When I saw that turd smeared into the sidewalk today, I lost it. Those leavings, a perpetual source of annoyance, are the only thing we have left of him now.
They used to bother me, the turds. We were constantly picking them up off the garage floor and sweeping dried ones off the front steps and warning visitors to watch their step. But now, I find myself looking for them, like crusty Easter eggs, evidence that he had existed, that he was real and wonderful and mine.
That sweet dog couldn’t help the turds. He was hit by a car when he was just two, and he survived with a broken tail and damaged rectal and bladder nerves. The vet gave us the option to put him down then, but we couldn’t do it. He was just too good.
So we decided to put up with the mess.
And he was worth Every. Single. Turd.
He was always truly with us, whatever we were doing.
He collected rocks with my daughter--her favorite pastime. He’d pick them up with his teeth, carry them around, and drop them at our feet, staring up at us as though to say: Do you like it? I picked it out just for you. He would leave them in the garage, much to the annoyance of my husband. But they were his gifts to us, these little leavings, like tiny presents, as sweet as dandelions from a child.
He’s gone now, my sweet dog. He passed away this weekend due to complications from those damaged bladder and bowel nerves.
But he left so much more than turds and rocks behind.
Everything I know about empathy I learned from him. He was simply content to be near me, whatever I was doing, enjoying my presence as I enjoyed his. He was completely selfless, and he could read my moods in that clairvoyant way of dogs. When I needed to cry, he was the first one I went to, because he would simply lay his head against my shoulder and put his giant paw around me, the closest he could get to a hug.
He returned my happiness with dopey smiles, and he returned my love with face-sized kisses from his enormous pink tongue.
When my grandma died, he licked the tears from my face and nuzzled his head into mine, and I knew that he understood my pain, reaching me in that place beyond species, beyond words.
He would sit on top of my toes, placing his foot over mine, claiming me, protecting me, loving me.
I was his, and he was mine.
So yes, the sight of a dried-out turd on our sidewalk did reduce me to quivering, hiccuping sobs. I’m not ashamed to admit that. While I went inside to attempt to compose myself, my daughter came to me with her tiny hands clasped together.
“Ozzy left this for us,” she said, unfurling her fingers to reveal a rock she had found on the garage floor: his final leaving. "We need to keep it."
It's in my glass case with the other beautiful leavings I have collected from those I have lost, nestled between my grandpa's pipe and my grandma's elephant figurines.
Thank you, Ozzy, for leaving so much of yourself with us.
You were the best dog I’ve ever had.
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