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We adopted Ouzo in 2001 from a kennel. We had just bought our house on Vashon Island with a yard big enough for two dogs, so we decided to get a friend for Illy. We found Ouzo on “PetFinder”:http://petfinder.com/ and thought he was very cute. So we drove to the kennel to get him.

His name was “Max” but we changed it to “Ouzo”. Ouzo is a Greek liquor that tastes like black licorice. And he’s a “licker”. ;) But really, it just sounded like an energetic name for an energetic dog and Illy being named after a coffee brand, we continued the favorite beverage theme.

He had been taken away from his owners by the ASPCA after numerous reports from neighbors that he was left outside chained to a pole 24x7, through cold and rain. Because he had such lousy parents, he was wild. He was so out of control that no one wanted him so he sat in the kennel for months. When we went to look at him he was barking and leaping five feet in the air to look over the wall at his neighbor dogs. This scared another woman at the kennel who was also looking for a dog so much she refused to even walk in front of his cage. I don’t know why we weren’t intimidated. Over-confidence, I guess. As we were leaving the kennel personnel told us they were glad we took him because they would be forced to put him to sleep soon.

This was days before we moved to Vashon, in 2001. While we were packing up the truck we tied Ouzo in the backyard with his leash. He chewed through his leash and took off, running around the neighborhood. We drove around the neighborhood for an hour or so before finding him and somehow got him in the car.

In the new house he was a nightmare. He was two years old and still wasn’t housebroken. I was cleaning up after him a couple times a day. We must’ve kept Nature’s Miracle in business singlehandedly during that time.

One night while barbecuing two steaks outside, I went into the kitchen, returned seconds later and found one of the steaks and Ouzo missing. My anger distracted me from the realization that he somehow stood up and grabbed a steak off a hot grill without burning himself. I should have known he was a damn smart dog, but when he came back after his steak dinner, I took his collar off, told him I didn’t want him anymore and demanded that he “Go!”. He just stared at me and wouldn’t leave. I think he knew what taking his collar off meant. Every time we took his collar off for a bath, he looked at us, brushed against our legs like a cat and would poke his nose at his collar as if he wanted to wear it.

Eventually, we came to the conclusion that we either get rid of him or take him to obedience school. Fortunately, we chose obedience school. I think obedience school was better for me than for him. After two weeks, he was house-broken, he didn’t jump on people, he stopped taking food off tables and grills and he could touch his nose to a coffee cup on cue. And I learned patience.

At graduation, Ouzo was the only dog to even attempt a final exam. And he did it perfectly: he sat, layed down and rolled-over on demand. I was as proud of him as I’ve ever been of anything.

Ever since, Ouzo was the dog I never had. He would play fetch for hours.

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He loved riding in the car with his head out the window, something I thought all dogs loved, but Illy disproves that theory. He was so smart he knew how I opened his car window; he’d lightly bump my left shoulder with his nose and stare at the button near my left hand to tell me to open his window.

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He loved to swim.

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He was the most polite dog I’ve ever seen, he’d take food from your hand gently (Illy will take your fingers off), always deferring to his big sister Illy, waited patiently for his dinner and after-dinner treat and always got out of your way without being asked. He even went to the bathroom in the woods, never in the grass. And he loved giving kisses to any nearby face.

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Every morning Ouzo would jump up and excitedly run to the door as soon as he heard the sound of coffee being poured into a cup. He knew it was time to go outside to play fetch while we had our morning coffee. He’d make sure we took the Chuckit! and that it had a tennis ball in it before he’d let us walk through the door and he’d play rain or shine (fewer throws during rain). He disguised his harmlessness by scaring anyone who came to the house with his protective bark, but he was terrified of thunder and needed to be comforted through thunderstorms (and the Fourth of July). He slept in his favorite chair every night and after Havana was born, outside her door. So we moved his chair outside her door. Havana’s first word was “dog” and it was the first thing she said every morning as she pointed to Ouzo who always watched us take her out of her crib.

Several weeks ago, on the day Hudson was born, “we found out”:http://troyandgay.com/blog/2008/08/26/scary-news-about-ouzo/ that he had a tumor on his heart and would not live much longer. We “tried chemotherapy”:http://troyandgay.com/blog/2008/08/28/chemo-for-ouzo/, “hoped for an improvement”:http://troyandgay.com/blog/2008/08/29/ouzo-at-home/, and had his chest cavity “drained of fluid again”:http://troyandgay.com/blog/2008/09/06/ouzo-at-the-vet-again/ to help his breathing. Wednesday night he was having difficulty breathing again. Because the pressure of the fluid against his lungs and heart, he couldn’t lay down to go to sleep so I slept next to him so he could rest his head on my shoulder so he could get some sleep. I knew we’d either have to drain the fluid again or decide to let him go. Because he was needing to be drained more often, every few days, we decided it would be best to let him go rather than put him through the draining process. We called the Vashon vet. They do a nice thing – they come to your house to perform the euthanasia so the dog can go in a place they’re comfortable.

At only 9, his life was too short. Given that the kennel would have had no choice but to put him to sleep, we feel like we gave him 7 more years. And it was a good 7 years. He loved the yard with plenty of room to run, he knew more neighbors than we did, he ate well and had plenty of toys to quickly destroy, especially if they squeaked (his favorites). The kennel where we found him was the last one he ever stayed in. Every trip we took where we couldn’t bring the dogs, we were lucky enough to have good friends and relatives stay at our house to watch the dogs so they could stay at their own home and stick to their normal routine.

We spent Thursday afternoon in the yard with Ouzo playing fetch, relaxing and feeding him good food to enjoy the last hours with him. The vet arrived at 4pm, anesthetized him and he went to sleep with his tennis ball in his mouth and Gay and I petting him and saying our good-byes.

Goodbye Ouzo. You were a good boy.

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