In March 2012 my roommate
His back story: Hailey's 'friend' had got Biggie as a puppy. After he'd had him for about a year, he moved out with his girlfriend and couldn't take the dog. Biggie had stayed with the guy's dad and sister, who also had a neurotic Aussie Shepherd. The dogs were living in the back yard, drinking from puddles. The Dad's idea of feeding the dogs was putting out one bowl of food when he thought of it. The Aussie beat up on Biggie and most like resource guarded all the food. Luckily Hailey's 'friend' put up no argument to keep Biggie. (I put 'friend' in quotes because after this, he was certainly not her friend.)
Hailey and I took him to her work to fit him with a muzzle. We weren't going to take any chances that his bad experiences had made bitey, and our first priority was to keep our dogs safe. He sat on Hailey's lap in the car because he refused absolutely to stay in the back. My heart broke to see just how skinny the poor boy was.
When we brought him home we bathed him. It turned out that he wasn't the brownish colour he first appeared – he is a gorgeous blue. There was just so much dirt on him that it had disguised his true colour. He put up no protest to us manhandling him. We cut his nails, looked in his mouth at his teeth, and Hailey even took a bone away from him to check his resource guardiness, of which there was zero. He just looked sadly at her like, "I was eating that," and then sighed.
We knew we had to change his name, because Biggie was such a ridiculous name. We decided on Oliver Twist, Ollie for short, because he was starving. He was about 54 lbs that day we brought him home – he's now about 80 lbs. Ollie was a good shape for his name, too, because his head is GIGANTIC (seriously, it's the first thing that EVERYONE says) and his body was so skinny, so the big round 'O' and then the skinny 'llie' suited him. (I have synesthesia so the shape and colour of words matters to me.)
Ollie on Hailey's bed, his first night in our home. You can see how clearly his ribs show. You can also see how quickly he adapted to this idea of sleeping inside, warm and dry and full, on a comfortable bed with a human to snuggle.
To put the size of his head in perspective, here he is cuddling next to my head:
We wanted Ollie to gain weight and muscle tone, as well as get neutered, before we adopted him out. We dewormed him and started feeding him lots of good food, fresh air, exercise, and love.
Our pack, from left to right: Maia, Bosco, Ollie, and Monster.
Ollie is a biggest snugglebug I have ever met, and I live with Maia Brown! He wants to be on top of a person at all times. Sometimes when sleeping with him I would want him to *not* be pressed along my entire body, so I would scoop him up and move him to the other side of the bed. By the time I would lie back down he would have oozed back to his original position, happily snuggled up against me. It was a losing battle.
I don't believe that things happen for a reason; I believe that the universe is random and chaotic. However, in the case of Ollie, the way we met his 'Dad' seemed like fate had a hand. Hailey worked at a pet supply store and a man came in one day looking at dog stuff. He spoke to her manager first and said that he was thinking about adopting a dog, specifically a pit bull because he wanted a dog that he could take places and would be people friendly. A friend had suggested a pit bull to him for these reasons and he had been doing some research into the breed. The manager was more of a cat person so he called Hailey over to talk to him. She was like, "Well, randomly, I have a pitbull who I'm looking for a home for!"
We took it slow with Brett. Hailey and I were both determined that Ollie was going to go to the best home we could find for him. He'd gone through such hell in his short life that he was definitely going to go to someone who would love him as much as we did. The first time Brett met Ollie he was wearing a nice suit. And yet, he rolled around on the grass with Ollie, happy to cuddle and wrestle him, oblivious to the idea of grass stains or dirt. He took him for a few day trips over the following weeks, and fell more in love with him every time. We agreed that Brett could take him home once he was neutered. Ollie was about 75 lbs at that point so he was healthy enough to undergo surgery.
Maia grumpily sharing the bed with Ollie.
Ollie's neuter went without a hitch, and a few days later he went home with Brett. Our house settled back to normal, now being terrier-free. Brett has stayed in touch with us; he comes out every month or so to take Ollie for an off leash walk on the dykes with our pack. He is so totally Brett's dog now, although he doesn't miss the chance to snuggle if we go back to the house to hang out. My heart swells with joy every time I see him, how happy and healthy he is and knowing that I played a part in that.
His story was almost cut tragically short a few months ago. I was working the evening shift and got a message from Hailey saying I needed to call her asap. I called her right away and she told me that Brett was at our house, Ollie was at the 24 hour emergency vet clinic with an obstructed bowel, and he might not make it through the night. I started crying. I am the opposite of stoic when it comes to my dogs, and although Ollie had been with Brett for a year at this point he still did and always will count as one of my dogs. I left work as soon as I could. Brett had left by the time I got home. I sat in silence for about 10 minutes and then decided I wanted to go to the clinic to see Ollie. If the unthinkable happened and he didn't make it, I needed to see him first.
We met Brett at the clinic since he didn't think they would let us in without him. Ollie had an IV and was extremely dopey. Brett sat there in the run with him, tears dripping unheeded off his face. Brett is a big guy, over 6 feet tall, and very stoic. He'll crack a joke before he shows any emotion. And yet here he was, crying over his dog. We each took a turn to go in with Ollie and give him snuggles and love. He was so dopey that he couldn't even give kisses but he still bonked his big muzzle against my face. The world felt like a very unfair place at that time – he'd only had a year of being loved and happy. It wasn't enough. (It's never enough. I know that. But a year is way too short.)
The following day Brett drove Ollie from the emergency vet to another vet about an hour out of the city, who is very experienced at this type of surgery. Hailey and I met him there. They both stayed calm when talking to the vet; I, on the other hand, sat on the floor with Ollie and cried. I said that I'm not stoic! The vet was very honest with us and told us that he might cut Ollie open and then realize that there was nothing he could do. The only option then would be euthanasia. Brett gave the vet permission to do what needed to be done, but I interrupted and told them both that if that was what needed to be done, I would be there with Ollie. The vet would call first and let me return before he euthanized Ollie. Brett and the vet both looked at me like I was an overemotional female who didn't understand what I was asking, but luckily Hailey took my side and the vet agreed.
Then started the longest wait of my life. We went to a nearby Starbucks and sat, staring at the walls in silence. I kept checking the time, because the longer it went without hearing from the vet, the better the odds were that he was actually able to fix the damage. After an hour I couldn't take it anymore and I suggested we go back to the clinic to wait. The vet came out after about 20 more minutes of waiting and told us that it had been as successful as he could have hoped. He was able to smooth the intestine back into place; he didn't have to cut any of the bowel. He had stitched Ollie back up but hadn't given him the anti-sedation yet. I insisted that I wanted to be there when Ollie woke up. I have always done this with my dogs. I think that they are scared and in pain when they wake up and the first thing they should know is that their person is there.
Ollie is such a trooper. He stayed overnight with this vet so he could be monitored, and he was eating by that evening. He went home with Brett the next day, and I brought him home with me a few days later when Brett was working so that he wouldn't be alone. He spent the whole time lying with me on the couch, snuggled up and happy as a clam. I don't believe in god but I sent thanks out to the universe for looking after our pibble, our big headed Oliver Twist.
So that's the story of Oliver Twist. Writing all this reminds me that it's about time his dad brought him out for a visit with us. I need to smoosh him.