Saturday, June 20, 2009
When I was going through his pictures this afternoon, it was hard to decide which ones to use. As dogs go, he was photogenic but he dearly hated to have his picture taken. There are probably more pictures in my camera of his retreating fuzzy butt as he trotted away than expressive shots like this one of him blissed out on the couch.
That couch, by the way, was his. It was purchased with him in mind after he managed to destroy three of them by dint of chewing, dirt and general doggieness. This one withstood the last four years of his life and after me, my mother, his My Kebbin and Cookie Monster, it was probably one of his favorite things ever.
If you've read very much of this blog, you're probably aware of some of his antics over the years. Here's a bit more of his story:
He was part of a four-pup litter born in 1997 to a registered Old English Sheepdog mom. The identity of his father was always a little muddy. I have heard that his dad could have been either the doofusy Bearded Collie who loved to come visit or the suave Huskie who had a talent for climbing fences and a yen for pretty English girls.
When we first met him and his brothers at the shelter, the workers were pushing the other three pups, McNeill, McDuff and McGruff and letting O'Neill kind of languish in the background. His brothers had blue eyes or one blue eye and one brown eye and they thought it would be easier to get them adopted first. Also, O'Neill had feet like pie pans and was already the biggest of the four. I guess they figured things weren't looking too good for the boy. One thing he had over his brothers was a mellow, sweet disposition. He loved to play, but he also loved to be cuddled. There was never a question about which brother was going home with me that day. It's funny because when I brought him in for his first well puppy visit, the vet told me that they were worried he wouldn't find a home because of his brown eyes and quiet personality.
He was there through health scares, career changes, family crises. It wasn't until much later on I realized how much he served as my id, whether it was saying what I really thought about Sean Avery or farting in the general direction of The Worst Boss Ever and then smiling and wagging. A friend who was struggling through his dissertation while teaching full time considered O'Neill a brother under the fur. He went so far as to include O'Neill in the acknowledgments when he published his paper. He was a big, sensitive boy who adored children and small animals. He loved Spanish Guitar, C-Span and Sesame Street for background noise. He had a vocabulary of words and phrases that he recognized and would respond to when he heard them: pink squeaky, cookie, eating time is over, cornbread, go peepee, chicken, slider, go putter, cookie monster, Kebbin, go to bed and hey ball are the ones that come to mind at the moment. He loved summer and shared my thing for veggies. He would let anyone who dared to eat a stalk of broccoli without sharing know that they were horribly remiss in their manners and enjoyed delicately shelling and eating peas. The latter was the source of bets, astonishment and sometimes consternation for years.
Kebbin, or My Kebbin, is Big Gay Kevin. He was one of O'Neill's biggest fans, closest guy buddies and most vocal advocate for his rights as a Canine-American. I had never quite understood the dynamic behind married friends who got slightly resentful of their mates' buddies until Kevin and O'Neill laid eyes on each other. I might as well have left the house so the two of them could lounge on the couch together to watch PBS and eat White Castles. Whenever Kev came over, O'Neill would bound ahead of me and lots of growling and wrestling would ensue. I was lucky to get a backwards glance as if to say, "My company is here. Why don't you go into the kitchen and fix us some sandwiches?" If I had to pick a mental image that sums up their relationship, it would have to be one of the multiple times I've caught them sprawled on the couch, sharing a frappuccino. No, you did not misread that.
He died at home on April 29th. I won't go into great detail about it other than to say that after living a good, long life he realized he had worn out the body he was given and grudgingly admitted that it was time. He was and is loved and sorely missed by me and everyone who knew him.
The other day I got an email from someone asking me where he was and why he hadn't written about the Stanley Cup Finals or the NHL Awards. "Man!" The writer told me, "That dog is funny! You need to let him write your blog from now on."
I think he would have agreed.
copyright 2009 jas faulkner