June 2, 2005 – March 18, 2013
Oscar, also known as ‘Poodles’, ‘Poodlepants’, ‘Poodle Man’, and a host of other nicknames that all invariable involved the word ‘poodle’, was a dog of unparticularly particular tastes. There may not have been rhyme nor reason for the peculiar set of rules by which he applied his affection, but they were strictly enforced by equal measures of exuberance and grumpiness.
Oscar first came to Heather as a puppy, when she worked at a boarding school. He might have been the runt of the litter, physically, but he had an undeniable personality. He was a happy little scamp, who had a tail wag for everyone. Oscar loves people, and being in a boarding school with lots of cooing girls gave him a ton of confidence. What Poodle wanted to do, Poodle did.
Oscar travelled with Heather across the country, from Toronto to the East Coast (where he gained a sister, Gemma, our other scruffy little mutt), and back across the country to Fort Mac, all in the back of an Echo, stuffed with Heather’s belongings. Oscar braved the journeys with his own brand of stoicism, settling himself comfortably in – as long as he was near his people, he could be comfortable.
When I first met Oscar a little over four years ago, I was not a dog lover. Oscar helped change that. It might have been the constant wiping of his food and water greased chin on my leg, or the hours we played his version of fetch in the nearby field, but somewhere along the line, this spindly, curly-fuzz face turned me right around on my attitudes towards dogs.
He’s hard not to love. Oscar greets every person over the age of five with an enthusiasm and affection that does not go unnoticed. He has his own move – not curiously dubbed ‘poodling’ – by which he ingratiates himself with every person he meets. And I do mean every person. It starts with a rarified tail wag – usually little more than a few twitches. He might bounce with a certain fanciness only a poodle can muster, right up to his intended target, and with a quick sniff for a treat, he’ll begin to press himself against his new found friend. He leans into it, as he rubs himself along the side, back, or front of available legs, with enough gusto to force the recipient of his affection to have to steady themselves. Unsuspecting parties are often knocked a step over, but are quick to remark with a smile at it. I have yet to witness someone whose day was not immediately improved upon by a solid poodling. I think it’s about the closest a dog can come to a hearty bear-hug, the kind that’s tight enough to shut the world out, but not so tight you can’t breathe. It’s the kind of hug that makes you feel loved.
Toddlers and babies he has little time for. There’s an age restriction for good reason. Behaviorists and other scholars of the canine will attribute it to some kind of distaste for the animations of the youths, their directionless ambulations, but let me tell you this: It’s a deference of qualified age restrictions: You must be of a certain age to both fully appreciate and fully withstand the force of a poodling. He loves children, just not those that might fall over when he shows them how much.
But just because he greets every stranger without prejudice, and with equal parts enthusiasm and affection, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t hold a lucky few in high regard. The greeting for those in his inner circle, especially those he has not seen in more than an hour (you should see it if it’s been more than a year!) is a sight best seen. Like Tiggers, Poodles are made of rubber and springs, and Oscar is no exception. For those he holds dear, nothing short of repetitive leaping in the air with unbridled joy will do. Many of us could take a cue from Oscar on how to show our friends and family how much they mean to us – there’s no mistake when the Poodlepants has adopted you as one of his special friends.
His exuberance was not just reserved for his human friends, however. Oscar never stopped playing like a puppy. It’s been marked often, with surprise that even at seven, his play is so young at heart. He bounced with anticipation when a ball was presented, and given the chance to have a few moments alone with a choice ball (Wilson or Dunlop were his preferred brands), he would create a little homage for each ball by tearing up all the grass around it and flinging the grass all about, before ripping the felt flesh from the rubber inside. It’s all very ceremonial.
One of his favorite past times was utilizing his ability to imitate a human burp in mixed company. Out for a walk, at family gatherings, Oscar would find the opportune time with the most people around to belch loudly, and in a manner where Heather or I were the most likely culprits of the social faux pas. It never stopped being funny for him.
Though Oscar’s youthful demeanor was present in his play and his affections for his human counterparts, he was a mature and patriarchal figure among his peers. He was selective about those he would consider allowing to ‘fetch’ with him, often keeping the ball for himself when too many others threatened to interfere with both the integrity and sanctity of his preferred sport. Though many were faster than him, he competed with a genuine lust for tennis balls that often dissuaded his faster companions from actually picking up the ball, leaving it for him to retrieve.
It was that kind of respect that Oscar received from many a dog. He may have been small for his breed, and perhaps a bit on the skinny side because of his ongoing struggles with Addison’s disease, but he exuded a toughness, an authority that most dogs respected immediately, with minimal communication. A car full of rowdy pups became quiet and orderly in his presence. Dogs visiting our home made sure to leave him his spaces for rest, where ever he chose that to be. Oscar preferred the company of people, but made his presence felt with dogs. He was not a tyrant though – good clean fun was fine with him, so long as it didn’t disturb him.
Time and again, Oscar proved to be a tougher dog than he appeared to be, and more loyal and protective than he let on in the day to day. In September of 2009, he was spooked by daylight fireworks on a Labour day weekend. Oscar bolted out of our sight and disappeared. Though we will never know what truly happened that night, we do know that he was most likely struck by a vehicle. He found shelter for the night, and despite having a fractured pelvis in two places, managed to limp his way home the next morning, only to collapse into our arms. True to form, he still challenges any vehicle that comes too close to him. He fears nothing on the road. That tough.
Oscar fears only those he deems his equals: The sky gods and their thunder and lightning.
When Gemma was bit by a German Shepherd, Oscar was first on scene, getting himself between his little sister and two much larger dogs – and stood his ground. Though he only rarely showed affections for her, he proved to be of deep character that day. He was there for his family, and would always protect them from dogs, cars, doorbells and unannounced visitors.
Oscar was also the inspiration of a local musical revolution of sorts, spearheaded by Heather. Hits like ‘A Poodle and You Know it’ by LMFAO and ‘Poodle Ninja’ by Classified. Classics like ‘Poodle Me Softly’ by Roberta Flack or the holiday classic ‘Poodle Pants’ (sung to the tune of Jingle Bells), almost every song known has a Poodle version now. Though largely unknown outside of our house, within these walls he was a veritable music factory. He has also changed the lexicon of language here, as ‘Poodle’ became a substitute noun, verb or adjective capable of a versatility that few other words can manage in the english language.
Oscar loved the little things: Balls (tennis preferred), sticks, peeing where other dogs peed, having his name said, getting a chin scratch, or scoring a rotisserie chicken on an unprotected countertop. He was a dog of simple tastes.
Two years ago, Oscar was diagnosed with Addison‘s disease, a rare-ish disease that affects his adrenal gland. The basiscs of Addison’s is that when Oscar was stressed out, his body attacked itself. This meant it was hard to keep weight on him, managing his diet and the disease with medications. But that wasn’t going to slow down Oscar. Once the worst of the symptoms had passed, and the medication had kicked in, Oscar was back to bouncing and fetching with the best of them.
A few months ago, our attentive vets detected a heart murmur. This quickly digressed into Congestive Heart Failure, which is an irreversible condition. Medication for this only slows the progress of this. However, the medications for Addisons and his heart didn’t seem to line up for very long. Three weeks after his diagnosis, Oscar stopped eating, and drinking, and started vomiting.
When we knew that we could no longer give him the quality of life where he could rest comfortably and easily, made the hard choice. We couldn’t watch him suffer, and we couldn’t bear to go through more stressful vet visits, more medications. Trying to manage his decline just seemed to cause him more discomfort.
We said our goodbyes in our home, and tried to make his passing as peaceful as possible. His passing was eased by the gentle touch of our Vet, Dr. Micheal Belovich, and his assistant / our wonderful neighbor, Ali Soloman.
He went quietly to sleep, surrounded by his family.
Our time with him was less than we wanted, and more than we expected, but it was all time we will cherish. We did what we could to make his life comfortable and full, and let him know all the time that he was loved.
Rest easy, Poodle buddy. We miss you.