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.
Oscar Munk: December 2005 – May 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.
John RichkusMay 27, 2014 at 1:12 pm
David that was so beautiful. Thanks for sharing your grief and love.
GusMay 27, 2014 at 2:05 pm
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
corinneMay 27, 2014 at 2:11 pm
oh david….how lovely….the sun patches on my floor will miss the little man….me too….xo.
Beth NiernbergMay 27, 2014 at 2:43 pm
David, sending you much love from here! Thanks for sharing your journey! He was lucky to be
Loved by you.
Kieron KawallMay 27, 2014 at 2:55 pm
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.
Jodi MarrMay 27, 2014 at 3:48 pm
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
Wow.c I share your pain on ever dimension....RitchieMay 27, 2014 at 3:48 pm
I am equally heartbroken and share your immense pain on every dimension. You are not alone in your mourning of life. Love Ritchie
Cheryl MurphyMay 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
Marsha MalametMay 27, 2014 at 4:37 pm
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
Rosemary HartMay 27, 2014 at 4:42 pm
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.
BridgetMay 27, 2014 at 4:48 pm
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!
KimmyMay 27, 2014 at 6:13 pm
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.
MariauxyMay 27, 2014 at 9:20 pm
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
Sandi BlackMay 28, 2014 at 4:34 am
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 ❤️
barbara goldmanMay 28, 2014 at 11:51 am
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!
ericMay 28, 2014 at 2:36 pm
beautiful job, makes me realize just how much I will miss any of my little girls when then cross that bridge.
Fran DingleMay 28, 2014 at 3:18 pm
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.
David MunkMay 29, 2014 at 1:41 pm
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
EddieMay 29, 2014 at 11:50 am
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.
HGMay 29, 2014 at 2:59 pm
FaithMay 29, 2014 at 3:22 pm
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
Sarah SaffianMay 29, 2014 at 6:27 pm
So beautiful, so heartbreaking — crying, laughing, empathizing. Take care of yourself, xox
sergioMay 30, 2014 at 4:51 pm
i’m so sad for Oscar, and for you.
David MunkJune 3, 2014 at 9:42 am
Thank you Sergio.
MaryJune 3, 2014 at 12:10 pm
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.
David MunkJune 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
David S.June 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm
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 MunkJune 6, 2014 at 6:45 pm
Hi David. Thanks for your kind words and taking the time to read Stargayzing.
Steve KmetkoJanuary 14, 2015 at 2:50 pm
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.
David MunkJanuary 14, 2015 at 3:10 pm
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?