My little brother named Ollie

“Here’s our new puppy!” a seven-year-old Emily exclaimed as she plopped a fuzzy, black unidentifiable creature onto the family room table.

All three of the boys leapt up in surprise from their scattered positions around the room.

We took the cock-a-poo outside and let him run around while we tossed around possible names.

“How about Oreo?!?” I remember shouting out. He was black and white; it made perfect sense to me. But Mom really liked the name Oliver. We would call him “Ollie” for short.

***

The list of nicknames grew.

We called him “Ollie Dolly,” “Dollar Bill,” “Dolliver” and he came to be known to Dad as “Little Fern,” though we’ve never known why.

Reggie and Ollie got along famously. Even our then-cat, Pumpkin, didn’t seem to mind the new addition.

“How many animals do you have?” they’d ask me at school. “Two dogs and a cat” was my go-to answer. I was five when we got Reggie; I didn’t know anything different.

***

Here I am 11 years later, stuck 11 years in the past.

Taken in May of 2012.

“Ollie has diabetes really bad and Dr. Inkley’s recommendation is to put him to sleep : (,” came a text from my mom at 12:09 p.m. yesterday.

I bawled.

When I’m at school, everything is supposed to be okay at home. I’m supposed to pull into the driveway after weeks of being away and be greeted by the same three dogs every time. Nobody’s supposed to die. Everything should be exactly the way I left it.

***

Robby drove me to the vet after my last first class of the day.

“The weather outside is perfect today,” I mused as the rain drizzled and the windshield wipers wiped. I lost it a couple of times.

When we arrived at the vet’s office, Dad greeted us and took us to the back. Mom stood there, holding a dog who had lost 40 pounds in the past three months. His cataracts clouded his vision, but we kissed him and passed him around, getting our final pets and pats in while we could. (“Meow, meow” went a cat every couple of seconds to which Adam said, “If that cat doesn’t shut the fuck up I’m going to put it to sleep.” That made us laugh.)

I bawled when Dad held his puppy; he was losing his first dog, too, not to mention his yard work companion.

“There’s a very slim chance he could be treated and be back to normal,” the vet said when he joined our pity party. “When a pet’s at this age, I’d rather let him/her go peacefully than try to be some kind of hero.”

Mom bent over Oliver and reassured him that everything was going to be okay.

“Tell Papa we say hi,” Dad told him.

“He’ll have treats for you, bud,” I said.

And after a very quick injection, Ollie’s breathing stilled.

***

Ollie was as much of a brother to me as my human ones are. He kept me warm at night (though my brothers didn’t necessarily do this), he protected me when I needed it and he loved me unconditionally. And even though at age 11 he still was not completely potty-trained, I loved him despite the presents he left me in my room.

It won’t sink in until I pull into the driveway and see Junie and Reggie, but no Ollie.

It won’t sink in until I check his crate and see that he’s not snoozing there.

It won’t sink in until I go home and fail to hear a scratch from him at the front or back door.

I have dreaded Monday since I was a little girl. My family and I grew extremely attached to this little black bundle of fuzz. He seldom gave kisses, but when he did, they were sweet, not slobbery. Cute, not overwhelming.

I miss you, Ollie Dolly. I wish you could have lived forever like I wanted you to.

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