Staring up defiantly at me, the little caramel and white Collie/Great Pyrenes mix had attitude. We had seen an ad for puppies and driven to a nearby Missouri puppy mill. An enormous tan and white collie male greeted us as we stepped out of the car. So did the friendly, older woman who ran the place.
“Hi, there!” she called out. “I’m Marge and that handsome boy just had a litter with a Great Pyrenees. What kind of puppy do you have in mind?”
We explained our white German shepherd had died last year, and we were ready to get another large breed. We asked to see the collie’s pups. As we followed Marge deeper onto the property, we saw pen after pen scattered around the yard. There were Australian shepherds, Dachshunds, German shepherds, poodles, and on and on. I have never seen so many different breeds in one place. The yard was muddy, but the pens looked clean, and the animals looked very healthy if a bit soiled.
We ducked under a low door and entered a barn-like structure. There were two pens to which she escorted us. In one were a Mastiff mama and her four pups, leaping and biting one another. My husband, Rex, was taken with the huge beastie and started cuddling pups. But I like the hairier breeds, so I stepped up to the Great Pyrenees mama and looked down at her eight pups! They were of varied colors and shapes, some white and looking like mom, some more like a collie. I opened the gate and stepped in, mama laid stepped out and the pups began racing about the building. All of them, except the golden and white pup, who favored his collie papa. I noted he with a knot on the head like the Pyrenees and its fifth claw.
As I looked down at his haughty little face, he stomped over and sat on my shoe. As I reached down to pick him up, an old poem by Shelley ran through my mind:
I met a traveler from an antique land,
Who said— “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . .. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
I laughed into his little scrunched face and kissed his nose. There was an immediate change. The features softened and he – he did, I promise – smiled at me. I clutched him closer to my heart and stooped down grabbing one of his sisters as I had decided we needed to get as many of these darlings out of this place as soon as possible.
“Those are $75 apiece,” Marge informed me.
My husband turned from the Mastiff family and looked surprised at my armload as I tried to walk past him. He managed to pry the female out of my arms reminding me how large these dogs were going to be, though at eight weeks they were only fluffy balls weighing a mere five pounds.
And so began our journey with Ozymandias. Oz. Ozzie. Ozball.
He came home to a special little crate just for him. Our cat, Song, a rescued Siamese greeted him snootily and leaped to her perch on the back of the couch. He ate like a horse from day one but took to crate training well. Although there was some sad crying the first few nights. He was house-broken in a week, where bathroom issues were concerned. But he proceeded to chew his way through several pairs of shoes, the bottom of my dining room table, and all the slats on the deck railing. He would often trot back from a walk with daddy around our three-acre lot where he was quickly border-trained with a log or long branch in his jaws. Honestly.
How he grew! At the end of the second week, he had doubled in size. Rex and our garage
apartment tenant built him a much larger crate out of scrap wood. He only needed it for another two weeks, but he could not fit comfortably in the first one. By his first birthday, Oz was a beautiful 125 pounds of hair and fun. He was so easy to train, but he had some habits which lasted a lifetime.
He would obey come, sit, stay, speak, and shake hands. When he felt like it. When he did not feel like it, he would put his paws down in front of him, splayed – his rump would rise in the air with his bushy tail going a hundred miles an hour – and smile at you. Nay – grin at you. His teeth would bare, but his lips would curl in a mischievous smile. And then you would play tag or fetch or wrestle until he was satisfied that ownership was a two-way street.
Another unbreakable habit of his was chasing trucks. He never bothered with cars, just trucks of any size, shape, or model. He was border trained, as I said, very young – although he would wander to visit a neighbor who had an interesting dog or maybe was grilling out and likely to give him a treat. But when any truck dared to pass by, he would leap up from his post in the center of our gravel driveway and head for our side of the ditch line that ran in front of our two lots. To the north, was a cemetery. Sometimes he would chase the truck to the edge of that lot also if they were making too much noise or had a siren going. Fire trucks were his particular favorite. He would howl along with the siren until it came into view – then he would give chase, barking like a mad man.
When he was about six years old, we got a female Westie and a year later, a male for her to breed with. They gave us two litters. It was the male, Jackson, that Oz trained to take his place in the pursuit of trucks. Jack just naturally followed Ozzie everywhere, if dad was busy working on cars or ignoring the dogs for some other chore. And he loved to run. It took Oz about eight months to get the Westies fully trained on Ditch Duty, as we called it. Isabel, the female would run with Jack, but never on her own. Jack, however, got it. Rex said that Oz and Jack could read and had seen the No Trucks Allowed sign down the street. They took that law seriously. They never ran into the street, and never caught a one – but all the local truck guys knew those two and would sometimes stop with a treat. Their trickery never worked – you drive a pickup by our house and you were fair game!
Oz was not only the loving Uncle to Jack and Izzy, but he had also herded numerous pets down through the years. He loved cats and they loved and trusted him back. Song was joined in Oz’s first year by an eight-week-old kitten named Rocky. I was going to name him Dance, so it would have been Song and Dance – but his feisty ways renamed him, Rocky Balboa, after day three. Oz took Rocky under his wing and the silly thing still thinks he is a dog to this day. He would trot along about ten steps behind Oz and Rex for their morning border walk. And many was the time I saw him cuddling up in Oz’s long hair as they slept on the deck on a cold day.
Next pet to arrive was a soft-coated Wheaton terrier rescue named Zane. Being male and a terrier he was very aggressive. Rex adored the new addition, but when he savagely bit Oz on the snout, I told him to find Zane a new home. A breeder in Nebraska said she would take him in exchange for one of his puppies. And so, Kanga came to live with us about eight months later. She was such a sweet and pretty little thing. Oz again, greeted her as she came out of the carrier, wobbly at seven weeks old. He licked her all over that night and helped us crate train her by sitting next to the crate downstairs, instead of his normal place in our bedroom.
Kanga was bred when she was around one and on April 20, 2014 (Easter Sunday) she delivered seven perfect little Ewoks. Oz thought the world of those puppies. He was about four now and neutered himself, but had a great fondness for other animals and became Uncle Oz. By the time the pups were six weeks old, I would come home from work, and they would race at me from across the yard where Rex usually had them out waiting. Oz was always with them. We would sit in the shade of the catalpa tree out back, and they would wrestle with me and climb all over the most patient Oz. He would take a lot of yips and nips before having to give them a little snarl and a love tap that made them back off. For a few minutes. He loved those puppies and would go out in the morning to help feed them and give them new water, nosing them like he was their mommy.
One by one we sold those pups to families who could not afford a papered soft-coated Wheaton. Was Oz mourning as he laid his head on his paws with a mighty sigh when the last male was carted off? If he did not mourn the loss of the pups, I know he did the loss of Kanga.
I had pled with Rex to keep one of the puppies, but we had two dogs and two cats already, so – no go. But he really regretted that as a week after they were gone, we were loading up to go on vacation and Kanga did did not come when we called her. We had a neighbor across the street to watch over things, and his brother would come down and take care of their mom, who was by now living in our garage apartment. But Kanga never did return and was never turned into the shelter. I think someone who looked at the puppies waited for her on a cross street and when she went back to the back acre where she liked to pee, snatched her. Whatever happened – Oz was beside himself with grief at her going missing.
It was shortly after Kanga was abducted, that a funny thing happened with Oz. He was very curious and examined any new item within his reach. If it was edible, he would eat it. One afternoon I had left my cell phone on a table on the deck while I was swimming. Oz must have made his usual probe of this thing and later on I had a weird voice mail from a our friend, Alisha. She said that Oz had called her. Apparently he had pocket dialed her as she was the last person I had talked to that day. She said she kept yelling into the phone, Susan, Susan? Finally, Oz started barking like an idiot and she burst out laughing, guessing what he had done. Oz like to talk on the phone is all.
Next came Lucy. The breeder who provided the male for Kanga sold her to Rex when he went in to see about another Wheaton. Lucy was a chocolate golden doodle, the runt of the litter, and pretty sick when he took her in. He and Oz nursed her back to health and she grew to be a lively partner for our aging Oz. She was a runner, however, and eventually came home pregnant. Lucy would literally dive over Oz out in the yard, outrunning him by yards in a game of tag. Even pregnant.
She delivered ten puppies that looked like different colored labs. Uncle Oz gave Lucy respite every day, allowing the tribe to tumble over him, bite his tail, and sit on his back and head. He would make groaning noises like a bear, but otherwise patiently tolerated them. We found good homes for all of these pups, too. Leaving Lucy and Oz to the three-acre kingdom they called home.
I had always wanted a Westie and at this time, 2017, bought a sweet eight-week-old female from a man in Springfield MO. Isabel peed on me on the way home and when I introduced her to Oz, he was more interested in my shirt. Finally, he nosed the little white polar bear, and she bit his nose – showing her true colors right away. Izzy is fairly neurotic. Oz, however, loved her madly. He did not seem jealous, even though I carried the little thing around with me constantly. A year and a half later, Jackson joined us, making our family of three dogs and one cat, Rocky, complete. Song had become very ill and had to be given to the shelter as we could not afford her monthly medications. They did find a home for her.
I have told you of the intensive training Jack and Izzy received from Oz on how to guard our property. When we moved thirty miles south to our present home in Baxter Springs KS their play space went from three acres to ½ acre. They lord it over this, too, and faithfully chase the trucks for Oz. Uncle Oz, now almost twelve, began to limp, then his back legs became very painful and wobbly. This went on for about six months. His extreme weight loss though he ate, dull coat and lack of movement finally convinced me to take him to a vet. We chose one nearer us in Columbus KS. An expensive blood test showed he had Lyme disease from a tick bite. We tried a week of antibiotics and pain meds, but he grew steadily weaker and worse.
On the sunny, hot morning of May 12, 2022 – my dearest buddy, Ozymandias, trotted over the rainbow bridge. I was sobbing in the lobby waiting for the vet. The little assistant told me there was no need to make myself watch the process. She said they would love on him for me and the vet offered to bury him on his farm, due to our limited finances. So, I watched like a coward while the best soul I have had the privilege to know limped back to his end.
I do not regret that I did not go back with Oz. I would not have been able to let them do it if I had been present. No way. I do not know if euthanizing an animal is something God frowns on. I do know that his care was entrusted to me, and his suffering was great and real. Kindness told me that, like the book says, all dogs go to heaven. Only my selfish need to have him near me kept him from peace and an end to his pain. I hope I made the right choice.
It does not feel that way.
And knowing my Jesus the way I do, I know I will see my sweet Oz again. Along with Callie, two Shebas, Ginger, Kiwi, Chimp, Tussers La Mouche, Jasper, Heidi, Annie, Neal, and Boots.
Ozymandias – you are missed.
And as I told you a million times - you are such a good boy.
Love forever, Mom