Last Saturday afternoon, 8th of July, O.J, the dog who changed my life, my favourite dog in the world was put to sleep.
This is the hardest post I’ve written in almost ten years of writing this blog. I wanted to give myself a few days so that I could write something that would make sense. I wanted to describe my last day with my special boy as best I could.
We discovered at the beginning of March that O.J had very bad arthritis, and that medication would only ease the pain for so long. For the next four months he had good days and bad, and there was a few times when I thought I might have to take him to the vet sooner than I was prepared to. Throughout this, O.J stayed his typical self. He played when he could. He looked for food and attention from anyone who would give it to him. His tail never stopped wagging when I spoke to him, except one day at the end of June when I visited my parent’s house and didn’t realise he was in the kitchen. But every other day he tried his best.
Last Saturday morning after making an appointment with the vet, Sibyl and I walked around the park and along the beach to my parent’s house. This was O.J’s favourite walk. Sibyl was unusually relaxed and quiet, and was completely happy for him to get all the attention for the afternoon when we were there. People say dogs sense things, and I think I believe that from how Sibyl and Dougal have been acting since Saturday.
I sat on the grass in the sun and talked to and cuddled O.J, while he wagged his tail, play bit me and barked at people walking up the road. I groomed him, which I have done for the last ten years almost every time we went somewhere in public. I had lunch inside and O.J enjoyed eating a chew. Two of my nephews were there, and I tried to act normal around them, although they knew O.J wasn’t well and I wasn’t happy.
When we arrived at the vet, O.J decided to go for a pee before we went in, which was funny. He stepped on and off the weighing scales a couple of times, and tried to get petted by anyone who would look at him. To them, he just looked like a big gentle dog with a shiny black coat and a very sore leg. The vet we went to was so kind and sensitive. She asked questions, completely listened to me, and only when I had made my final decision told me that in her opinion I was brave and fair to him, and that it was the right one. She admitted she wished she wasn’t working that day, and genuinely seemed upset. She told me that we could give him very strong painkillers, but he would be sleepy all the time, and he wouldn’t be the dog I knew. Up until the end, O.J was his usual self, and that’s the dog I’m going to remember. The whole thing was so relaxed and peaceful for him, and he was wagging his tail with his head on my knee until he was quietly and gently put to sleep.
Even though we were all heartbroken, I think I was the person who was most prepared. My family really weren’t expecting that outcome, and telling my seven and ten-year-old nephews was especially difficult. I always said I would never let him suffer, or keep him longer just because I don’t want to let him go, and that was a promise I was able to keep. Of course I wish I could keep him forever. His collar is hanging at the bottom of the stairs. Someone put it there as a reminder for me to put away somewhere, but in the meantime I like it being there. I sometimes touch it when I’m going up or down without thinking about it, and then it reminds me of him. I have photos that people can describe to me. I have some videos and a recording of his bark on my phone. But I still can’t believe I’m never going to be able to pet him again, which I suppose is the equivalent of not seeing him. I don’t ever want to forget what he feels like.
O.J was the most genuine gentle dog I have ever met. He wasn’t a perfect guide dog. No dog is, but he was perfect for me. Other dogs will continue to build on the independence and confidence that he gave me, but they will never make such a huge lifechanging impact on my life like he did.
My two favourite letters of the alphabet will always be O and J.
I’ll always have a soft spot for black labrador retrievers.
O.J will always be my favourite dog, and I’m so lucky to have had him in my life for ten amazing years.
O.J, 13/03/2006 – 08/07/2017