letter to Ozzy has helped you in the healing process.
Lori (aldergrove Animal Hospital)
I am so sorry for your loss, Chris. We said ‘farewell’ to our first baby a few years ago. And this post has me weeping because my brother was just told yesterday that his English Mastiff, Diesel, has osteosarcoma (sp?) on one of his front legs. The prognosis isn’t good. When he is ready, I will show him your tribute and encourage him to reflect on a life well-shared with his buddy.
Thank you for sharing this tribute. It is beautiful.
Trina, this is the same cancer that Ozzy had. We did the surgery and the chemo and prolonged his life by 6 months… would never give back those 6 months for anything. Thank you so much for sharing… still helps us to heal.
Thank you for sharing Chris!
It is amazing how through all the, “no not those shoes” or “what are you doing to your sister” our dogs are so much a part of us.
May you find comfort in the memories and smiles in the joys.
You nailed it… I miss seeing those chewed up remotes and messed up laundry baskets with that guilty dog beside it. We will soon get another dog but will never have another Ozzy. Thanks for sharing!
I cried for weeks after my dog died. Animals give you such unconditional love and you are right to grieve.
So many warm and loving memories of Ozzy. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. I thought of my own dog as I read about yours. Pets are such valued members of the family. The laughter and joy they bring… Thank you for the reminder to slow down and enjoy your time with them.