Opie passed away this morning.
We got home from the hospital after a grueling night and I took the day off work but I cannot sleep a wink or rest without exploding in tears. So I am trying to write about this dog whom I loved so much that my heart feels dead today as it probably will for a long, long time. I don’t have the words, but writing is the only way I know how to dull the pain.
Opie came to our home as a four-month-old puppy from the Washington Humane Society. Desi found him in one of the runs and salivated over him as he romped around with a German Shepherd puppy. He was a golden furball with a tail like a hairy rod: the most beautiful thing we had ever seen. We were told he had already been adopted out to someone else. Desi was heartbroken, but when we returned to the shelter a week later, there was Opie, returned by his new family for reasons I cannot fathom: who would not want this absolutely divine creature? Their loss was our gain.
Opie was a storm. That first day in our house he ran up and down through every room, chased by an excited Lucy, stopping every few seconds to deposit a small pool of pee. Suddenly, without warning, he would fall fast asleep. Once, as I stood at the kitchen table eating breakfast, I found him sleeping right on my foot, cuddling my fluffy blue slipper. That sight tugged at my heart like nothing ever had.
Opie was extraordinarily smart, and knew exactly how to manipulate us and even Lucy. He loved soft toys and although Lucy did not really play with them, she was nothing if not the fun police. So she would grab his toy from him and take it to a corner where she would sit down, holding a paw over it. Opie, not to be deterred, would pick up another toy, walk over to Lucy, drop it in front of her, and make whiny sounds as if to plead that she take the other toy and return his. It was the cutest thing I had ever seen.
Over the years, Opie and Lucy remained our chief trouble-making duo even as a procession of foster dogs passed through our home. Despite the difference in their sizes and temperaments they loved each other, and together they got into every mischief you can imagine, from chasing squirrels to joggers. But Opie was also as peaceful as they come– he was a happy dog with a beautiful, bushy tail that never stopped wagging and a mouth that was forever wide open in a smile. He loved other dogs and got along reasonably well with one of our cats, Pubm (although our other cat, Pie, and he never quite saw eye to eye). And he was content to play sidekick to Lucy. Early on he discovered she was not happy to share the backseat of the car with him, so he moved permanently to the place he favored anyway: my lap, so he could get the full picture through the windscreen and satisfy his endless curiosity about how the world worked. You’ve got a lion in your lap, passers-by would yell with a smile.
We had many names for him, most given by Desi, and he responded to each one: Opu, Opya, Opayan, Opeshwar, Sunshine, Cashewnut. For more than 13 years that we had him, he ruled our lives. Not for a minute would he let you forget he was around, demanding treats, demanding walks, or just demanding. Today, my house feels cold and empty and my heart jumps when I hear a creak on the stairs. I can’t believe he’s gone.
Many of you have come to know Opie and his antics on these pages. He made my life complete. I feel lucky I have you, all animal lovers, to tell his story to because it is hard to describe to people who do not share their hearts with animals just how deep a void they leave behind. Opie, to me, was no less than a human — or a human child — could ever be. He was more, because humans can never offer you that complete, unconditional love that shines out of your dog’s eyes.
I miss cuddling his sweet, soft, furry body, and kissing the top of his beautiful head. I miss his paw scratching at my leg as I write at the computer to ask for something. I miss taking him for a walk, even though all he did in these last few weeks after he got sick was to sit around on the grass, look at everyone and everything passing by, and bark.
I hope he is out there now, happy and healthy and reunited with his old friend, Lucy, as they chase a squirrel.
Sleep, sweet Sunshine.