Omie’s Anniversary

July 18, 2012

There is one soul in all of this that does not get thanked or praised enough for all of the silent support she gives me.

That is my beloved Omie Lou.

Today marks Anniversary 8 for me and Omie, so I thought I would write her story.  (Warning: sappy dog story ahead.)

The story actually starts with a boy who had asked me to spend my life with him.  And I said yes.  And our days were filled with talking and dreaming about all the things our perfect life together would entail.  And the vision of our bright beautiful future included the desire for a dog.

The perfect dog.

The boy’s perfect life with his perfect girl would include his perfect dog.

He had a list.  A black lab.  Two years old.  Already trained.  Already fixed.  Ideal for hiking and swimming and perfect adventures.

Around the time of his birthday, he sent me on a search to find this dog for him.

So on a (rare) day off, AA and I drove into the thriving metropolitan JC for a trip to the dog pound.  Upon arrival, AA instantly fell in love with a little female pup and stayed glued to her cage (torturing herself over not being able to give the girl a home) while I wondered off, shopping for an item that would fill all requirements on the list.

Cage after cage.  Dogs barking and barking.  Yipping.  Howling.  Trying to catch anyone’s attention.  So loud.

Cage.  Bark.  Cage.  Bark.  Cage.  Bark.  Cage.  Omie.

There she was.  Sitting.  Smiling.  Silent.  I loved her.

One of the volunteers from the shelter saw me stopped in front of Omie’s kennel.

“Would you like to walk her?” she asked.  “Yes, please.” I replied.  “She’s really sweet,” said the girl as she opened the cage and slipped a purple rope leash over Omie’s head.

I walked her around the yard.  She was sooooo skinny.  She’d been hit by a car.  Her tail bent in the middle, mending from being broken and she had a lot of pain in her back right hip, a problem that would probably never completely go away.  The volunteer told me she’d been picked up off the street.  They couldn’t be certain, but based on her teeth, they were guessing she was 4 or 5.  And judging by a hernia that hadn’t healed and the fact that she wasn’t spayed, they suspected she’d had a litter of puppies at some point.

She really was sweet.

And I loved her.

She didn’t meet any of the requirements on the list.  She was a retriever/shepherd mix.  She was older. They didn’t know if she was house-trained.  Unfixed.  Injured.  Fail.

I put her back.

“Not the dog for you?” asked the volunteer.  Although, her eyes were asking, “How could this not be the dog for you?”  “Well… I was actually looking for a black lab…”  I rattled off my list of requirements.  “Oh,” she said.  “We actually have that exact dog.  She’s even a purebred black lab.”  She walked me down to a kennel that was away from all the others.  There was a family that was moving and could not take their dog (creatively named ‘Blackie’) with them.  They had brought her in just that morning in hopes of finding a good home for her.  Blackie was two years old, had been to obedience school, spayed, was in perfect health and up-to-date on all vaccinations.  “She’s a rare find at a shelter.  She’ll be gone by the end of the day,” said the volunteer. “If you want her, you better fill out the paperwork now.”

So I did.  I walked up the hill, past the smiling Omie my heart ached for, collected AA, filled out the papers to become Blackie’s new owner and headed home to let the boy know I found his dog and we could go pick her up as soon as we wanted.

A week later, the boy and I went to JC to pick up the black lab.  He was so excited.  We had found the perfect dog.  We leashed Blackie and he walked her around the yard.

He didn’t seem happy.

“What is it?” I asked.  “I dunno.  It’s not right.  It doesn’t feel right.”  Blackie was big and strong and overjoyed to be out of the kennel and was yanking the boy around the yard.  “She just pulls me,” he said.

The pound was about to close and a volunteer urged us up to the front desk to finalize everything.  And at the very last second, the boy said no.  “This isn’t the dog for us.”  And we drove home.  Sad.

I had been thinking about Omie all week.  I talked about how much I loved her name (while we were brainstorming about what to re-name Blackie).  I talked about how sweet and gentle she was.  And I talked about how guilty I felt for putting her back.  I felt like I had done the wrong thing.

But some things are meant to be.  And The Universe has a way of making sure those things happen.

The next day, I came home from work and found the boy in the kitchen in front of his laptop.  He was happy again.  He’d been on the shelter’s website and found the perfect dog.  He was going to go get her.  “It’s Omie,” he said.

And two weeks later (she had to be sent to the vet to be spayed and vaccinated before they would let us have her) Omie Lou joined our family.  And I loved her.

But it constantly lived in the back of my mind.  I had put her back.  And the boy had saved her.

For a long time I believed this made Omie his dog.  I was mistaken.

I’m not sure when it happened.  Maybe from the moment our eyes met on that first day at the shelter… maybe she knew from the very beginning that we would need each other.  But somewhere along the line, Omie claimed me.

We ran together nearly every morning.  I fed her, bathed her, brushed her teeth, brought her toys and treats, gave her medicine, took her to the vet.  And very quickly, our routine of taking turns getting up to let Omie out in the morning turned into me getting up (usually before sunrise) to let her out.  I didn’t mind.  She was my girl.

And there were loads of antics and adventures.

There was our first 4th of July with Oms when she ran off because she was scared of the fireworks.  (We sat in the back of the car at the lake until 4 in the morning waiting for her.  I knew she’d come back.)  There was the time Omie chased, captured and slaughtered a groundhog in front of a 5 year old boy on the VA Creeper Trail.  There was the Great Doggie Escape when Omie showed her two best friends, Simon and Riley, how to open the gate to their yard.  There was the winter we lived in a cabin in the middle of the woods in Boone, NC and Omie formed her own pack with other dogs from all the cabins scattered throughout the forest.  (She lived like a wolf that December, spending almost every moment outside in the snow and bringing me presents when she would land a kill.)  There was the time she swam after a duck on the pond for over an hour, convinced she could catch it even when it would momentarily take flight.  (I really did not think she would ever get out of the water.)  The time she caught a mouse by simply putting her paw on the little guy’s tail.  (After the mouse scurried and scurried without covering any ground, she let him go as easily as she trapped him.)  The time she punished us for staying out too late at a Christmas party by unwrapping all the presents under the tree while we were gone.  The time she chased a Peeping Tom out of my backyard.  The times when she insisted we all go to the drive-in movie so she could catch a flick while lying in the grass.  The time she tried to make friends with a coupla bear cubs.  Mornings (when we lived in a big farmhouse) where she would bound alongside the deer she would discover in our front yard.  The time when she went after an unwelcome guest who let himself in through my bedroom window.  The time she rock-climbed up the side of an icy waterfall, earning herself the title of Wonder Dog.  And (my favorite) the time when I was having Disney & Cake night with two dear friends and Omie saved us all from the deathly snare of a menacing possum who had made his way into our kitchen.

Omie & recently murdered possum.
In my kitchen.

She was the most amazing addition to our little family.

But things fall apart.  And sometimes people turn out to be different than believed.  Behind closed doors, unbeknownst to almost anyone, my life had become one filled with misery; my relationship with the boy one filled with abuse.  During a separation, sharing Omie only proved to be a continued source of pain and attempted manipulation from the boy.  And the abuse and the lies were unending.  I was drowning.  In danger on a daily basis.  It seemed the only way out with my life was to leave Omie behind.

And I tried to.  As much as I couldn’t fathom my life without her, for my own safety, for my own sanity, I offered to leave her with the boy for the rest of her days.  I truly thought I would lose her.

But Omie protested.

“She won’t eat.”  I got hit with a barrage of text messages while she was living with the boy.  “She won’t sleep.”  “She whines every time we pass your house.”  “She whines when she hears a car in the driveway because she thinks it’s you.”  “I really can’t get her to eat.”

And so… despite resentment from the boy and a lack of understanding from the majority of the people we knew… Omie and I packed up our things and together… we got the hell out.

Heartbreak, in my opinion, is the hardest human condition to live through.

During the difficult days that followed,  my Omie was the strong one.  She always knew exactly what I needed.  She insisted on sleeping in bed with me every night… which had always been against the rules…. with her head on my chest to prevent loneliness.  She would gently nudge me out of bed each morning with her cold wet nose to prevent indolence.  A big goofy paw always seemed to land on my arm when I needed to be snapped out of a spiraling negative thought process.  And if I hadn’t eaten?  “Woo-woo-wooooo,” she raised her nose in the air and demanded I take care of myself.  And after each lecture, she would find a way to squirm her way into my lap (which is hilarious as she is a very big dog and I am a very little person) and look at me as if to say, “I need you, Momma.”

I honestly don’t know how I would have healed without her.

Which brings us to cancer….

They say dogs can smell it.

Now, the doctors say my cancer was probably growing for 5 years before they found it.  So I don’t know how long Omie knew I was sick.  Maybe that’s part of the reason why she demanded to go with me when I left.  (Nah… she just loves me.)  What I do know is that her care and loyalty has been unwavering; her love completely unconditional.  (Dogs are so much better at those things than humans are.)

There’s been a million little things.  Most of which I can’t even communicate.

A few of the things I can…

In the days leading up to diagnosis, I would wake up in the middle of the night and find her just keeping watch over me.  Not sleeping.  Looking at me with her eternally patient eyes, calmly letting me know she was there. (I think she did this every night for a few months.)  When I couldn’t use my arms after surgery, she would lay next to the recliner I was confined to, and just sweetly nose her head up under my hand so I could pet her without having to move.  She made me exercise, “Woo-woo-woo-woo,” just like the doctor said.  Anytime I’ve been out of the house for extended periods of time (long infusions and whatnot) AA says she just waits… like there’s nothing to live for ’til I return.  And she keeps reminding me that she needs me here, so I better make it through this.

And again, I honestly don’t know how I would heal without her.  I certainly wouldn’t have made it this far.

She loves me like crazy.  Even when I don’t deserve it.  (So I suppose she’s forgiven me for ever putting her back all those years ago at the pound.)  And I love her right back.  No dog and human could have been more perfectly matched.  I’m glad a force bigger than us made sure we found each other.

In celebration of our years together, she’s been fed several chicken & rice dinners over the past week.

Happy Anniversary, Oms.  You’re the best thing I got.

Gwen & Omie, by Derek Smith


4 Responses to “Omie’s Anniversary”

  1. Currently blinking back tears at work.
    This is such a sweet, beautiful post. With some chuckles thrown in there, too, of course, since great dogs top of their greatness with a splash of entertainment.
    Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Jayme Tinti Says:

    Wow. You know I’m not a pet person but I’ve always had a sweet spot for your girl. No length of time that will ever pass can erase the memories I have from the possum attack. The blood, the guts, Aladdin, the pizza box… They are with me forever.

  3. Tara Says:

    Just awesome and amazing. So proud you are my friend. I love you. Both of yous!

  4. Megan Says:

    I have spent most of the evening reading your posts. You are a beautiful writer and person…not trying to be creepy here but sincere. This is an amazing post!! The paragraphs about how Omie has been there for you brought me to tears. Enough said.

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