Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Prodigal Schnauzer

Alex and I celebrated eleven years of wedded mostly-bliss over the weekend.  Alex had to board a plane to Europe for work the morning of our anniversary but that's OK; we've celebrated many together, and frankly neither one of us made any plans this year.  I felt the love in his text after I drove him to the airport that said, "Flight delayed.  F*ck everything."  It was enough.

Oscar the dog was our wedding present to each other eleven years ago.  He was a mini schnauzer, "our first baby" as they say, though once a real baby came along he felt less like a baby and more like a dog again.  Still, we loved the little guy.

We drove up to Marysville a few days after our wedding to "just take a look" at a litter of schnauzer puppies.  And of course, we left an hour later with Oscar.  We had absolutely no dog supplies at home so had to stop at Petco on the drive back.  Oscar's arrival was not the best planned in the world but we had a habit of doing things like that so nobody was too surprised.

A week after our wedding, we went to Quebec for a party with Alex's extended family to celebrate our marriage.  Because we had an unplanned puppy at home, we had to enlist a string of volunteers to stay with him while we were away.  A couple friends were refinishing their hardwoods so were happy to have a non-fumey place to stay.  Other friends were intense dog lovers and happy to spend time with a puppy.  One friend (Cavanaugh, in fact) still takes immense pride he's the one who taught Oscar to go up and down stairs.

Another friend was willing because he was a horny selfish bastard who was happy to use the puppy to meet chicks by walking him up and down the street outside our condo.  The pup was well exercised and slept for days when we returned.  Much to his chagrin, our friend was still single.

Our years with Oscar pre-Lucien were happy ones.  They were full of days at the dog park where Oscar insisted on making the most intense ear-piercing shriek whenever he caught sight of another dog.  Which was often.  Because it was a dog park.  We eventually stopped going to dog parks because the sound emitted from our dog was truly unbearable.

Oscar slept in our bed, often on our pillows with his butt in our faces.  He joined us on road trips to Colorado where he got carsick and threw up every hour on the hour.  He went on a Labor Day camping trip with a group of our friends and accidentally had his head rolled up in our friend's car window.  That was a terrible moment.  Oscar made strangled sounds, Alex tried to break the window, and the rest of us just screamed.  The driver was so flustered, it took him a minute to find the button to roll the window back down.  We just kept screaming behind him, which he claimed didn't help.

Oscar once ripped apart one of his toys and ate all the stuffing inside.  I didn't realize he'd done that until I took him for a walk and he squatted to poo.  But there was no poo coming out of Oscar -- it was just stuffing.  A woman walked past and screamed when she saw the steady stream of white stuffing coming out of my dog.  She said, "OH MY GOD, WHAT ARE YOU FEEDING THAT POOR THING?"

Oscar had surgery on his ear that necessitated him wearing a cone.  He couldn't figure out how wide that damn cone was so often ran into door frames with the edge of it.  If he was running, the force was strong enough to knock him backwards.  He was one dazed and confused little schnauzer.

Alex tossed Oscar into Lake Crescent once because "all dogs love to swim!"  Turns out Oscar didn't love to swim so Alex had to go into Lake Crescent, too.

Those were some good days.  But when we had Lucien, things changed.  Oscar was not happy.  Lucien followed Oscar everywhere and freaked him out.  He snapped at Lucien many times, growled at him regularly.  I had to shut Oscar in the bathroom much of the time.  It was a tense, stressful existence for all of us.

So when we decided to go to Paris for a few years, the decision to give Oscar up was, frankly, an easy one.  We knew we would have less living space -- much less -- putting Oscar and Lucien in even closer constant proximity.  Oscar wouldn't have a yard in which to run, the thing that gave him his greatest daily joy.  Plus, we would be traveling more often so he would be boarded more often, which he hated. 

It was time to part ways with the schnauzer.  A couple months before we left for Paris, Oscar went to live with friends of friends in southern Washington.  Al and I cried when we said goodbye to him and promised we'd visit someday.  We didn't really think we'd ever see him again.

But life's funny.  Because here's Banister Abbey's newest resident --

 Return of the Schnauzer

Oscar's back with us, as it should be.  The family who took him could no longer keep him.  They traveled extensively, often for weeks at a time, leaving him alone.  Even though neighbors came by to feed him and play with him, our emotionally needy schnauzer grew depressed and started chewing the fur off his legs.  He was so despondent he eventually stopped eating.

When the family contacted me in Paris to ask if I knew of a better home for him, we tried to find one but nothing worked out.  I begged the family to hang onto him until we could get back to Seattle and into a home where we could have a dog.  A week after we moved into the Abbey, the adopted family drove Oscar back to Seattle. 

When they pulled up in front of Banister Abbey and Oscar jumped out of the car, I couldn't tell if he remembered me.  He seemed happy but confused.  When Alex came home later that day, however, Oscar was not at all confused.  Without question, he remembered Al.  Alex was always Oscar's soulmate, his number one, and apparently nothing's changed in Oscar's schnauzer heart.

When Alex came walking up onto the porch, Oscar nearly had a heart attack.  It's like he couldn't believe who he was seeing, couldn't move he was so overwhelmed.  At first he just collapsed to the ground like a preteen girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  Then his entire body started wagging and he frantically flopped all over the place. 

He couldn't get enough Alex, jumping all over him as if to demand, "WHERE THE HELL YOU BEEN, PUNK?"  He pretty much tried to crawl into Alex's mouth to be as close to him as possible.  A man and his dog reunited is a beautiful thing.

Oscar's an elderly dog now at eleven years old.  He sleeps a lot more.  He no longer makes the squealing sound when he sees another dog.  He no longer gets carsick.  He no longer poops stuffing, or at least not that I'm aware of at this time.  

He's mellowed in all ways, including with children.  We were prepared to keep them separate but it doesn't seem necessary.  The kids threw a tennis ball for him and he decided they were OK.  Sometimes they smother him too much but he doesn't growl, just sighs deeply and rolls his schnauzer eyes.  So far so good.

I didn't mean to write all that about Oscar but I guess the dog deserved an ode.  It feels so good to have him back.  We always felt guilty about giving him away, and wondered what it meant about our marriage that we were able to give away the symbol of our love and commitment so easily.  Symbol of our love?  Meh, screw it, take it to southern Washington.

Welcome home, doggie

In other news, Lucien is now a Kindergarten graduate.  On his last day of school, the parents assembled in the classroom for a performance.  The kids sang some songs they learned over the course of the year.  Lucien, as usual, was placed in the back row as if to hide him, where he half-heartedly sang until he got bored and started smacking his own butt and grinning widely. 

He's in a sports day camp now that school's out.  I heard from a friend Lucien suggested they name his team "The Underpants" but the coach vetoed it.  Lucien then begrudgingly agreed to "The Banana Peels" but remains vocally disgruntled to this day.

I had a lot to say today but Oscar took up all the room.  Kind of like what he's doing in our bed once again.  Dog butt has returned to our pillows, huzzah.

We promise to give you a good last few years, prodigal schnauzer,


  1. What a great story. We had a nearly identical situation, except with a LlasaPoo. But Mouche happily lived out his final years with his adopted family, though I fantasized about a homecoming like Oscar's. The description of his reuniting with Alex was...fantastic. Bannister Abbey has an Oscar! Yeah!


  2. Great story, MJ. As a dog lover, I was not too thrilled when I read the part where you left Oscar behind because of, you know, the kids, and Paris, but I am glad there was a happy ending for all of you, especially Oscar and Alex. He seems to be the perfect fit for your family :-) All is how it should be. Dogs are a lot of work, but I feel sorry for kids who grow up without one. Dogs make us all better people. Sounds like you have plenty of room at Banister Abbey for the whole family. Congrats on the new home, by the way. Writing this message from Nice, France, where I keep seeing a lot of dogs, even Schnauzers, as a matter of fact. Let me know when you decide Oscar needs a little buddy: There is a mini-Schnauzer farm down the street from me in Woodin-vile, WA. :-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  3. Sounds like Oscar was just what you all needed at the Abbey. Now your life is complete! Well done.

  4. Oscar's reunion with Alex sounds like my Mack's with my son when he came home from college the first time. I thought the dog was just going to melt all over the floor, my son's hands were dripping from the doggy love.
    So glad you all have Oscar back, it must really make the Abbey a home now.
    As a tribute to Nora Ephron, one of my favorite quotes of hers was that you must have a dog during your children's adolescence, so someone is glad to see you when you get home.

    Love all your stories!

  5. That was a marvelously told story. You got the writing talent - 'like fer surrre' as a Justin Beiber enfatuated teen girl would say.
    I'm so glad it had a happy ending. Due to chronic negative thinking,
    I thought, at the beginning, it was a eulogy to his passing away.
    Instead we can breaking out the champagne. Cheers, slurp, burp!!
    I was confused for a while. Prior to your Ocscar story, I thought a
    Schnauzer was a weiner dog but after googling around I now know that is a Dachshund. Damn German names, everything sounds the same.
    They say there are only 2 situations when its permissible for a man to cry. When his faithful dog dies and when Angelina Jolie starts unbuttoning her blouse.

    Clip of baby and dog saying hello. Whole lotta sweetness here.

  6. oh MJ...I got all teary eyed...perfect story...and look at that face..who wouldn't love him?

    been reading Nora Ephron stories all day and this one fit right in..well done!!

    Al's in europe eh? lucky guy.

  7. Welcome back, Oscar - you're one lucky dog to be back in the bed of those that love you.

    Our sweet mini schnauzer is also 11 yrs old, and such a wonderful part of our life... he went blind about 6 years ago, though the only time you'd notice is when he runs full speed into a concrete wall. But he's finally learned to stop on command, which is much better for his noggin.

  8. I love the description of Lucien graduating. Leave it to him to never be boring! How do you keep a straight face?

  9. What a wonderful story! Reads like taken out of a movie, a perfect happy ending/beginning for Oscar and all of you at the new house.
    Loved it, just loved it.

  10. Hello posse. I still exist, I swear. I always took it to heart to reply to every comment, but I'm afraid at this time, it's not possible. There are still boxes to be unpacked, and crap to be shuffled into piles, and so much to organize with the renovations I'm forgetting most things in my daily life.

    I collapse into bed every night with many paper cuts. Strange muscles hurt, too. Moving kind of sucks FYI

    But I love all your comments, and I'm sorry I haven't been around to reply on the last several posts. Thanks for sticking with me in my harried, schedule-less, chaotic state.

    High five!

  11. He totally belongs in Bannister Abbey. Also, happy anniversary! In a slightly more stalkerish tone, what exactly does Alex do? In the three odd years I've been reading you, I've never figured it out beyond "corporate whore". :) Just curious.


  12. Love the Oscar story! And SO happy that he's reunited with his soul mate and accompanying family. What a cute cute dog.

  13. "He joined us on road trips to Colorado where he got carsick and threw up every hour on the hour."

    Kinda like Coco in the Czech Republic;) See, that dog really WAS your baby;)

    I'm glad you were finally reunited;) Dog are very loyal, so I'm not surprised he still remembered you guys:) So sweet:)

    That stuffing story was timeless;)

    Oh, look at Debs, that big softy;)

  14. What a perfect story! When I got divorced and we sold our house I couldn't find a place to live that would accept my dog, two kids and a hampster were okay but no dogs. I had to give him away, it was awful! I'm so glad you got your puppy back.

  15. This story totally made me get wet in my eyes and all choked up in my throat! Full of win, this story is!! *sniff*

    Oscar's home! How wonderful. We could all only hope for such a lovely story in our own lives, eh? I'm so happy you are all reunited!

    Hugs and kisses,

  16. First off - 10 years!!! You don't look a day older than that darling wedding photo though!

    When I saw the big reveal about Oscar I just about cried. My cube neighbors at work asked me what happened. ....difficult time explaining (you'll recall, new job - they're not as trained in my MJ addiction as the old posse was).

    Assuming the hubby is out of town for a few days - I'll have to sit tight for my next installment....unless you let us descent and bring pizza. Your call.


  17. Geez MJ you made me get misty and I don't even care that much about dogs. Keep writing girlfriend, even with the paper cuts.

  18. Aawwww....I'm so happy Oscar's back!

  19. Congratulations on your 10th year anniversary! Feeling a tad sad reading about your Oscar as it made me think of my Nash (old boy passed away almost 3 months ago back home while I am here in Paris). Sniff.

  20. Ooops, didn't congratulate you on your 10th anniversary, nor on Lucien's graduation!