by Aaron Leatherbarrow
I was 18 when I decided that I wanted to marry Erica Green. I was young and I was instructed by my father that I better “marry her quick before she figures out how much better she is than you.” We talked about marriage on many occasions before I actually proposed. During one conversation we discussed conditions that must be met if we get married. The three conditions were:
- She and I must to have a male long-haired miniature dachshund and name him Oscar
- When in my mid-life crisis, I will be allowed to purchase an old Harley Davidson and work on it until it runs
- If we ever get a house big enough, one of the rooms will be dedicated to a championship foosball table
I am a 34 year old man now and a Harley seems silly, and I would much rather have a vespa any day. Having a big house with one room dedicated to a foosball table sounds like a massive waste of resources. That left only one condition, and it was met the first year of our marriage. On May 24 of 2002, there was a champion show dog named Bear that gave the world a litter of long-haired dachshund puppies. There were eight puppies with one runt. The runt carried a signature family blood line characteristic of Bear’s mother, a kinked tail.
We took the little runt home a couple months later, named him Oscar Bear and the only true condition I started with was met. We were a young married couple and we were a bit silly with him. He was our child. He was our friend.
I often heard in the past that dogs have a loyalty that cannot be compromised and that they have an unconditional love for their owners. It is truly amazing how real that became to me. I went through so much in the almost 14 years of his life. I questioned my faith, I lost my job, I had children, I lived in over 10 different homes in 5 different states. I was lonely and scared quite a bit. At every moment I felt I had nothing, I had Oscar. He sat on my lap and licked my tears. He stood by my side when I was leaning over the commode sick as a “dog” (that simile seems out of place). I spoke to him when I needed God to be more… tangible. I could say anything to him and he looked at me with his little eyes and I felt loved; every single time. Oscar was comfort.
I had three little girls that all considered him a best friend at some point. He was their play-toy and he was their protector. My wife and I always said that when one of us was not at home, Oscar was on “high alert”. He barked at any sound and watched the doors like a hawk. I knew my girls were safe, even though our guard dog was ten pounds and only stood about eight inches high.
We put Oscar down on Friday, September 25, 2015. I went to the Animal Welfare Shelter in East Tulsa because they said they would handle the process at no cost to us and after talking to many different vets that were all difficult or over-priced, it was a relief. I had friends with me when I went through the surprisingly difficult process of pet euthanasia. The employees were immune to the process I guess, because there was no compassion or understanding from the people I was handing my beloved little animal over to.
He was tied to a blue rope leash when I left him. He was blind, deaf, losing fur like crazy, and had horrible skin allergies that plagued him to the point of not getting any real rest from the constant scratching (all problems that we tried to treat but were unable to resolve within reason). I looked into his eyes and saw the face that comforted me for almost fourteen years.
I was sad. There is no doubt about that.
But then I looked up and saw the face of the two men that were there for me. They had the same eyes as the puppy I held in my chair all those years. They had the eyes of friendship. True friendship.
It wasn’t Oscar that I had clinged so desperately to. It was friendship. It was always the true spirit of friendship. It was having someone, or something that loved me for exactly what I already was. I didn’t need to be a good Christian, I didn’t need to be well-dressed, nor meet any expectations. It was truly without condition.
Thank you, Zak. Thank you, Josh. You were exactly what I needed in that moment.
You were a friend to me.
And, greater love hath no man that this. That he would lay down his life for a friend.
Aaron Leatherbarrow grew up all along the east coast, lives with his wife and 3 girls, loves bird watching, playing Pokemon, writing musicals, collecting way too many comic books, listening to Joy Division on Vinyl, and drinks out of a White Castle Coffee Mug. He pastors kids, teaches them to paint, sculpt, whittle, or anything that helps grow creative thinking. You can read another article by Aaron here or here.