Osa + Oso: The Power of Healing

The following pet loss story was shared with the DoveLewis Pet Loss Support Program from Carlos D. 

In the spring of 2007, a landscaper working in the Hillsboro area stopped by my mother’s small jewelry store and planted the seed of what would be my best friend. While browsing the store, the gentleman showed interest in a couple of items; unable to afford them, he offered to make an exchange with my mom for the items. He talked up a beautiful young Alaskan Husky that he couldn’t keep because his son had allergies and was trying to find a new home. When my mom went to the parking lot to check it out, she noticed there were 2 dogs in the back of his truck. He told her that perhaps it’s best to keep them together and he could throw in the second dog for a $100 credit towards what he wanted. My mom thought that it was a good idea and decided to bring home both pups. On her way home, she called to inform us that she was bringing home some dogs for us.

When my mother arrived and lifted the tailgate, I had envisioned black and white puppies with blue eyes, what I saw were 2 dark walking clouds. I asked my mom “Where are the Huskies? These aren’t Huskies.” My mother didn’t have much knowledge about dogs and the different breeds, so I couldn’t really be upset. She asked, “What are they then?” I told her “I didn’t know, they look like bears.” Conveniently enough, that’s how their names came about; Oso and Osa, Spanish for boy bear and girl bear.  

From the start, they were outside dogs and the only time either of them was allowed indoors was when they got spayed and/or neutered and it was mainly to allow their surgery to heal.  They were very high energy and after a year of having them, my mother could no longer handle such young dogs together. I contacted the Northwest Chow Chow Rescue and we were able to find a foster home that was interested in the boy (Oso) and we were able to keep the girl (Osa).

Around the summer of 2009, we got word that my mother-in-law’s health was fading fast. My wife and I quickly dropped everything and moved to California to look after her. Our time there was financially worrisome. We eventually made the hard decision for me to live with my parents at the start of 2011 for some time while my wife took care of her mother. During those 6 months, I became close with Osa. I would take her on walks and hang out with her in the backyard. Once we got a better handle on our finances, and my wife and I had steady employment, we decided to move out on our own. My mother suggested that we continue to be close to her and rent the other side of her duplex that she owns. 

Once my parent’s tenants left, we took the opportunity to do some remodeling and making the unit ours. The remodeling process carried over through July and every year leading up to Independence Day, fireworks would blast and every year it would frighten Osa. Seeing this scared girl pleading to get in always sadden us because we couldn’t allow her inside my mother’s house, until that year. Our house wasn’t finished by that night, but we just wanted to comfort Osa, so we slept in our partly finished home floor just so she wouldn’t be alone.  

Once the home was completed and the craziness of the 4th of July was over, I would still find any excuse to have Osa over. Having her over all the time didn’t only feel comforting but felt right. And with each new rule of not laying on the couch or going upstairs, Osa would break them all, eventually taking over our home and completely taking over our hearts.

She came into our lives and changed everything. She changed our time, our budget, our grocery list; we spoiled the heck out of this girl. I would take her to work with me; I got a bike trailer and took her along for the ride, went hiking, to the beach, anywhere and everywhere she was there. She was with us when I’d stay up late at night doing homework and when we lost my mother-in-law, whatever joys and pains that life threw at us, she was there. While not perfect, it was during those first 5 years of living next door to my mom and having the ability to have Osa with us, that I can say were the happiest times in my life. Having financial stability, housing and people that love me made me feel like I was the richest person in the world. 

Osa Post

In the fall of 2018, Osa’s health took a bad turn. On November 9 when arriving home, Osa didn’t come to the front door to greet me like she regularly does. When I went to the backyard, she was laying down as though she were sleeping. She was extremely weak; I knew something was not right, so we took her to the Tanasbourne Emergency Pet Hospital. She was bleeding into her stomach they told us, but they couldn’t find where the source was coming from. She stayed overnight for observation in hopes that the wound might cauterize on its own.

The next morning, we got a call informing us that the bleeding hadn’t stopped and we should take her to DoveLewis to their specialists to help find the source. They were able to locate a bleeding mass in her liver but informed us that surgery would not only be expensive but very risky given her age. Additionally, the surgery wouldn’t guarantee a better quality of life. With a heavy heart, we decided that we would let her go that day, however, the timing couldn’t have come at a worst time because I had agreed to DJ a friend’s wedding on that very day. The wedding venue was close to DoveLewis, and because I couldn’t find a substitute DJ, I thought it would be a good idea to pick up the equipment along with my mother so she could say her goodbye too. After all the arrangements were made, suiting up for the wedding, and tons of tears being shed in the process, we were finally going to say our goodbyes to our sweet girl.

In the comfort room, a dog once unable to stand on her own feet walked into the room with her tongue out, prancing around and exploring in the room as if she was conveying “nothing to see here guys, let's go home.” I turn to the doctor and asked what was happening with this newfound energy, she couldn’t explain it herself but did stress that there is still a bleeding mass in her abdomen. I asked her if there was anything at all that might slow or stop the bleed without removing it and she suggested a medication that might help Osa's blood to clot more readily. We decided to try this alternative and not euthanize Osa that day.

The first night was scary not knowing if we made the right decision but after a couple of days, Osa made a remarkable recovery. After a week, she was full of energy and if you didn’t know it, you would find it hard to believe she was sick at all. Life got back to normal and the three of us went on more adventures for 6 more months. The time came when her health was failing once again. She stopped eating her meals and became noticeably uncomfortable. Within 24hrs of these continuous symptoms, we took her to DoveLewis to find out that she was once more bleeding from the mass in her liver. This time we didn’t want to put her through more fighting, so on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, we had to say our final goodbye to our 12 ½-year-old Chow Chow, Osa.

The grieving process has been extremely hard. Three months after losing her, we thought we might be able to temporarily foster a dog that our friends needed to place for a couple of months. However, after a day it became too evident that we aren’t ready and let our friend know we could not foster for the time being. That weekend now shares among the most painful moments of my life; the grief from losing Osa and my body perpetually hurting, resulted in a really dark place for me. My wife suggested that it would be a good idea to go to the grief support that was offered to us by DoveLewis after we lost Osa. We checked the website’s calendar and decided to attend the support group that following Monday in August.

That day, I was still uneasy to attend but knew we needed the help so I was determined to go. On our way there, we realized that we had forgotten to bring pictures of our pretty girl to share with the group but decided to go anyway. When we sat down, I struck up a conversation with a lady next to me who had a picture of her dog on a calendar she’d made to memorialize her loss. I briefly looked at the picture and thought to myself this dog looks a lot like a chow and was similar to my girl; I even shared a cell phone picture of her. I assumed the dog was a girl, but the lady corrected me when I asked if her dog was a girl too. She said it was a boy and started showing me more pictures of him. On the second picture, I noticed that this all-black chow had white paws with black spots to his feet. The image instantly gave me an all too familiar feeling and I slowly asked her where did she get this dog and what his name was. But before she answered I asked if his name was Oso. Her eyes got big and when she said yes and my wife and I broke into tears. 

The dog that she lost was the very same handsome boy that we couldn’t keep 10 years prior. We learned that Oso had passed away in mid-April, just 30 days before Osa’s own passing. He had a bleeding mass in his liver as well and first began showing health concerns in November; similar to Osa. We also learned that Veronica, Oso’s guardian, loved him very much and went on many adventures with him. Meeting Veronica has been amazing, she gave Oso a better life than we could offer him at the time. And now, we share the same grief.

I struggle with Osa’s absence daily. She was so smart, sweet, strong and extraordinary in every way. She was a rare gift, much like the probability of running into Oso’s guardian; one in a million. DoveLewis made it possible for us to receive this last gift. Without the support group, we wouldn’t have met Veronica or learned what happened to Oso. Now, not only were we able to get closure about him but also find comfort going through a shared experience with other grieving souls.    

Oso + Osa

 

Veronica - Oso's Owner

When it was time to adopt a dog, I started visiting the Oregon Humane Society every week hoping to find a fluffy pup to spend lots of time with. After about a month or two, I saw Oso and was immediately attracted to him. He had been there for about a week and looked very sad, moping around his kennel. I asked how to pronounce his name, Ah-so?, Oh-so? I was told it was Oh-so, meaning bear in Spanish! We met in one of those rooms where you can get to interact with dogs one-on-one and he perked up, chasing toys all over the room. Although he weighed twice as much and was twice as old (75 lbs. and 4 yrs. old) as I was looking for, I knew he was the dog for me. On the drive home, he looked so excited as he stood on the front seat of the car staring out the front window.

Oso’s Daily Life

Oso quickly adjusted to his new home and learned to use his dog door almost instantaneously. Then he discovered the squirrels and spent countless hours racing them along the backyard fence line. Thankfully, they were faster than him. He loved his daily walks and was even willing to wear a raincoat. People passing us on the sidewalk often commented that he was “cute” or “cool” looking. And, on one walk a religious missionary took a picture of himself with Oso.

Like many dogs, he hated baths and I discovered he was afraid of the bathroom. If a toy rolled too far into the bathroom, he’d abandon it. So I tried putting a treat in the bathroom to help reduce his fear. Instead of going in to get the treat, he’d stretch his head through the doorway to reach it while trying to keep his feet out of the bathroom. He remained afraid of the bathroom and when it was time for a bath, it was a wrestling match with a very strong 75 lb. dog. For putting up with the dreaded bath, he always got to enjoy a nice long walk to air dry his furry body.

Oso in snow

One day, he discovered the neighbor's chickens had gotten into the backyard. I was so sure he would hurt them, but, instead, the Border Collie in him just wanted to herd them. He jumped off the patio, chased them down, and bumped each one in the rear end with his nose causing the chickens to jump and squawk loudly. Satisfied he had corralled them into one little corner, Oso came back to the patio and went back to laying around while keeping a watchful eye on them. Any move out of the corner and he herded the chickens back in place.

One of Oso’s endearing personality traits was his extreme stubbornness. At night he often liked to lay on the patio until bedtime and often tried to ignore me when I called him in for bed. One night he decided he didn’t want to come in for bed and when I called him in, he looked at me, got up and slowly walked to the other end of the yard to avoid coming in for bed!

In his last year of life, he became obsessed with paper, often trying to steal bookmarks and other loose paper out of books. Although he never tried to eat a book, he would stand in front of me and ruffle the pages of a book with his nose while staring me in the eye.

Oso’s Passing to Dog Heaven

Oso was going on 12 years old when he started getting sick. He was becoming unsteady on his feet and no longer wanted to go on his regular walks. His primary veterinarian suspected it was liver cancer and a problem with his intestine. Then, I took him to DoveLewis and the test results were grim. He came home with medication to help him eat and to help ease his symptoms. His health seemed to go up and down on a weekly basis and it was heart-wrenching. I even cooked special food for him hoping to help ease his symptoms. His long walks turned into walks around the front yard. And he didn’t have to come in for bed at night since I never knew when he might need to use the bathroom. He had dog beds in all his favorite places and I often slept with him on the floor at night. When he started turning up his nose at chicken and hamburgers and became increasingly nauseous, I knew it was time.

A few months after Oso’s passing, I attempted to adopt another dog. Like Carlos and Michelle’s experience, I was thrown back into my grief and with a heavy heart decided to go to DoveLewis' grief support group. That same night, Carlos and Michelle were there. I didn’t know them or that they had just lost their beloved dog named Osa. They saw the pictures of Oso, and we all quickly discovered that my beloved Oso was there beloved Oso when he was young. Osa and Oso were brother and sister and lived together until they were about 2 years old. We cried and hugged, and shared stories. They shared pictures and videos they had of Oso and Osa together when the two were young. I am so thankful for DoveLewis' grief support group, and for Carlos and Michelle sharing their pictures and stories of Oso and Osa. And, I feel very fortunate to have had Oso in my life for 8 short years. He was so precious in every way.

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