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Saying Goodbye to My Dog Oscar

Saying Goodbye to My Dog Oscar

Munk's Junk (Everything Else)

There are few things more painful than saying goodbye to your dog. On Friday morning, Oscar, my beautiful Brussels Griffon, died from congestive heart failure. He was just over nine years old. Though he struggled a bit in the last few months, I do not believe he suffered or was ever in pain. Even the day before he died, his stumpy tail still wagged, he ate voraciously, and enjoyed a nap in a sun-drenched spot on the floor. But on Friday, his heart just gave out and he went into failure. Recognizing the symptoms I bundled him in my arms and ran three blocks to the vet. Making the choice to let him go has fairly made my heart give out, but my spirit is buoyed by knowing beyond a doubt that it was the right decision and by the kind, patient care he received from everyone at Jersey City’s Downtown Vet, especially Dr. Jamie Schwartz, who was as patient with my anxiety as she was thorough with Oscars’ care.

Dog Teddy Bear
Dogs teach humans so many things; or maybe they just remind us.  They are four-legged anti-depressants with a daily aphorism thrown in for good measure.

Oscar Munk: December 2005 – May 2014

Baby Brussels Griffon
A few months after I got Oscar – before his beard grew.

Friday night—my first without him—I had a hyper-vivid dream in which I felt him all around me, his kisses on my face, the shape of his spindly legs wrapped around me as we embraced. Anyone who knows me knows that I generally would be rolling my eyes about now, but whether it was a visitation, simply a dream, or some hyper-vivid side effect of the Ambien, I choose to believe that we were together again and he was telling me he was okay.  I woke up feeling a little less empty and a bit surer that he is still near to me and that I will also—eventually—feel better about this loss which, at this moment, seems unfathomable, bottomless.

Pug and Brussels Griffon
Oscar with his best friend Fredi, the Pug.  They got to be on TV together, among other, less glamorous things.  Photo by Elisa Casas.

I am grateful that I knew this little guy. For these many years he was my constant companion and a source of almost indescribable comfort through some very dark times.  It may seem a bit treacly (although probably not to pet owners), but Oscar taught me how to be a better person, always bringing it back to simple things and giving me the corrective cues I needed to remind me that on the most difficult day there is joy.  He helped me to clear away the mental clutter and be in the moment.  Dogs are like children: brilliantly, ineffably present.  The biggest lesson he taught me was that everything I really need I already have in abundance and, though he looked like an avuncular professor (one could easily imagine him with a monacle and a cigar), he was much more than a furry teacher.

Brussels Griffon walking
When Oscar walked he had this wonderful prance.  I called him the “high steppa”.

The last few days have been beyond strange. I keep thinking I hear him.  I find myself struggling with the ritualized impulses to feed and walk him—to provide care—before they are quickly caught by the next thought, the jab of pain that he is not here and my ministrations are no longer required.  I walk down the street and see my neighbors out for a walk with their dogs—Oscar’s friends—and I feel bereft.  I know these feelings will change with time, but right now everything is, to put it bluntly, totally sucking.

Oscar: though you will be terribly missed and I clearly face a bewildering period of adjustment, I am comforted by knowing that you had a wonderful life and were loved deeply by many.  You also gave me the chance to prove to myself that I too have the capacity to love deeply.  I don’t know if I knew that as surely before I had the privilege of having you in my life.

Brussels Griffon sunlight
This picture was taken a few weeks back, on your last truly great day. Like the daffodils that danced around the tree, you smiled and sparkled in the sun.  This is how I will remember you.

When they x-rayed you before I made the decision to humanely ensure you would not suffer, (the better of two completely shitty options), the imaging showed that your heart was nearly twice the size it should have been.  Though I knew in my head that this was a clinical result of your illness, my own heart prefers to think this was because you had twice the capacity to love unconditionally, a decidedly non-human quality.  So in the spirit of your big heart, I want to celebrate you—my “Mr. O”— with a few more images that capture your unique, unforgettable, and irreplaceable personality.

Thank you, my sweet boy, for bringing me back and keeping me here.

 

Brussels Griffon puppy cute
The first picture of you that was sent to me by the breeder. You fit in a cereal bowl. I bought you site unseen.
Dog wearing shoes
Always up for anything, here you are a few years back at the podiatrist’s office trying on some orthopedic shoes.
Dog and snowman
You were extremely congenial and made friends wherever you went. You didn’t discriminate between people, animals, and inanimate objects.
Dog wearing sneakers
When we lived in Chelsea you wore sneakers. It was great for keeping your paws clean and for meeting guys.  You seemed to like them too.
Brussels Griffon cute
During the years I worked retail you were the perfect shop dog and an excellent greeter.  Photo by Elisa Casas.
L'ermitage L.A.
We used to travel a lot together. Here you are at the L’ermitage Hotel in L.A.
Brussels Griffon on back
We loved to watch movies. For years you would just lay on your back in the crook of my arm and chill. You watched almost 300 film noir pictures with me, which was perfect for a you because, like all dogs, you only see in black and white.  This only became somewhat confusing when we watched Leave Her to Heaven and L.A. Confidential, two of my favorite color noirs.

 

Dog eating carrot
You loved carrots. This picture reminds me of the vegetables in “Sleeper”. Photo by Elisa Casas.
Brussels Griffon, long hair
There is a standard cut for a Brussels Griffon, but sometimes I preferred you to have the “no cut” which made you look like Animal, the drummer from The Electric Mayhem.  Griffons have hair, not fur – this was just one of the many things that made you so easy to care for.
Dog in drag
Sometimes we had photo sessions and I found you to be an extremely agreeable subject.
You loved to sleep on top of Rich.
You loved to sleep on top of Rich.
Dog in the sun
Here you are in Chelsea in 2005. You always gravitated to the light and you helped me do the same.

31 Comments

  1. John Richkus
    May 27, 2014 at 1:12 pm
    Reply

    David that was so beautiful. Thanks for sharing your grief and love.

  2. Gus
    May 27, 2014 at 2:05 pm
    Reply

    Lovely tribute for a lovely little man. I know the pain, which with time, eases . The warm memories linger forever. My thoughts and prayers are with you both. G

  3. corinne
    May 27, 2014 at 2:11 pm
    Reply

    oh david….how lovely….the sun patches on my floor will miss the little man….me too….xo.

  4. Beth Niernberg
    May 27, 2014 at 2:43 pm
    Reply

    David, sending you much love from here! Thanks for sharing your journey! He was lucky to be
    Loved by you.

  5. Kieron Kawall
    May 27, 2014 at 2:55 pm
    Reply

    Dearest David,

    I was truly saddened to hear the news of little Oscar’s ascent to doggy heaven where he surely will reign supreme amongst the angels. It was reassuring to know that he did not suffer. Your beautifully penned memoir moved me to tears as I remembered the wonderful moments I had with the little boy. More than anything, I know how much he meant to you. Your love for each other was unconditional, deep and meaningful. He saved you from the demons and brought you into the light. He was truly a hero and I am sure he went to his peaceful rest knowing that his work was done. I know that he must be proud of you and how far you have come in your journey. Rest assured that he is still ever present in your heart and his spirit will continue to give you the strength to live in the light. You are beyond lucky to have Angel Oscar who will continue to lead you through the murky times & whose memory will reinforce all the good he represented. He will be missed by many and very much so by me.

    Much love,

    K

  6. Jodi Marr
    May 27, 2014 at 3:48 pm
    Reply

    I’m sitting here all choked up david and remembering when you two came to visit me in Miami. I still have one if his teddy bears he left behind. You always had that great capacity to love david, you helped each other to shine. In Irish they would say he was your “anam cara” or true soul mate. Bless his little soul. You will meet again. Love u my friend

  7. Wow.c I share your pain on ever dimension....Ritchie
    May 27, 2014 at 3:48 pm
    Reply

    I am equally heartbroken and share your immense pain on every dimension. You are not alone in your mourning of life. Love Ritchie

    • Cheryl Murphy
      May 27, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      David, that was so touching. I can see from the pictures and your stories that Oscar had an amazing life with you. As lucky as you were to have him, I think Oscar was even luckier to have you. xoxo

  8. Marsha Malamet
    May 27, 2014 at 4:37 pm
    Reply

    David, I am in tears. A beautiful and moving remembrance to your furry child. As you know, I love the way you write, and now to write this for Oscar…there are no words. My favorite photo is the last one of him in bed. It really looks like a painting. To some degree, time is the healer, however, that unconditional love you shared with him…will always and forever be there in your heart. Love, Marsha

  9. Rosemary Hart
    May 27, 2014 at 4:42 pm
    Reply

    Dear David-Your tribute to Oscar was beautiful. I only knew him as a young boy, and was so happy for you to have him after the loss of Fatty. I think he came into your life in 2004, though, since he was at my place in NJ for the weekend and I moved in May, 2005.
    You were perfect for each other and he will always live in your heart, as well as ours. His magic will last forever.
    xoxo
    Rosemary

  10. Bridget
    May 27, 2014 at 4:48 pm
    Reply

    Dear David, Words cannot express how deeply your tribute to your boy touched me. You reminded me of how much my boy Pugsley gave me. I was blessed to have him for 18 years. And he was my Boy. Thank you for your words. I wish you much comfort and joy in your memories. I feel your loss. Even after 3 years I can still be brought to tears. I can also remember ALL the Joy and Love that he brought me. Hugs to you my friend!

  11. Kimmy
    May 27, 2014 at 6:13 pm
    Reply

    Oscar was a special dog, and i am absolutely sure that he did visit you, and wanted you to know that he was happy and at peace. Oscar was a lucky dog and your wonderful, diligent parenting made him into the special little guy that he was. We are all very sad about his passing and are thinking about you constantly.

    xo

  12. Mariauxy
    May 27, 2014 at 9:20 pm
    Reply

    Beautiful David. There is no love like your pet’s love. Give it some time; I know you will find that kind of unconditional love once again. xoxo

  13. Sandi Black
    May 28, 2014 at 4:34 am
    Reply

    David-
    The unconditional love we have with our furry family members is like no other love. You know how much I can totally relate to what you are experiencing. Oscar will always be in your heart. Now he’s playing with Maxie in doggie heaven. Love you ❤️

  14. barbara goldman
    May 28, 2014 at 11:51 am
    Reply

    That was a beautiful tribute to Oscar. We pet owners all know and understand the bond that is formed almost immediately with our pets.
    Even though we never met, I can see the love and adoration in your eyes.
    I know he will always be present in your thoughts, no matter how much time passes.
    He was one adorable pup!

  15. eric
    May 28, 2014 at 2:36 pm
    Reply

    beautiful job, makes me realize just how much I will miss any of my little girls when then cross that bridge.

  16. Fran Dingle
    May 28, 2014 at 3:18 pm
    Reply

    David,

    I am very sorry for the loss of your sweet boy. I lost my BG Gertie on May 8 and have been struggling in the same way. I would like to thank you for writing the words I have been unable to type. I’m still seeing her around the corner and I hear her every single day – I am trying so hard to take comfort in these happenings and try to tell myself it is the love Gert and I shared that keeps her with me. I feel infinitely incomplete without her next to me.

    Your blog post was tremendously helpful to me in my own grief.

    Thank you.

    • David Munk
      May 29, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      Hi Fran,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your feelings. It means a lot to me. I’m glad my piece was a comfort to you; knowing this is a great help to me. Best of luck and thank you again for taking the time to tell me how you feel. David

  17. Eddie
    May 29, 2014 at 11:50 am
    Reply

    I know exactly how you’re feeling. If tears could build a stairway,I would walk up to heaven,and bring my lil Dozer back home. Thank you for sharing.

  18. HG
    May 29, 2014 at 2:59 pm
    Reply

    Beautifully written

  19. Faith
    May 29, 2014 at 3:22 pm
    Reply

    So beautiful…I’ll miss that little scruffin and his sweet peacefulness. Curtis told me he and Oscar are having a good frolic at the Rainbow Bridge. xoxo

  20. Sarah Saffian
    May 29, 2014 at 6:27 pm
    Reply

    So beautiful, so heartbreaking — crying, laughing, empathizing. Take care of yourself, xox

  21. sergio
    May 30, 2014 at 4:51 pm
    Reply

    i’m so sad for Oscar, and for you.

    • David Munk
      June 3, 2014 at 9:42 am

      Thank you Sergio.

  22. Mary
    June 3, 2014 at 12:10 pm
    Reply

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I know it’s hard to imagine but nothing would honor him more than rescuing another sweet Griff and giving him a great life. There are so many out there waiting for someone like you to love them and as much as you hate to hear it it really does help with the grief of the loss.
    Love,
    From Kentucky

    • David Munk
      June 6, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      Hi Mary. Thank you for your kind words. Very comforting. I will definitely get another Griff when I am able/ready. Thanks

  23. David S.
    June 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm
    Reply

    Sorry that Oscar is no longer with you. Our Boston has congestive heart failure, blind, deaf but keeps fighting to live. I know the day is coming soon though. I hope you get a new little one. I am sure Oscar wouldn’t want you to be alone.

    • David Munk
      June 6, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      Hi David. Thanks for your kind words and taking the time to read Stargayzing.

  24. Steve Kmetko
    January 14, 2015 at 2:50 pm
    Reply

    David,
    I don’t know you, but when I came across your tribute to Oscar last May, I added it to my favorites folder because it was such a wonderful tribute and because I knew I’d be going through similar circumstances after not too long. Indeed, my Stanley left me on Thanksgiving day. Over the 14 years we’d been together, we went through a lot. Deaths, career change, unemployment, cross-country move; and always, Stanley was there. I got similar, comforting posts to those you’ve received. I truly hope that if there is an afterlife, our pets are there, too. If they’re not… I’m not staying.
    Blessings David.

    • David Munk
      January 14, 2015 at 3:10 pm

      Hi Steve,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts about the piece. Frankly, it’s been six months and I have just not been the same since he passed. I think I’m getting closer to being able to get a puppy, though for some reason I feel trepidation. I know the next dog won’t be Oscar and I’m even worried that I’m up to the task of training and care taking. Isn’t that weird?

      In any event, it means so much that you checked in. I hope you will continue reading Stargayzing. Though the loss of a pet is not my usual subject, perhaps I can interest you celebrity recipe?

      David

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