I Lost My Oreo

How Emotions Can Inspire Your Writing

How Emotions Can Inspire Your Writing

I just spent a fabulous weekend at a blogger’s conference in Las Vegas. I am truly inspired by the incredible bloggers who are published authors or are living their dreams through their online businesses.  BAM Conference 2016I share this post from a year ago as a testament to writing personal essays using our deepest emotions to tell a story.

This was the second year of the Bloggers At Midlife Conference. If you want to take your blog and writing to the next step, consider attending this conference or other similar conferences.

This was part one of a writing challenge series. If you are new to my blog, I hope you enjoy reading this post.


 

 

Oreo was my beloved 14-year old Springer Spaniel-Australian Shepherd mix. He was 12-weeks old when he and his twin brother were brought to the SPCA. My daughters and I had just gotten a Chow puppy and were taking him home when we saw the cute, freckle-faced black and white pups.

The next day, I came home from work for lunch to check on our little Chow and he had died. Weeping, I wrapped him up in a towel and brought him back to the SPCA. The vet later told me he had died from an infection brought on by the neuter surgery. Who performs neuters on 6-week old pups?

But that is not the story.

Within two days, the SPCA said I could take one of the black and white puppies we had seen earlier. We brought him home and named him Oreo for all the Oreo-cookie crumbs that freckled his nose. Here is what Oreo looked like when we got him (yes, that is me back then).

Oreo-My-Dog
Oreo was 12-weeks old when we brought him home from the SPCA

Fast forward to 2011.

In early 2011, Oreo had already exceeded his estimated life span by two years. Dogs his size usually die by age 12 or 13 years old. I attributed his extra years to going with us to the delta when my husband entered my life in 2009. Oreo loved the delta. In 2010, we acquired Aero, our brown cocker mix, who also kept Oreo company in his last year on Earth.

When Oreo died, I wasn’t even in town.

For several months, Oreo had been losing weight, had lost his hearing, and had cataracts. He never lost his strong sense of smell, so he could maneuver pretty well around the yard.

In late June, at the delta, Oreo got severely tangled in his long lead to which he was tied next to our trailer. We tied him up so he wouldn’t wander over the levee and get hit by a car. Most of the time, he could be off his tether under our supervision. On this particular Saturday morning, having gotten tangled again, I drove the hour drive back home where he would not have to be tied up. When we got home on Sunday evening, my daughter said that he had fallen down the two steps from our backyard deck. He was unharmed but this was not a good sign.

I took him to the vet shortly after. He had gotten into very bad shape very quickly. In a few days, we were travelling for a 5-day vacation in Yosemite. I felt in my heart that Oreo should be put out of his misery and hoped the vet would agree. Instead, she prescribed him some pills (for older dogs). Although I was relieved and hoped that Oreo would get better, that did not happen.

My daughter’s friend agreed to look after Oreo while we were in Yosemite. There is very little phone service in the high country, but we happened to be visiting Yosemite Valley one of the days.

That is when I got the phone call. When Darla checked on Oreo, she found him sprawled across the deck stairs where he had fallen again. He was very near death. While trying to reach me, she and a neighbor put him in the car and took him to the closest vet.

As the vet described Oreo’s condition over the phone to me, wanting to run tests (why??), I told the vet to put him down. In writing this, it sounds so cold and factual, but since I wasn’t there, I cope with this by being so. Darla agreed to stay with Oreo while they injected him with the life-ending serum. She was the last person Oreo sensed.

To this day, I carry the guilt and immense sadness that I could not be by my dog’s side as he was euthanized. I can barely write this even now.

We requested the vet to freeze Oreo’s body. When we came home, my husband dug a deep hole in our backyard under Oreo’s favorite pine tree and buried him there. My husband made a cement grave stone and we managed to use Oreo’s own paw to make a print in the wet cement.

Once Oreo was laid to rest under the tree, what amazed me is how our puppy Aero reacted. He could smell Oreo and spent several days laying on Oreo’s grave, sniffing and “crying.” Sometimes he would run around the yard looking for him.

I am consoled by the knowledge that Oreo had some extra time on Earth and a puppy companion in his last days.


 

I have wanted to write this story for a long time and this prompt for Writing 101 was as good a time as any.

Grief is a powerful emotion that can be tapped to write compelling personal essays worth reading. Stories such as these can be serialized as I did with this writing prompt. Part two became the back-story, then part three continued the theme to celebrate Oreo’s wonderful life.

Thank you to panel experts Susan Maccarelli and Jill Robbins for presenting the topic “The Art of Crafting Personal Essays that Get Published.”

My Oreo Lives Forever: The Journey

Oreo-Forever

This post marks my final installment of the life of my dog, Oreo and wraps up the three-part Writing 101 assignment, Serially Lost. To catch up, please read the prequel about Oreo and the story of I Lost My Oreo.

Oreo-Forever
The sweetest face

Oreo’s life went on as it does for any dog.

Oreo spent long days in the backyard. He was an outside dog. He had a large backyard with plenty of space to run and neighbor dogs to keep each other company behind their respective fences. I worried about him being alone so much. I know most dogs sleep all day, but I made sure to take him for walks as often as possible. Oreo was the best watchdog I ever had. At about 65 pounds, he had a deep, throaty bark that no doubt scared potential intruders. And he only barked when he needed to.

During the winter holidays when the family was inside, gathered in the living room, Oreo would get our attention by touching his front paw against the slider door as if to say, “Hey, I’m here!” Of course we would all laugh and go pet him. Many times, my brother brought his dog, Ginger, and the two would tumble and chase all over the backyard. Ginger is with Oreo now at the Rainbow Bridge.

When I started grad school, Oreo was 10 years old. With one daughter on her own and the other busy with school and sports, Oreo and I would take long walks every evening. He was always so happy to go for these walks while I pondered school readings and looming assignments.

In 2009 when I met my husband, and we started spending summers at the delta, Oreo went with us every weekend. By now he was 12 years old and dogs his size usually only live to that age; and his age was beginning to show. He was becoming hard-of-hearing and his eyes had the unmistakable cloudiness of glaucoma.

Once my hubby came into our lives, Oreo spent much less time alone. My husband got home from work earlier than me and he would sit on our deck and enjoy a beer. He loved to give Oreo a tiny saucer of beer once in a while.

In his older age, Oreo developed a funny little habit of moaning and groaning with pleasure when we would bend down to hug him and pet him. The sweet, throaty noises he made gladdened my heart to know he was truly happy. My eyes tear up even now as I remember this.

In 2010, we had the opportunity to get another dog, this one a puppy. My daughter pointed out that all our pets’ names had the letters “E-O” in them: Leon (the cat); Gideon (my daughter’s dog); and, of course, Oreo. See the pattern here? Trying to name the tiny brown Spaniel-terrier mix was a challenge, what with putting E-O together. My hubby came up with Aero. So, yes, calling for Aero and Oreo was tongue-tying! Finally we gave up and just yelled, “Air-ee-yo” and they would both come running!

Oreo and Aero kept each other company for the next 10 months.Oreo-and-Aero In this photo, taken from behind the screen door, you can see Aero lying on top of Oreo all snuggled up. I was so lucky to capture that moment and will never forget how good Oreo was with having an annoying puppy around.

When both dogs were at the delta with us, part of the morning routine was to take them out for their morning relief. One particularly windy morning, as I walked along the levee road, I spotted Oreo and Aero running alongside the pink stucco wall that marked the barrier between the two campgrounds. Worried that Oreo would continue running up onto the road, I yelled for both dogs. I was nearly 200 yards away so my voice went nowhere. A moment later, with the strong wind at my back blowing toward the dogs, suddenly Oreo stopped, sniffed the air and turned to look straight at me. I was amazed at how strong his sense of smell was, and realized that his blindness and lack of hearing would not deter him from enjoying his last few months.

We believe the attention, a puppy companion, and fresh, breezy air added two years to Oreo’s 14-year life.

Rainbow-Bridge
The poem. Image by Suzanne Huddlestun Clark

As humans, we will always outlive our fur-babies.

Pets will enter and exit our lives and we will always cherish their sweet memories. I love the poem of the Rainbow Bridge and I get comfort believing that our beloved pets occupy a special place in Heaven with the rest of God’s creatures.

While I write this story, Aero (now 5 years old) has been leaning next to me as if he understands my emotional state. Dogs are amazing.

I hope you enjoyed reading and I thank you for indulging my memories of Oreo’s life journey. If you have a fur-baby at home, whom you know loves you unconditionally, please give it an extra-special squeeze today.


Writing 101 Day Sixteen: Third Time’s the Charm
Today’s Prompt: For inspiration, ponder the phrase “lost and found.” On day four, you wrote about losing something. On day thirteen, you then wrote about finding something. So, today’s twist: If you’d like to continue our serial challenge, also reflect on the theme of lost and found more generally in this post.

I am also including this post for BeWOW Wednesday, a weekly challenge from Ronovan Writes.

Just two more days of the Ultimate Blog Challenge

Ultimate Blog Challenge

I Found My Oreo: The Early Years

Oreo-the-Lifeguard

The back-story of our beloved dog Oreo begins here. In a previous post, I wrote about how we lost our Oreo.

Two years after my divorce, my youngest daughter still longed for the dogs we had when her dad was still here. Being a newly-single mother of two young daughters, with no monetary help whatsoever, and as much as I wanted another dog, I waited until some time had passed.

Oreo-My-Dog
Oreo is 12-weeks old when we brought him home from the SPCA

The time was right, so we took a trip to the local SPCA. Without rehashing the details of the puppy we initially brought home, the circumstances changed so that we found the adorable, black and white, freckle-snouted Springer Spaniel-mix pup, who we dubbed “Oreo.”

Oreo was three months old already when we brought him home. He happily accepted his new life in our large backyard. A few months earlier we had acquired a rabbit that roamed freely until…Oreo discovered him. I naively believed they could co-exist in the backyard, the bunny blissfully chewing on our vegetation. Just a few days after we brought Oreo home, I heard a commotion in the yard. Oreo had not only discovered the rabbit, but had attacked it!

Why did I get a dog again? Oh yes, to make my youngest daughter happy. I wrapped the poor rabbit up in a towel thinking it was close to death, and brought it into the garage. Its injuries were not life-threatening, but it was in shock. The bunny recovered and we gave it to a neighbor down the street. Oreo had claimed his territory and had full reign of the backyard.

Oreo loved to dig shallow holes all over the yard to sleep in. It must have been the Australian Shepherd in him that caused him to sleep in the shallow holes. This had to stop, so with help, we built a small wooden dog house for him, which had a flat roof. We put a nice fluffy rug and blanket in the brand-new house, and found him asleep on top of the house! We should have named him Snoopy. And he didn’t stop digging.

Looking back, Oreo spent more time alone in the backyard than I had wanted, because of work and school. But we made sure to play with him and take him for walks. My two young daughters were attentive enough, offering to give him baths as much as possible. One time, my youngest was a little too liberal with the soap and got some in Oreo’s eyes. His eyelid literally turned inside out for two days! From that day on, he DESPISED water and would run the opposite way when I would use the hose to water the grass.

Despite this, he lived a happy, puppy life. Inevitably, as the kids got older, they spent less time with Oreo. With me driving them to their various activities in the evenings, Oreo was alone. There were a couple of dogs in the surrounding neighbors’ yards, so he did have a little company. I took him for walks as often as I could, but I’m sure it wasn’t enough. I still feel some remorse over this.

Oreo grew into a good-sized dog, weighing about 65 pounds with thick, glossy black fur—yes, he shed in the warm months. He was an outdoor dog and rarely did he come into the house. Between the dog house and the pet door to the garage, he seemed content. Still the water-hater, on rainy days, he stayed outside and lounged under the big pine tree. He could have easily come in out of the rain, but he seemed to enjoy it, for some inexplicable reason.

One oddly cloudy July 4th evening, as neighborhood fireworks boomed and lit up the night, I had walked outside the front door to see if I could see the nearby church’s fireworks display. I came back in to find Oreo lying on the couch (I had forgotten to close the screen door). He was afraid of the noise, as most dogs are, and made himself right at home.

A couple of years later, when I became the aquatics director in 2002, we held an event the weekend the pool closed for the season. This event was “Doggy Dip Day” where we let the dogs come swimming. Think of an off-leash dog park with a swimming pool to play in! Of course, the media came early and wanted photo ops, so I brought Oreo with me and dressed him in a lifeguard shirt. Oreo did a great job patrolling the deck, careful not to put a toe in the water.

Oreo-the-Lifeguard
Oreo wore the lifeguard uniform at the first annual doggy dip day.

Oreo’s young years were happy and full of joy. This also serves as my post for BeWOW Wednesday, a weekly challenge from Ronovan Writes.

Stay tuned for the final part of the story coming soon!


Writing 101–Day Thirteen: Serially Found
On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today’s Prompt: write about finding something.
Interpret this theme of “finding something” however you see fit. Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment — loosely defined.

I Lost My Oreo

Oreo-Loved-the Delta
Oreo-Loved-the Delta
Oreo at age 12 years

Oreo was my beloved 14-year old Springer Spaniel-Australian Shepherd mix. He was 12-weeks old when he and his twin brother were brought to the SPCA. My daughters and I had just gotten a Chow puppy and were taking him home when we saw the cute, freckle-faced black and white pups.

The next day, I came home from work for lunch to check on our little Chow and he had died. Weeping, I wrapped him up in a towel and brought him back to the SPCA. The vet later told me he had died from an infection brought on by the neuter surgery. Who performs neuters on 6-week old pups?

But that is not the story.

Within two days, the SPCA said I could take one of the black and white puppies we had seen earlier. We brought him home and named him Oreo for all the Oreo-cookie crumbs that freckled his nose. Here is what Oreo looked like when we got him (yes, that is me 18 years ago).

Oreo-My-Dog
Oreo was 12-weeks old when we brought him home from the SPCA

Fast forward to 2011.

In early 2011, Oreo had already exceeded his estimated life span by two years. Dogs his size usually die by age 12 or 13 years old. I attributed his extra years to going with us to the delta when my husband entered my life in 2009. Oreo loved the delta. In 2010, we acquired Aero, our brown cocker mix, who also kept Oreo company in his last year on Earth.

When Oreo died, I wasn’t even in town.

For several months, Oreo had been losing weight, had lost his hearing, and had cataracts. He never lost his strong sense of smell, so he could maneuver pretty well around the yard.

In late June, at the delta, Oreo got severely tangled in his long lead to which he was tied next to our trailer. We tied him up so he wouldn’t wander over the levee and get hit by a car. Most of the time, he could be off his tether under our supervision. On this particular Saturday morning, having gotten tangled again, I drove the hour drive back home where he would not have to be tied up. When we got home on Sunday evening, my daughter said that he had fallen down the two steps from our backyard deck. He was unharmed but this was not a good sign.

I took him to the vet shortly after. He had gotten into very bad shape very quickly. In a few days, we were travelling for a 5-day vacation in Yosemite. I felt in my heart that Oreo should be put out of his misery and hoped the vet would agree. Instead, she prescribed him some pills (for older dogs). Although I was relieved and hoped that Oreo would get better, that did not happen.

My daughter’s friend agreed to look after Oreo while we were in Yosemite. There is very little phone service in the high country, but we happened to be visiting Yosemite Valley one of the days.

That is when I got the phone call. When Darla checked on Oreo, she found him sprawled across the deck stairs. He was very near death. While trying to reach me, she and a neighbor put him in the car and took him to the closest vet.

As the vet described Oreo’s condition over the phone to me, wanting to run tests (why??), I told the vet to put him down. In writing this, it sounds so cold and factual, but since I wasn’t there, I cope with this by being so. Darla agreed to stay with Oreo while they injected him with the life-ending serum. She was the last person Oreo sensed.

To this day, I carry the guilt and immense sadness that I could not be by my dog’s side as he was euthanized. I can barely write this even now.

We requested the vet to freeze Oreo’s body. When we came home, my husband dug a deep hole in our backyard under Oreo’s favorite pine tree and buried him there. My husband made a cement grave stone and we managed to use Oreo’s own paw to make a print in the wet cement.

Once Oreo was laid to rest under the tree, what amazed me is how our puppy Aero reacted. He could smell Oreo and spent several days laying on Oreo’s grave, sniffing and “crying.” Sometimes he would run around the yard looking for him.

I am consoled by the knowledge that Oreo had some extra time on Earth and a puppy companion in his last days.

I have wanted to write this story for a long time and this prompt for Writing 101 is as good a time as any. The twist to this prompt, to make it a three-part serial, will give me the opportunity to continue the series with the back story to celebrate Oreo’s wonderful life…stay tuned.