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  • Writer's pictureKip Cassino

Just A Little Dog

This was to be a next year’s wish list, but now that will have to wait. My dog, Ozzie, died yesterday, and I need to say a few words about him.

Ozzie was a little white Shih Tzu – only twenty-one pounds when last weighed. He had a black spot on his back and brown-grey coloring around his bottomless dark-brown eyes. He had just turned twelve years old (or so we think) in November.

The little guy started his life in southern California. He was rescued from a dog pound and brought to Arizona when he was four. My wife took one look at his picture and bought him on the spot. When we moved to Tucson in 2012, he joined us at our new home.

Ozzie was always Helen’s dog – although I walked and fed him, most of the time. Unless we had to leave him home, they were never very far from each other. She loved him fiercely through the remainder of her life, dressed him in outfits his size, brought him doggie toys he played with but never ruined. His favorite was Mr. Bill – who could be heard throughout our house exclaiming “Ohhh no!” Even though Ozzie never harmed the toy, his little jaws did crush its voice-box from time to time – so Helen kept an inventory of replacements which she switched in when the dog was looking elsewhere.

The puppy was a babe-magnet. All I had to do was sit with him on a mall bench while my wife went shopping, and pretty young ladies would turn up to stroke his little head and coo over him. Young men should take note: having a cute little shih tsu along can be a boon to your social life.

He never made a noise, except to bark when strangers were near the house, or to make little happy sounds deep in his throat when Helen caressed him. When he first joined us, we put Ozzie in a cage whenever we left the house. It never confined him. We’d return to find him calmly waiting for us on the living room sofa. He took car trips – even long ones – with patient equanimity. In short, he was a wonderful pet.

He and I grew closer after Helen’s passing in 2019, out of desperation we both felt. He became my shadow, pacing me wherever I walked, anxious when I was missing. He always retired to his little bed at night, but woke me later on to sleep at my feet. He was my truest friend.

Last year, after the blight of COVID smothered the nation, he and I moved in with Helen’s daughter and her family. A few months later, Ozzie was struck with a debilitating paralysis that required delicate, expensive spinal surgery. I was warned that many dogs never recover, even after successful surgery – but Ozzie did. In less than a month he was back on all four feet, with only the slightest limp. He didn’t walk as far as he had in the past, and slept more, but all the veterinarians who saw him marveled at his return to health.

Charlene and her family moved to Florida. Ozzie and I followed, a few months later. He seemed to adjust well to the place. I stopped worrying about his health. Then, on Christmas morning, he began to vomit, and threw up blood as well. I got him to the vet clinic as soon as I could, and accepted every test they suggested. His doctor believed he was stabilized, gave me some meds to administer, and sent us home. Ozzie ate his dinner and seemed recovered, but later that evening he became restless and uncomfortable. I took him for walks, gave him water, held and comforted him. By three that morning he seemed more sanguine, so I laid him in his little bed and fell asleep. When I awoke four hours later, he was dead.

Ozzie will be cremated. I’ll carry his remains with me when I travel west to Tucson again, once I’ve had the COVID inoculation. I will cast his ashes near where I scattered Helen’s on the slopes of Mount Lemon, not all that long ago. That will only be symbolic. I am sure he is already in his Nana’s lap, enjoying her attention in a far better place than the world he left.

I will miss Ozzie terribly. He was my best friend and faithful companion during a very hard time in my life. His eyes would search mine, reading my emotions like the true empath he was, trying his best to help and please. He knew what I was saying most of the time – a good deal of it, anyhow. I could never be lonely when he was nearby, but now I will be. He was just a little dog, you see – but he had a giant heart.

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