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Baron Wormser: Oona

Oona

We had to have our dog put down last week. Oona had become incapacitated from a brain tumor. She couldn’t walk, had a tremor and was disoriented. When my wife and I took her to our vet’s, we had to carry her to the car. She’d been having seizures for a number of months and a few medications allayed the seizures but eventually the tumor got the best of her. She was nine and a half.

   I miss her very much. To the best of our knowledge, which is to say that she was a rescue from South Carolina, she was a cross between a pit bull and German Shorthaired Pointer, freckled with many small brown spots and a few large brown patches. Sometimes people people stopped us on the street to tell us they thought she was beautiful, though that was not exactly the word I would have used. We got her when she was around two. I suspect she had been abused because whenever I had any kind of stick in my hand, she cowered. She had a number of fears and aversions, many of which centered around sounds. The brittle, mechanical sound of a toaster upset her and when she saw me get out a knife to slice some bread, she would head upstairs.

    She liked to chase squirrels and tried to follow them up trees, sometimes getting up a foot or so before gravity pulled her down. Any woman who came into the house would get her crotch sniffed by Oona. Parking her butt on anyone’s foot was another Oona proclivity. Avid and ardent, she could have eaten eight meals a day and was an expert beggar. Possessed of a remarkable nose, she kept her head close to the earth and relished each walk she took in each season. In spring, when the earth was waking up and giving off all manner of exhalations, she was quietly ecstatic as she lurched from one smell to another. 

   A very strong creature, she loved to run. One of her favorite activities was running back and forth between Janet and me, each of us giving her a bit of a biscuit when she came and then sending her on her way. She could shuttle back and forth for a number of minutes before getting tuckered out. I can see her tongue lolling out toward the end of her exertions. How happy she was! 

   When you have a dog, you get to participate in another creature’s being, a creature who wants to be with you, a human being. My wife and I were Oona’s people. She followed us upstairs when we went up to meditate. She slept in a bed by our bed or in a bed on the second floor beneath my wife’s desk in her painting studio. Often she lay on that bed beneath the desk when my wife was painting. It was her special haven. All the words that apply to dogs such as “faithful” and “loyal” applied to Oona. She loved to be in the car with us and would patiently wait for me to take her out in the morning. During the winters, she reveled in lying by the wood stove, baking herself until she reached a certain feeling of warmth and then removing herself to another part of the room. A jowly dog, she slobbered a great deal. I spent a fair amount of my time wiping up the kitchen floor so my wife and I wouldn’t slip on the water that she dribbled when she drank from her water dish or the saliva from her drooling. Not a picture-book dog, just a dog.

   That dogness, of course, was a marvel of being. Oona didn’t need any notion of progress. She had no use for corporations, institutions or political parties. She could have lived a thousand years ago, a scavenging dog getting by on her wits and instincts. That ancientness was one of the great attractions she came with, the primal sense of being here on earth and being glad of it. That’s not to say, as I indicated by her appetite, she didn’t always want more. She did but she also manifested a great contentment in being a dog who could move along the earth’s fascinating surface. She took nothing for granted. Each moment was a fresh one. What a gift!

   One of the hazards of the belief in progress, be it material progress or political progress or technological progress, is the abandonment of wisdom. If everything is judged on the basis of efficacy according to a timeline, then nothing permanently pertains. Time’s hand is at once flighty and fierce. Human beings who are tethered to some notion of betterment are little more than puppets who believe they somehow will move magically through life, ever gaining whatever progress bestows. When contrary signs emerge—nuclear bombs, chemical nightmares, extinctions of all sorts—they turn their heads or, at best, become rueful. There seems no choice. Forward becomes the only direction. 

   I realize that people aren’t dogs and that someone could say my love for Oona was one more fond indulgence that amounted to very little in the scheme of what is and what is not important. Yet the lesson of sheer being that Oona manifested, her gladness in being here, seems to me a great teaching. Clearly, the human capacity for invention has outstripped any sense of how to manage those inventions. Instead, we try to believe that capacity is somehow good in its own right—a dubious conclusion, to put it mildly. We try to believe that by being more managerial—adjusting this rate and that flow of money, insisting on this social gist or denouncing that social gist—we somehow will continue to muddle along in the name of progress. We can say that we’ve come this far as a species but the modern talent for exaggeration, the almost exponential proliferation of everything that machines and fossil fuels have made possible is something very different. We may know so much that we don’t know anything. 

   These thoughts are a long way from Oona chasing squirrels and clambering up the stairs to the second floor. I can say that she is with me still, that she had a good life and that I was blessed to be with  her and those statements are all true in their ways. But I am bewildered by her death. I don’t understand why she left us. I feel abandoned. I loved her so much. I wanted that to be everything and to make her live forever. Silly but part of me is silly and part of being human is silly. When we are with our dogs, we cleave to what is truly there. What more could we possibly want? 


Copyright 2022 Baron Wormser

Baron Wormser’s many books include Some Months in 1968 to be released by Woodhall Press in October 2022.

18 comments on “Baron Wormser: Oona

  1. wesley staples
    August 9, 2022

    “….just a dog…” so simple, yet so enormously complicated and wonderful, with qualities that justify unselfishness, loving. faithfulness and….loss. Our hearts are with you. We understand!

    Like

  2. Lisa Zimmerman
    August 8, 2022

    I loved reading this. I understand completely. I think of James Galvin writing, “All my dogs, all my good horses.” 💔

    Liked by 1 person

  3. davidbevans
    August 8, 2022

    Saddened to hear of your loss. We have a large pet cemetery in the back yard. I have dug enough graves.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. allisonfine
    August 6, 2022

    I shared a beloved dog with my daughter and son-in -law. I miss her to this day. This is a beautiful piece and captures completely the whole dog-human experience. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Michael White
    August 6, 2022

    Lost two beloved dogs in the last three years and fully appreciate, commiserate, and am soothed by your words, Baron. I have two Labs now and they are the best teachers of humility, joy, humor, love, mutability, and yes, the “still sad music of humanity.” My condolences, dear friend.
    Michael White

    Liked by 1 person

  6. andreacladis
    August 6, 2022

    What a wondrous tribute to the creatures that allow us to know what being content and present looks like in this life. I have never gotten over the grief of the dogs that I have loved and lost. The bond we can choose to share with animals reveals a tenderness to our souls as well as the connection I think we all supposed to share with the creatures of this universe. In many ways, animals share in our human nature. They appear to highlight the best qualities of humanness and our capacity for love that we so often neglect or fail to live out with pure intentions. I have often felt unworthy of the love that dogs so freely give. Thank you for sharing these gentle, but profound words in your time of grief.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. theriova
    August 6, 2022

    A beautiful description of Oona, both as herself and as a manifestation of “dogness, a marvel of being.” Also heartfelt, the description of bewilderment at the end. So sorry for your loss, Baron.

    Like

  8. loranneke
    August 6, 2022

    I’m sad with and for you, Baron! And miss seeing you, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. rhoff1949
    August 6, 2022

    These profound attachments define us. They’re the best of us. Grief is the proof of love. “Man is in love and loves what vanishes./ What more is there to say?” Well, as you demonstrate, plenty. Thanks for continuing your saying.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Barbara Huntington
    August 6, 2022

    I loved this. I am lying in bed in Ireland hoping I am just tired and have not finally given up my COVID virginity ( totally vaccinated), thinking about Tashi. Same markings and short hair as the sheep herding champion we saw a few days ago, but s little bigger. She is visiting a friend with dogs in the mountains in Southern California, but oh I miss her cuddles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      August 6, 2022

      Thanks, Barbara. Same here. Baron’s piece reminds me of the dogs I’ve had as companions. Currently, Josie is sleeping on the cool tile floor, waiting for her walk in the woods.

      Liked by 2 people

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This entry was posted on August 6, 2022 by in Health and Nutrition, Most Popular, Opinion Leaders, Personal Essays and tagged , , , , .

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