The memory remains a good one. Sons Scott and Chris – Grant’s birth came later – were relaxing with me on a chilly Christmas Day in the comfort of our living room. We were weary from a long day of Christmas Eve travel, but had managed to open colorfully wrapped packages of all sizes and shapes.
I had found particular pleasure in my favorite chair next to the fireplace. The boys were still on the floor, swapping brotherly banter and admiring their newfound bounty.
The room was a mess, a domestic tornado littered with piles of debris left over from the ripped wrapping and untangled bows of that wonderful once-a-year clutter.
Julie, my adorable wife, had mysteriously disappeared, offering an excuse that escapes me now but seemed reasonable at the time.
When she returned, her eyes glistened. Her arms cuddled a wiggling bundle of fur that was topped by a tattered red bow. That particular Christmas had one more surprise.
His name was Oliver.
He was a 14-week-old wire-haired Dachshund, all five-and-a-half pounds of him that stretched over his tiny 12-inch frame. His hair was black, highlighted by a brown beard, whiskers, eyebrows and boots.
And he was as cute as he could be.
It took only minutes for him to capture our hearts, to train us only as a pup can do, to teach us to respond almost immediately to his every desire or command.
We didn’t plan it that way. It just happened.
He was special.
We even had papers to prove it. His certificate of pedigree was longer than all of our collective resumes. His daddy was named Alamar Englelong Bed Bug. He, too, was a miniature wire-hair and his owners called him Bugger for short. His mom was named Summer Sunshine, Summer for short, and she was a miniature smooth Dachshund.
The original owner, who had to personally approve of his new home, said he was definitely a show dog with winning lines and proper qualifications. We were properly impressed and shared our pride, never however letting on the only show we anticipated was one of intense love and affection, the unconditional type we expected him to return.
We figured he might not meet many other fancy dogs that way, but we were reasonably certain the neighborhood had its share of other normal, ordinary dogs who could become his friend.
Oliver didn’t replace Bear, our 16-year-old smooth Dachshund for whom we were still in mourning, but he did energize our household as only a frisky pup can do and he did show great tolerance when we called him by the wrong name.
He quickly created his own place as a significant part of our world, a role that expanded as Grant’s best buddy from birth.
His sausage-shaped little body remains full of curiosity. Though he has always traveled well, he often was the object of attention when he boarded temporarily at the Dog Gone Resort. A touch of arthritis has on occasion slowed his pace and his regularly empty “Lassie Sucks” food bowl has caused that once trim physique to enlarge.
He has handled well the exchange of a golf course home where he did interrupt a backswing or two for the more heavily trafficked neighborhood life, exploring new landscapes and sniffing out new frontiers.
He has chased a car or two, but luckily hasn’t caught one yet. He gives voice as if he were a Great Dane. His ferocious bark and protective spirit belie his size, but they do allow us to introduce him as our attack Dachshund.
To us, he is more than just a dog. He is family, part of us. He makes friends easily and has yet to meet a lap he didn’t like. The sparkle in his eyes is special. And so real is the affection he shares, it challenges us each day to be the person he thinks we are.
He remains an endearing dose of Christmas love, one that like the timeless commercial says, keeps on giving as a living example and reminder of so wonderful a cherished season.
Oliver died of a heart attack Tuesday.
He was 12.
While our family will miss him terribly, we will remember the lessons he taught us about unconditional love. To us, he was more than a dog. He was a trusted friend, a constant companion, a valuable and a contributing member of our family. He was loyal, dependable, smart, protective, loving and fun.
Oliver was special. And he made us feel special.There will always be a warm spot in our hearts for him.
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