Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do Dogs Shed in Heaven?

If they don't, our Olaf has now officially achieved perfection.

It's just his family that's a absolute mess.

Olaf was, without a doubt, the world's cutest puppy.

I carried him home from the breeder's on my lap, a warm, wiggly, bear cub of a dog.

Would you check out the size of that paw?  Even as a baby, it was clear he would soon be shopping at the big and tall store.

His doggie brother Charlie, our labrador retriever, five years his senior, was named after Charlie Brown.   We wanted to stay in keeping with the Peanuts theme, but this dog was certainly no Snoopy.  Or Pigpen.  Or Linus.  Bruder piped up that Snoopy had a fat brother in a fur hat and that his name was Olaf.  Lightbulbs dinged over the heads of all family members and it was decided instantly.  He was Olaf.

When he was still a baby, we took a trip to the Oregon coast, but since we couldn't imagine leaving him in a kennel, we rented an RV and he came along for the ride.

He's always been so gentle that even toddler Rose could hold his leash.

We learned on that trip that Olaf detested water, wouldn't even step paw in it, but would happily run along the beach.  Basically anything with his people, he was game.

He grew at an alarming rate.  By 10 months he was pushing 100 pounds.

Here he is during his gangly teenage stage in the Olympic Mountains with the kids.  I've always loved mountain photos of Olaf.  Being a Bernese Mountain Dog, it just seemed fitting.  If we could put the kids in lederhosen and get them yodeling, the scene would be perfect.

I can't tell you how many times I heard, "Holy cow!  What a cool dog!"  Or, "Is that some type of Saint Bernard?"  Or my favorite, "Oh, I know what he is!  He's one of those Burmese Mountain Dogs, right?"  I always commended the proud individual on their canine knowledge, but inwardly laughed at the image of Olaf in his thick black coat, lounging on the tropical shores of Burma.

For almost seven years, Olaf has been such a huge part of our home and family.

Whether it's been welcoming trick or treaters on Halloween,

laughing with the kids on crazy dress day,

or sending off his boy on his first drive in his new car.

He's been there for landscaping and dirt moving projects,

bike rides and lawn games,

kid's birthday parties,

and of course, the Christmas Eve pyramid.  Oh, how he hated the Christmas Eve pyramid.  If he could wring his hands, assuming he had hands, this annual event would make him do it.  He was a bit of a worrier at heart.  More than once, he tried to hide behind me when some toy breed barked at him.   He also worried about our laminate floor.  Not the whole floor, just one particular section.  He'd stand there, hemming and hawing over what he should do, then he'd always turn around and throw it into reverse to slowly back into the carpeted family room.  Lyle added the BEEP, BEEP, BEEP sound of a truck in reverse.  People thought it was some trick we taught him, but no, it was just his own little brand of weirdness shining through.

   Olaf was always gentle and kindhearted.  Never once in his life did he show the slightest hint of aggression.  Our lab will growl, as most dogs would, if say, a raccoon saunters onto our porch, but never Olaf.  Not a single growl ever escaped his lips. 

He went on countless walks around our two mile loop.....not just with our family, with anyone.  He was positive that everyone adored him, and as far as I can tell, he was right.  He was beloved by the whole neighborhood and many walkers would get to our property and cup their hands around their mouths and yell, "OLAF!" and he'd join them for a jaunt.  When our neighbors heard he was sick, one brought him a cheeseburger, another a bone.  They shared Olaf stories and fought back tears.

Olaf loved the recent arrival of our goats.  In this photo, he was staring with rapt attention, along with the kids, as the goats were let into the pasture.  

He chased them with tail wagging glee and then sat outside their fence and stared at them.  He found them endlessly entertaining.

When visitors came to our home, Olaf gave them a little sniff, then promptly turned around, sat on their feet, and threw his head back at them in a big Berner grin.  I believe he had a 100% success rate in getting a pat.

He went on many scout campouts and was the ultimate tent warmer.  On a cold night, everyone wanted to sleep with Olaf.  He accompanied the boys on numerous hikes, 

almost all successful.

There was one notable exception when he laid down mid-trail and refused to take another step. 
 I've had hikes like that myself.

But when I picture Olaf, I won't see him on a trail or in the mountains or at the beach.  When I think of  him, I'll always see him on the hill above our house.

Without fail, when our car turned the final dusty, bumpy corner for home, he was there, waiting for us.  

Tonight, with the help of our neighbors, we buried our gentle giant on his hill.  Everyone agreed that that's where he should be.

As much as our hearts are breaking right now, I would bring home that furry bear cub bundle again in a  heartbeat.   I can see our children, years from now, with their children, sitting snuggled on their laps, and they're telling them,
"When I was a kid, we had the coolest dog....."  And then they'll smile.  
"His name was Olaf."


Loren said...

What a beautiful tribute. I read it with tears rolling down my face.

Vicky said...

Ditto to what Loren said! I am truly sorry for this loss. I know Olaf will be greatly missed.

Kelly said...

Tears~ I am so sorry for your loss. I want to give you a big hug right now.

Stefanie said...

Crying with you and for you, my friend!
What an incredibly special guy your Olaf was. And you loved him well :)

val said...

There are no words...maybe this will help....
"Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown......."

Doc Brunk said...

I have been following your blog for months now as we have proceeded through our adoption process. In that time I've been entertained and enlightened and amused. Today I was moved.

That was an amazing tribute to a beautiful friend. It is hard to imagine a purer expression of love than that of a dog for his family.

I am so sorry for your loss.

Laura said...

I'm so sorry for you loss. I was hoping you would have more time together, but it's wonderful to read about his life and amazing personality. You've written a beautiful tribute, and I hope your memories ease the pain of Olaf's passing.

Mom2Four said...

You made me cry. What a wonderful family friend. I hope this isn't a foreshadowing of the fate of our beloved dog...

Brooke said...

I never had the priviledge of meeting Olaf, but I'm sure that I would have instantly been sucked in by that sweet grin and patted his head. It almost makes me want to give in to my kids' begging for a dog. It's easy to see what a positive part he was in your family.

Danae said...

My heart is breaking for your whole family! What an amazing life he lived with you all! I just put a deposit down on a puppy for the children for Christmas, but this post is sure making me want to reconsider! I can't even begin to imagine how you are all feeling!

Eileen said...


DON'T RECONSIDER! Looking through these pictures, I just have to smile (yes, through tears) that Olaf has been such a big part of our kid's lives! I wouldn't trade that for anything.


Laurel said...

I am so sorry about Olaf. He was such an awesome dog. He and Charlie made me realize that I actually am a dog person - a big dog person.

Sarah said...

I am so sorry for your loss, but so happy you have such wonderful memories and photos of Olaf. your tribute to him is beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. I pray you find a little peace in knowing from an absolute strangers point of view it looks like he had a wonderful life! Rest in Peace on your big hill in the sky Olaf!

~T~ said...

We'll miss him, too. What a sweetheart. Our condolences.

Ashley said...

I am so sorry to hear about Olaf.

Lisa and Tate said...

SOB... What a lovely tribute to an amazing dog. So sorry for you loss, you will be with him in the hereafter.

Jen Bay said...

What a perfect tribute. I know I never met him, but feel like I did. I am not such a dog person, but I don't think I could have resisted that adorable puppy either.... I am so so sorry for your loss.

Tammy said...

We're so sad! We've loved reading about Olaf on your blog. I still remember when you got him as a puppy and chose his name. He was such a beautiful dog. We wish we could have met him in person. He lived a wonderful life with your family. Hugs to you all!

TheDideonGang said...

I of course never knew Olaf, but after reading your tribute it was like i have always known him, Bless you as you deal with the loss and praise with knowing and loving such a great dog. He will be missed, but he has become the cornerstone to many great memories in your families life.
Thinking of you with tears in my eyes.