Ever since I can remember, I wanted a dog. I begged my parents for any breed, any size, any anything. But my mom and dad weren't keen on a four legged companion running around their home, so they got me goldfish instead.
About 13 years later, a little bit after my 23 birthday, I moved to New Orleans to start graduate school. It took me less than 24 hours to unpack my boxes and drive down to the Louisiana SPCA, a shelter that does some pretty amazing work in a particularly hard part of town. I spoke to the woman at the front desk and told her I was interested in adoption. A042066 was the first dog I saw.
He had mange, heart worm, was terribly malnourished and was a general mess. But he had a smile, if you could call it that, and I was told he was "quite spirited," despite the grim conditions of his early years in the 9th ward of the city. There was some speculation that he was used as a bait dog, and that just made me want him more. He was scheduled to be euthanized the very next day, so time for this dog was running out. I signed the papers, paid a small fee of about $35.00, and named A042066 Omar Pedro Fiorello Stepelman, the First.
Omar did have an unusually long name, but I was feeling indecisive and liked all of the names equally. He was named after Omar Bradley, a WWII general that I had read about as a history major in undergraduate, and Pedro Almodovar, the Spanish film maker. I decided to give Omar a third name after Fiorello LaGuardia because I was a big fan of public parks beautification project LaGuardia started in NYC, which is where I'm from-- so that all made sense. Omar had many handles. Some called him "The General" others "The Big Fella." There was "Big Delicious" too, but I usually called him Oymie.
It's hard to write about Omar now, and I wasn't even sure if I should write a post about his passing. But this blog, while it focuses on food and our lives in Colorado, is really about our family and our journey. And Omar was our family.
If you've never had a dog, you might just think, "oh, they lost their pet" and that might seem sad. But if you've ever had a dog, one that you loved like a child, that was there to share in all your milestones-- breakups and marriage, births and moving, home buying and job uncertainty-- then you know how truly devastating and heartbreaking their death can be.
And that's where we are today. We are so sad that we lost this amazing animal-- Omar was the kindest and the sweetest. He was the best big brother to Otis and Theodore, both of whom don't really understand that he isn't coming back.
I tried to explain it to Otis, but he's only 3 1/2 and can't really grasp the permanence of death...which at this point is definitely a blessing. He thinks Omar is some sort of Santa-Claus in the sky who will send him dinosaur toys, books and firetrucks. And when our neighbor asked, "Where's Omar?" Otis told her, "He died, but don't worry, he'll be back on Monday."
And that's when I really lost it.
But the outpouring of love and support has been incredible. It is a testament to how many people loved Omar. There are friends who have called, emailed, texted, and written letters-- and I think if I had to respond to each message personally, well, it would take a lot of time. So let me just say, thank you.
What gets me through the hardest hours is the fact that I know Omar had a great life. He loved cross-country road trips, wildflowers and hiking. He loved white poodles and sour cream. And yes, he even understood Yiddish.
There's a part of me that thinks Omar waited around to see us all happy and stable. He had been creaking around for the past few months, but during his last week, he could barely even walk. After living with us in New Orleans, Portland, Brooklyn and Denver, he held on long enough to see us buy our family home-- and now he will have a permanent resting place in our garden, with a rock that will be engraved "Here lies Omar. He was the best. And he was loved."