When Oogy was four months old and weighed thirty five pounds he was tied to a stake and used as bait for a Pit Bull. The left side of his face from just behind his eye was torn off, including his ear. He was bitten so hard a piece of his jaw bone was crushed. Afterward, he was thrown into a cage and left to bleed to death.
I am not a religious man, but I can only conclude that at that moment God turned around and paid attention. The police raided the facility, found Oogy, and took him to Ardmore Animal Hospital , where Dr. Bianco stitched him up and saved him.
This coincided with the last weekend of life for our cat, Buzzy, who was 14 at the time. My sons and I had taken Buzzy to AAH for his last visit. The staff had gathered Buzzy in when out comes this pup that looked like nothing more than a gargoyle. He covered us with kisses. The boys and I fell instantly in love with him.
Life goes out one door and in another. 'This is one of the happiest dogs I've ever met' Dr. Bianco said. 'I can't imagine what he'd be like if half his face hadn't been ripped off.' Then, Dr. B said, 'I am not going to tell you the things this dog has been through.' Dr. B's assistant, Diane, took Oogy into her home for several weeks to foster him and make sure he was safe and to crate-train him.
Once Oogy came into our house, for my sons, then 12, it was like having a little brother. Whatever they did and wherever they went, there was Oogy. Oogy had to get involved in whatever the lads were doing. He became known as The Third Twin.
Dr. B thought Oogy was a Pit or Pit-mix and would get to be about 45 pounds. By the time of his first checkup, Oogy weighed 70 pounds. When we walked in the door for the visit, one of the women who works at AAH exclaimed, 'That's a Dogo!' I asked, 'What's a Dogo?' She said, 'I'm not sure.'
We went on line and learned that the Dogo Argentina is bred in Argentina to hunt mountain lion and boar. Oogy can run about 30 miles an hour, all four legs off the ground like a Greyhound. His leg muscles are so strong that, when he sits, his butt is a half-inch off the ground. Dogos hunt in packs. Dogos hurl themselves against their prey and swarm it.
Oogy has a neck like a fire hydrant to protect him when he closes in on his prey. He is built like a Pit Bull on steroids, with white fur as soft as butter and black freckles. Fully grown, Oogy is 85 pounds of solid muscle, but he does not know this and sits on us. He absolutely craves physical contact. He is full of kisses and chuffs like a steam engine when he is happy. He has a heart as big as all outdoors. One of the traits of the breed is that they fully accept anyone their family does. It is not unusual to come home and find three teenagers on the floor playing a video game and Oogy sprawled across their laps like some living boa.
Oogy hated the crate, and would bark and bark whenever we put him in. This puzzled me because I had been told by people with crate-trained dogs that their pets love the crate and feel secure in its confines. When Oogy was about eight months old, we hired a trainer who also happened to be an animal 'whisperer.' We introduced her to Oogy and she sat on the floor for a full five minutes talking to him.. We could not hear a word she said. When the trainer lifted her head her eyes were brimming with tears. 'Oogy wants you to know' she said 'how much he appreciates the love and respect you have shown him.' Then she asked about his routine. I started by showing her where he slept in the crate. She said immediately, 'You have to get him out of that box.' 'Why?' 'Because he associates being in a box with having his ear ripped off.' It was a smack-myself- in-the-forehead moment. Oogy never went back in.
Given what Oogy endured and what he is bred for, people are constantly astonished that he loves animals and people as much as he does. Walking with Oogy is like walking with a mayoral candidate. He has to meet everyone. A number of people we encountered in the neighborhood early on told me they were afraid of Oogy because when they would walk or jog by the house, Oogy would bark at them and trot parallel to them, and given his size and looks . . . But everyone falls in love with Oogy. By the end of their initial encounter they are rubbing, petting, even kissing him on the nose. Oogy kisses them back. Because of the way he looks, when people meet him for the first time they almost always ask if he is safe. I tell them, 'Well, he has licked two people to death.'
For the first year and a half of his life, part of Oogy's face was normal and the other part looked like a burn victim's. People who saw him in passing could not grasp the duality. As Oogy grew, the scar tissue spread. He could not close his left eye, so it wept constantly; his lip was pulled up and back. Dr. B said Oogy was in constant pain. So, in January 2005, Dr. B. rebuilt Oogy's face. When all the scar tissue was removed, there was a hole in Oogy's head the size of a softball. After removing the scar tissue, Dr. B took grafts and pulled the flaps together and sewed Oogy back up. Now Oogy has a hairline scar, but other than that looks just like any normal one- eared dog.
An essential part of this story is the fact that AAH has never taken a dime in payment for anything they have done for Oogy. I never asked them for such an arrangement. When I went to pay the first bill I was told, 'Oogy's a no-pay.' I never asked why this is. Oogy is their dog. We are just lucky enough to look after him.
Because some of his jaw bone was removed in the initial surgery, some of Oogy's lower left lip droops and is a repository for dust and dirt. It is second nature to us to pull the detritus off his lip when we sit next to him. One day I told my sons that when they tell their children about Oogy, they will remember this routine act of kindness. I think that, on some level, every day we try to atone for what happened to him.
Last summer Oogy had ACL surgery; his body ultimately rejected the steel plates and developed an infection so his leg had to be opened up a second time and the plates removed. When I went to pick him up following the second surgery, the technician who brought Oogy out said, 'This is a great dog, I really love him.' I said, 'Yep, we're lucky to have him.' The Tech looked at me and said, 'No, you don't understand. I see hundreds of dogs each week, and every once in awhile there is a special one, and you have him.' When I related that story to Dr. B he said, 'But we already knew that.'
Oogy's name is a derivative. The first day I was told we could adopt him I was thinking, 'This is one ugly dog.' But we couldn't call him 'Ugly.' Then I went to a variation of that from my youth, 'Oogly,' and his name followed immediately. Two years after we named him we learned that Oogy is the name of the Ghost Dog in the film, 'The Nightmare Before Chris tmas..'
This is not inappropriate.
On a recent Saturday afternoon Oogy was curled up on the couch asleep, his head in my lap, and I was thinking about his life now as opposed to the way his life had been before. Would he have sensed he was dying? Was he conscious when the police put him on a rubber sheet and took him to the Ardmore Animal Hospital ? Oogy went to sleep in a world of terror and searing pain and awoke surrounded by angels in white coats who were kind to him, who stroked him gently and talked softly to him. Instead of people who baited and beat and kicked him, he was surrounded with healing mercies. I realized then that Oogy probably did not know he had not died and gone to heaven. So I told him. I said, 'Listen pal. It only gets better after this.'
This incredible dog now lives with his adoptive family, Larry and Jennifer and their twin sons, Noah and Dan. Noah and Dan are pictured here with Oogy.