Oscar was my world. He came into my life during a really difficult time for me, on 5 August 2003. When I got him, he was a frightened, timid 11 month old rough collie who had been returned to the breeder (circumstances unclear) and was due to live out his life in a kennel and a run, possibly as a stud dog, but definitely not as a family pet. I had wanted to leave London and my soulless job in the City. I wanted a dog so badly. I bought the cottage where we both lived on his first birthday. He is intimately connected with this place and my new life in Suffolk. It is our home together. He left my life on 5 August 2014. We were both in a very different place thanks to the time we had together.
There is something very ancient and deep in the bond between a man and his dog. It goes back thousands of years to when the first wolves became domesticated. It's really quite hard to explain the depth of it to someone who hasn't had a dog. When you live on your own, your dog becomes your soul mate. Every evening when I was on Twitter, reading a book, or watching a movie, Oscar would be next to me on the sofa, getting a neck message or behind his ears rubbed. I loved him so much. He gave me endless, devoted, unconditional love back. He was the ultimate healing presence for me.
He was my companion through 11 years. He came to work with me every day. We travelled Europe on our own together, doing his favourite thing, camping. He notched up 16 countries from Denmark in the north, down to Spain in the south. He just loved being in the fresh air, the endless walks, and sleeping pressed right up to me at night. Every day for those 11 years that I was with him, I greeted him with a good morning and he howled and cried back. Every night I tucked him up in his basket and he was the last one I spoke to with a "Nighty night, Oscar. You sleep well, Daddy will see you in the morning."
Oscar was there, observing matters from the back of car in his little collie way, the day I met my boyfriend Ste in May 2012. Ste cautiously got the paws up, and despite the odd show of jealousy (Ste claims the end of his nose was involved, but Oscar refuted that strongly) the three of us rapidly became a trio. Oscar, Ste and I walked the Manchester Moors, through the New Forest, and along the Suffolk and Norfolk beaches. Oscar always slept downstairs in my cottage, but our weekend trips to visit Ste in Manchester meant we were fair game for being joined for a sneaky collie cuddle in bed. He was particularly fond of being little spooned by Ste. The best Christmas of my life to date was December 2012, which the three of us of spent together in Suffolk. We went the whole hog with a real tree, German style, a holly wreath, baking and fresh salmon (of course) for Oscar. It was truly magical.
On 5 August 2013, the ten year anniversary of Oscar and my being together, a car overtaking on a hill and a bend, drove head-on into us on my side of the road on the A140. It was such a violent impact, it wrote off my three week old 1900kg Mercedes, and I'm still having treatment for injury to my back and leg, a year after the collision. Oscar was in the back, safely behind his dog guard, but he was still thrown forward with horrible force. He started having trouble with walking, and in February this year had a complete muscular break down. I thought I was going to lose him. We started an intensive programme of hydrotherapy and physiotherapy, as well as drug treatment for the arthritis that had been exacerbated by the crash. My Mutti was heavily involved in this, as I had to be abroad a lot with work this year. Each time he came home from a stay with his beloved "Granny", the results of her nursing were clear for me to see. A miracle happened: Oscar came back. In February he had not wanted to go outside at all, he had been hobbling rather than just limping, and when he did go out he hadn't been sniffing anything or raising his head. Little by little he found his love of life again and became stronger and stronger. He wore a thick back paw support for walks, but by April he was happily exercising a good hour a day. He did this right up until the day before he died.
At the end of July Ste, Oscar and I spent a week camping in the mountains in the South of France. Oscar would have been twelve next month, so it was the perfect holiday for an almost 84 year old (in human terms). He watched the birdies, the people, and dogs going by from the comfort of his super comfy basket, had a couple of walks along the river every day, and slept under the canvas with his daddies. Every day at 5 o'clock he was willing us to get up, and start the next day of his collieday. He did ever so well with the 15 hour car drive (including lots of breaks to stretch his paws): there wasn't a squeak out of him at all. He was the easiest going dog imaginable. He was so incredibly happy throughout that holiday.
Last Sunday, less than a week after our return from France, we had two lovely walks in the woods and were lying in the sun together in the garden enjoying the warm weather. In the evening he brought up his dinner. During the night he was sick several more times, bringing up bile. I slept next to him on the floor downstairs. At 8am on Monday he couldn't get up. He tried and I caught him just before he fell over on his side. I took him straight to the vet, where they did blood and neurological tests. They ruled out poisoning, a stroke and problems with his back. His reflexes were all still working, but he just couldn't get up. His heart was racing incredibly fast and he was panting heavily. He was put on a drip and given strong pain killers. 24 hours later, his condition had worsened. He just about acknowledged me, and there was still no movement. I had two vets look at him, and we consulted an expert at one of the country's leading animal treatment specialists. They all said there was no hope. It was almost certainly a tumour of some kind. At 10am on Tuesday 5 August he was put to sleep. Two days before we'd been sunbathing together. One of my hands was under his little furry head, the other holding his beautiful white front paw. It was so surprisingly peaceful. He died 11 years, to the day, that I had collected him from the breeder.
Oscar had his "Lassie" movie star looks until the day he died. He had just the slightest white round his muzzle and eyes. Apart from his poor paw, he was the picture of health, with the most stunning shiny coat. I'm so grateful he never suffered blindness, deafness, incontinence, teeth problems or any of the other issues old dogs have. He was such a gentle boy throughout his life. He was so zen and calm, and looked he spent hours in his basket meditating. I used to joke he was a Buddhist monk in a former life. He would get really upset if I killed flies in the house and hated squeaky toys: I think he thought we were hurting them when they squeaked. I can count on one hand the times I remember telling him off during his entire life. His departure was so typically Oscar: gentle, quiet, and without fuss.
I've so much to be grateful for: we had 11 years packed full of love and happiness, a dream collie holiday a week before his death, and a swift and painless end, aged just shy of 12. I don't think any dog, or dog owner, could ask for more than that. Yet my heart wants to break. The complete uncontrollable grief I'm feeling is like nothing I've experienced before. He was my everything: a friend, a son, a brother, a companion. He wasn't a family pet: he was my family. He has been with me, through everything, for over a quarter of my life. Ste and I had already put our name down with a breeder in Leicestershire to get a puppy collie companion for Oscar in November. He won't be a replacement for Oscar: nothing could be. Oscar won't be meeting him and won't be helping bring him up after all. I like to think that Oscar knew that his time was up, would be happy to know I won't be on my own, and that I'll have a collie by my side again. The next few months without a dog will be so hard. I can't even contemplate the void I feel right now without him.
Just before he died I thanked him for everything. I want to thank him again, to the world, with this little piece. I loved you so much, Oscar. You were the most beautiful, softest, best behaved, loving dog in the world. Nothing can ever take away from the time we had together and I'm just so grateful to have had you in my life. I'll remember you until my dying day. Rest in peace my beautiful boy.
Oscar "Tameila After Dark" Ede
* 23 September 2002 † 5 August 2014
"He might only be there for part of your life, but for him you are his whole life"