Olaf died last night.

I’m not normally one who puts their heart out there, but the only way I know to mourn my puppy is to put into words what he meant to me and share it with the world. I know there’s people out there who will say, he was just a dog but he wasn’t. If he was just that there wouldn’t be a hole in my heart the size of Berringer Crater.

Olaf was a little Maltese. I bought him for my wife about seven years ago. The first time we saw him was when we met the breeders. We put him on the back seat of her jeep, and here’s this little four legged rat of a dog walking around back there like he owned it. A few weeks later he actually came to live with us.

To say he was a character is an understatement. I remember this little thing running around the house, terrorizing his brother, Shadow. He looked like he was going to stay small forever, and then one day I came home from work, looked at him, and it occurred to me he was growing.

When we house trained him, he and I used to play a game. I’d let him out of the house, he’d do his business, and then he’s sit on the far side of the yard. I’d walk out to him saying, “I’m going to get me a puppy. I’m going to get me a puppy.” And the race would be on. He run for the door. if he’d been a child, I’m sure he’d have laughed all the way.

Or when it had snowed or the lawn was wet, he’d come walking on the curb we’d had installed years ago.

Or how when I’d be working in my office, get up to go into the bedroom, and he’d be lying on the landing. I’d have to walk right by him, and he’d roll over on his back. I’d have stop, scratch him on the belly for several seconds, and then, and only then, was I allowed to move on. And of course that process was repeated when I came back.

I also kept a bed in my office for him and a lot of times he’d come in and get in it and snooze while I worked.

His pride and joy however, was his little red ball. I gone to PetSmart one night and they had a little display that had these little red, rubber balls. each ball was about the size of a half dollar. I bought him one. He played with it till it fell apart. then we had to get him another. Oddly, it always had to be red. Green, blue, yellow, any color except red, he wouldn’t play with. I couldn’t fine the individual red balls anymore so we’d have to buy a pack of them just to get the single red ball that was in it.

I think the thing I’ll miss the most is how every morning, when my wife and I would site and have coffee, he’d get up in my lap and let me pet him. And he’d lick my hand almost nonstop during this. he had an amazingly long tongue for a little puppy. In fact, i used to say he was just a life support system for a tongue.

Well, that life support system suffered a major malfunction. Worse, we didn’t see it coming.

Four days before, he started drinking a lot of water. Well, winter is here and I know animals start drinking more. We didn’t think anything of it. Wednesday more he got up, jumped in my lap, and we spent an hour together while my wife and I talked. I scratched him, rubbed him while we talked, and he licked my hand. it was perfectly normal.

The morning, the dogs in the back barked, he and Shadow ran out and did what they always do, running up and down the fence line barking and raising Cain and then coming back like they’d done something amazing.

That afternoon, we caught the first hint that something was completely wrong. Julie had let them out, he went out perfectly normal but when he came back in, he was shaking like he was cold. I got worse so I knocked off early from work and took him down to the Pet Emergency Hospital in Evans. The doctor came back with a diagnosis of diabetes. He was throwing up and she gave him meds for an infection he had.

Since he had an appointment with his regular doctor the following day we opted not to keep him in the hospital overnight. What we didn’t realize was he was dying and we didn’t know it.

Wednesday night was also the night Mars was to be Occulted by the Moon. I went to pick him up that evening, and got there just in time to pause and see mars slide behind the Moon. I remembered thinking to myself that the ancients might have seen such an event as a bad omen. But of course we don’t live in ancient times, so it was just an event.

Wednesday night was horrible for him. Julie and I spent the night up with him. he’d drink water and throw it right back up. I finally got a dropped and would give him a little water at a time. During the night, he wanted out to use the bathroom, so I put on a coat and carried him downstairs. I put him out and stood under the winter sky as he wandered around the backyard. Eventually, he sat at the far side of the yard. I asked him if I needed to get me a puppy. He just looked at me from across the yard and wouldn’t move. So, I walked across the yard, picked him and brought him in.

He was restless so I got up, got his blanket, and wrapped him up in it. I sat on the bedroom floor rubbing and petting him. Eventually, he rolled onto his back and I sat rubbing his chest and belly for a long time.

By morning, he just wasn’t doing good. We got him into our Vet and she knew he was in deep trouble. They put an IV on him, drew blood, and I saw what a train wreck his blood chemistry really was. The computer printout she showed us awash with a sea of red markers. They were going to try to get him back into control, and fought for several hours. Since it wasn’t a 24 hour facility, we had to take him back to Pet’s Hospital in Evans. They were ready for him.

The idea was, we’d let them care for him overnight, then bring him back to the vet. We’d learn how to give him his shots and settle into a life of caring for a diabetic puppy.

Enroute there, my wife sang a lullaby to him she always sang to him before bedtime. I rubbed him, and when we went in, I put him over my shoulder like I always do and we got him admitted. We’d taken his blanket he always slept on with us and wrapped him in it. Before we left, Julie kissed him on the head and told him to fight. I went to pet and he did, what in retrospect, was heartbreaking.

Before I’d take him and shadow out every night before bedtime, I’d have to go into the living room and pick him up. I always told him he was a rotten dog, and then I tell him to give me paw as I carried him out.

Cradled in the nurses arm, he put out his little paw and gave me paw before they took him back.

Thirty minutes later, we were back at the hospital. He’d died within minutes of our leaving the facility.

They fixed up a room for us and we went in and held his tiny body. My wife felt his tail (it was a little deformed when he was a born) and that was one of the many markers we used to know it was him. I rubbed his belly, Hoping it wasn’t true, but knowing it was. Worse, his little tongue was out of his mouth. the tongue that licked me, and stuck out 99.9% of the time wasn’t ahealthy pink, but blue. I ran my finger over it one last time.

I filled out the paperwork to have him cremated. In a few weeks time, we’ll get a nice box with what remains of him in it. That box will sit on our mantle till we move or die.

Last night, I went out with Shadow. He knows his buddy is gone and keeps looking for him. I think he knows what happened, but then again, maybe he doesn’t. I stood out on the patio on a stone that I’ve come to call “My praying Stone.” It’s a single patio stone that I got to every night and look up at the sky. From that stone, a millions prayers have been launched.

My prayer last night was this. “Father, our puppy died. He was our heart. he had both me and his Momma wrapped around his little paw. But I’m thankful he didn’t suffer. And I know theologians say dogs don’t go to heaven, Well, Father, I think that’s a 100% horseshit. Whoever said that has never seen an animal who gave so much love and acceptance as The Little Dog (my pet name for Olaf) did. And at the end of it all, isn’t that your heart. How can something that showed your heart so well, not possibly go back to you.

“Mark Twain said, ‘If my dog can’t make heaven, what hope do I have.’ I guess that the difference between us and them. They shows us your love. They have your heart. They were never such wretched creatures that they needed a savior. They never walked away from you, we did.

“So look after him till we get there. Feed him all the scraps from the great table he wants. And if I can be so bold, when I get there, can he meet me, barking and doing circles and dancing for me like he always did when I’d come home.

“Comfort me and my Love. For such a small animal, he’s left a very big hole.”