I spent quite some time getting ready to write about yet another important chapter of my life, which left a deep mark in my soul. This story is about the beautiful and most beloved Ochisor (Little Eye).
I first saw him in the fall of 2010, in the bus station where I waited for the bus to take me home night after night. He was a big dog, white and black, very beautiful. He caught my eye because I’ve never seen him before and he had the oh-so-famous yoke around his neck, which made it clear for me that he was some kind of shepherd breed. As it was fall, it was possible that the shepherd had made its way back from the mountains, and as it way too frequently happens in Romania, the dog was “fired” from his job. I took a good look at him, but he didn’t seem interested by anything surrounding him. He was just sitting there, behind the bus station, thinking.
Three months have passed and he did not leave that spot. After a while I saw that he moved a bit further, towards the area where people live. Then I realized that he was being fed by some people living there, and they accepted him as the “dog of the area”. Every time I passed him, I used to pet him, more carefully in the beginning because of his imposing stature, but soon I realized that he was actually a very affectionate dog. Poor soul, he sat there lying on the grass all day long. I was thinking that he was probably also old, as I’ve never seen him chase cars or playing with other dogs. He just sat there, motionless. Then I realized that he was probably still waiting for his owner. He sat there, for months, in the very place he was abandoned, waiting for the return of the human he so lovingly served. He was a young dog after all, at around 2 years old.
In the summer of 2011, in August, passing by I noticed that he had a swollen and whitened eye, almost like popping out of his skull. Luckily, I wasn’t alone. I was with a volunteer from Holland who came to help us, and she also had a rented car, because we needed to be able to transport dogs more easily to the vet. When I saw him like that, I knew I couldn’t leave him out on the streets anymore. We put him in the van, and off we were, to the vet in Cluj Napoca.
There I found out that the swollen eye could be the result of a hit he took. We got a trial-treatment for 2 weeks. If the swelling wouldn’t go down during these 2 weeks, the eye had to be removed. But the problem was that I had nowhere to take him. We had no room at the shelter, and I couldn’t put him with other dogs.
I found a solution that seemed to be a good one at the time. A man was looking for a guard-dog because he kept receiving “visits” from gypsies, who were stealing all kinds of metal things from his yard. So we (I and a new group of volunteers, Dutch students) took the dog there and the man put him in a barn. He had 3 other dogs, all small ones, one kept on a chain - despite the chain, he was very friendly and playful. My heart broke when I saw the poor dog and I asked the man why such a small dog was kept on chains. He said that the dog wouldn’t stay otherwise in the backyard, and he needed the dog there to bark in case someone hopped over the fence. Basically, the poor soul was nothing but a living doorbell. The man was a bit afraid of the shepherd, because he never had a dog this large. I also noticed that he had no idea how to approach the dog or interact with him. He locked him in the barn and through a crack in the door he slid a bowl of leftovers from his meal. His interaction with the dog summed up to this. It bothered me. So much.
Eventually, the 2 weeks of trial passed, and there wasn’t the slightest improvement. So, the vet called us in for surgery. The dog was already on the table and under anaesthesia, when the doctor discovered that he also suffered from chronic otitis. He said that this also could have been the reason for the eye swelling – the infection from his ear could have gone to his eye. Thankfully, it wasn’t in his brain. That would have been lethal.
This news messed my head up a bit. I can’t really explain how, but in that little time I spent with him, mostly on the way to the vet, something happened between us. Like a bond between our souls. A quiet, but powerful one. And all this happened while I was sitting next to him in the car, petting him and he was just watching me with extreme confidence, giving himself up to my will. I think it was the first time I was so fully aware of this feeling.
The vet concluded that not only the eye, but also the ear had to be removed. I, trusting his experience, said ok.The surgery itself was a very difficult and time- and blood-consuming one. Standing and waiting there, the technician asked if had named the dog. I thought for a moment and the first that came to mind was Ochisor.
I can’t even remember exactly how long it all took. It was a lot. The vet explained that he didn’t entirely sew the ear shut, leaving an orifice open, through which I could put ear-drops and the ear could clean/drain itself. The students (last year med students) explained on the way home that it is extremely dangerous to sew shut the ear canal, because the infection can reappear, and not having a way of “communicating” with the outside, the only direction for the infection to go would be the brain. That was the moment I realized that Ochisor was a serious case, and the barn in which he spent his last 2 weeks as a “guard-dog” was not a good place for him. I decided to take him to the shelter and keep him in a room in the old building.
Again, I felt the connection between me and Ochisor, only this time much stronger. Seeing him with his eye removed, his eyelids sewn together, with traces of blood in his fur, laying helpless on the bench, I took him in my arms and hugged him tight. I promised him that I would never leave him and that I will do everything I can for him to be alright. Needless to say that my tear ducts started working, as they do now that I write these words. The two students looked at me in the review mirror and I felt the respect they had for my emotions. They did not say a word.
The recovery and post-op care was hard and long. The vet warned us that he will suffer from great pain. The hardest thing was giving him his eardrops. Because of his pain, he could not stand to be touched. We had to put a collar around his neck to stop him from scratching.
After a couple of months problems at the shelter resurfaced and the owners of the location forbade us to use the rooms within the building and shut it down. Once again, I was forced to find an urgent solution for Ochisor. The only option I had was to take him to a driving school’s location, in a small metal enclosure in the yard, which was divided in half, it had two cages, and I took Ochisor there. Jennie was there also, a female German Shepherd half-breed. The space was way too small for two big dogs, but it was the only option I had. I couldn’t take him home because I already had 5 dogs, 3 of which males, who would not have been excited at all to be forced to tolerate the presence of a new and big male.
For two months I went there every day, with food in my bag –mainly chicken, to make their existence easier in that place for Ochisor and Jennie. But there were more dogs in that yard, and every time I appeared, they all gathered in a circle around me, “begging” for goodies. Not to mention that I was also caring at that time for Sasha, the paralysed dog. And she wasn’t left alone for one second, so I had to take her with me everywhere. A friend from Italy had sent me a bag for transporting dogs and in that I was carrying Sasha around, in the bag on my back, which was hell for her, being paralysed and not being able to maintain her balance. And she got agitated, the bag was cutting my shoulder, so from time to time I had to stop, put her down and let her calm down a bit and then move on. But the hardest thing by far was leaving Ochisor and Jennie all alone when I had to go home. Ochisor was crying for me not to leave, and my heart was literally tearing apart. And frustration took me over. Why can’t I do more? Why can’t I offer him decent living conditions?
I admit it was a horrible period, not to mention the money I had to spend on Sasha’s caring and on Ochisor and Jennie’s food, plus all the dogs from the driving school.
Slowly, winter came along with the cold and I realized that I won’t be able to make this trip every day to the driving school, with Sasha and food in my bags. Also, those concrete floors the enclosures were built on were anything but good for Ochisor’s health. And of course, his eardrops needed to be administered daily. It was hell trying to give him his drops, sticking my hands through the wire mesh.
My goodness. Thinking back I can’t believe I did all this. But God gives power to those who help others in need; that is certain.
Eventually, my colleagues from the shelter split a bigger enclosure to make room for Ochisor and Jennie. Split as it was, they had three times the space they had at the driving school. But it proved to be a bit more dangerous. The girls put up some wire netting, but it’s like they didn’t exist. Ochisor tore it all down, trying to free himself to run after me, or to search for me when I couldn’t show up. He managed to land himself in the nearest enclosure, where two females and a very sick, epileptic male lived. I am convinced that Ochisor was attacked by the two females, who were wilder by their nature, and Ochisor, trying to defend himself, attacked the male, who was the weakest. Sadly, he died and one of the girls declared that Ochisor is a “murderer” and we have to get rid of him as soon as we can. The other girl tried to set her straight, telling her “Brindusa will eat you alive if you give Ochisor away”. She calmed down, but yet again we were forced to find a solution for him. Sadly, the only one we could come up with was to put him on a chain.
To top everything, his ear infection reappeared, and I had to treat him – antibiotics, anti-inflammatory meds, everything. And it was extremely hard because he wouldn’t let us. We also noticed that he wasn’t eating properly since he got to the shelter. Because he received a fair amount of antibiotics, I thought I should give him some yoghurt as well, and I noticed that he liked it very much. So I started pouring the yoghurt on his food and he started eating better. Jennie on the other hand liked it at the shelter, but used to jump up and down on me so I had to put her on a chain so I could care for Ochisor.
As expected already, Ochisor managed to escape. Again. Not even a chain could stop him from getting to me. He was so upset that I was at the shelter and I cared for other dogs too, not just for him. He wanted me all for himself. One night he landed himself again in the enclosure with the two females, but this time, we jumped another fence and found himself in the open yard. I can’t remember why I wasn’t there and couldn’t go, but my colleagues along with the security guard took Ochisor into a small building and locked him in. they couldn’t leave him in the yard because the firm that owns the land has two watchdogs which are… well, let’s just say that “Killer” says it all. So, even if Ochisor couldn’t have been feeling very good in that small place, at least he was safe.
It was already January 2012. And obviously, when something bad happens, it doesn’t come alone. Ochisor’s ear got infected again. You wonder maybe how I knew when his ear acted out. When his ear started bothering him, he shook his head very often and very nervously. Then, he started scratching. This time around he was more agitated than usually and the treatment didn’t seem to work.
So we ended up at the vet’s. Again. Another surgery followed, with a more profound cleansing of the ear, with the removal of his inner ear (I hope I’m not mistaking, I’m only writing from memory). Only that after the surgery I couldn’t take him back to the shelter. He needed a clean, warm space. In the same period, a young vet was moving from Cluj Napoca to Turda and with the help of a lady from Italy was opening up an office near our shelter. For us, this meant a great deal. We didn’t need to travel all the way to Cluj Napoca anymore, no more need for desperate calls to our friends to drive us, and so on. We had our “own” vet right on our doorstep and he could come to the shelter when it was necessary. The Italian lady was extremely kind and offered me an empty office at the firm she administrated near Turda. The only problem was again, transportation. But the new vet needed to treat Ochisor post-op anyway, so he drove me to him. After the treatment was done, I went with what I could: the bus, someone’s car, anything. Ochisor’s expression was really priceless every time he saw me. I used to take him out for a walk every day, it was a winter with a lot of snow, and he simply loved it. Sometimes my husband came with me and I, seeing the thick, puffy snow, just threw myself on it like a child, and Ochisor was always right on top of me, like trying to keep me in place and never leave him.
As spring was approaching, I took him back to the shelter. It was now like a ritual. First thing I did when I got to the shelter was to take him for a walk. And every evening we had to trick him in order to be able to put him back in the building. We put down food for him and as he started eating, I would quickly sneak out and close the door. But he figured this trick out really quick. And when I tried once to run out and close the door behind me, he suddenly ran towards the door and banged in it with all his weight, forcing it open. And then we had to chase him all over the place. He was having the best time, I had no spleen any more. And we could go like this forever.
In March we went to Cluj Napoca, to an event for animal lovers, some sort of fair. They invited us, which was a perfect occasion for us to present the beauties hiding in our shelter. Mostly puppies and young dogs. But because Ochisor was so attached to me, I had to take him too. Well, in those two days he became our mascot. He walked around people, almost like forcing them to pay attention to him. That’s when I noticed that he loves kids. Also, all the kids there seemed to have fallen in love with him. Parents had a really big trouble trying to take their kids away from him. Then I discovered Ochisor’s true personality. He loved attention, people and most of all, children. Those two days were fantastic. Exhausting, because we were there from dawn to nightfall and had to feed and care for the dogs, but fantastic.
We had to return to our routine. And Ochisor was once again feeling lonely at the shelter. One day, the security guard calls to tell me that he managed to escape. It seemed impossible, because he escaped where the window used to be, but now were bars. And he somehow managed to make himself small enough to fit between the bars. I couldn’t believe it, until one night when, after locking him in, I started walking towards the gate and a few moments later, there he was, by my side! He couldn’t be happier, kept jumping up and down. I got mad, put on his leash and took back. The door was locked, just as I left it. I put him back inside, locked the door again and started backing away, but this time with my eyes on the window. And there he was. Throwing all his weight against the bars and managing to squeeze himself out. A second later, he was jumping on me. Happier than ever. I became so angry and frustrated. How on earth was I not able to find a decent solution for this wonderful soul?!
One day, as I was walking him, I thought I might as well build him a house and put him on a chain. That way he wouldn’t need to be locked up all day and night, he could walk somewhat freely, but would still be kept safe from the watchdogs. It took a few days, but it was done. From that moment, he didn’t spend another minute locked up in the back building. He had his space in the yard, near the place where the food was being prepared. From then on, he completely changed. He calmed down and I realized he was perfectly happy to be around people. Everyone begun to love him. He always saw me as I was entering the shelter and started barking. The first thing I always did was to put on my work clothes, untie him and take him for a walk. And to think of the strength I needed to keep him in place at least long enough to untie his chain and put on the leash.
In the summer, being very hot, I would bring him to the nearby park, full with trees. I noticed that he wasn’t quite himself when he was tied to the chain, because of the heat, but as we begun our walk, he would be his playful self again. He loved going to that park. He didn’t even need food, just water. At the park, if there were young people or children, he would drag me towards them. They usually got scared seeing a huge dog like Ochisor running towards them, but I always explained patiently that he is a very loving dog and all he wants is some attention. And when he got it, he was the happiest dog ever.
Slowly I came to realize that a life in the shelter was not a good one for Ochisor. By chance I discovered on Facebook that he is a Bucovinean Shepherd half-breed. And searching for info about his breed, I came across a description that I felt was written just for him. I think this was what convinced me that I had to find him a house of his own. But it was extremely difficult to let him go. We already had a special, unique bond and sometimes I felt like we only live for each other.
I contacted my dear friend in Scotland, Gail, who adopted Sasha, and asked her to find a proper home for Ochisor. I have to admit, there were many moments in which I wanted to call and tell her that I won’t give him away; he is mine and he is happy with me and I with him. But the excruciatingly hot summer convinced me that it wasn’t good for him outside in the sun. This wasn’t what I would have wanted for a dog that I loved with all my heart. This is when I understood that love also means letting go.
And then, one day, I received the so dreaded phone call. A home was found for Ochisor. Joy, sorrow, doubt, suspicion, all took me at once. What if they aren’t trustworthy people? What if they’re not what he needs? What if he will get sick again and they will put him down? All these thoughts wouldn’t let me be. Many sleepless, tearful nights followed.
But the day came. I had to take Ochisor from the shelter to Sibiu, where he was supposed to get on the British van, authorized for transporting dogs. Along with him, other two female dogs left, Annie and Jackie, both fostered by me, both special cases (I only keep at home dogs which cannot be left at the shelter). All the way to Sibiu, Ochisor kept his head on my lap, as I was petting him and asking him not to be angry with me for sending him away, as I was only trying to do what was best for him. To be honest, he was intriguingly calm. I couldn’t believe that he wasn’t desperately hanging on to me.
In Sibiu it took forever for the van to arrive. So we spent many hours together, and when we got tired, I took the dogs for a walk in the park. Obviously, Ochisor was feeling very good in the center of attention. As we were leaving, we saw a little boy, about 11-12 years old, sitting alone on a bench. He seemed sad and unaware of his surroundings. Though we were in a hurry already, Ochisor dragged me straight to the boy. He stopped in front of him and didn’t move till the boy looked up to him. The boy lifted his head, he didn’t seem scared, just curious, and he looked puzzled at me. I told him that Ochisor loves people and would like him to pet him. The boy suddenly put both his hands on the dog and started playing with him. Then he hugged him tight, happily. Needless to say that Ochisor was as happy as he could be. And I realized that he would be a wonderful dog for therapy with children.
The van finally arrived at around 11 p.m. and the driver started verifying the paperwork. When he got to Ochisor’s passport, he noticed a mistake: the anti-rabies vaccine was administered only 20 days prior, not 21, as it should have been. I couldn’t believe I missed something like this. Usually I check and re-check everything, but it seems that this time it slipped. I was feeling bad that we came all the way here for nothing. But now at least I know that the reason for Ochisor being so calm on the road was that he knew he wouldn’t leave today. And he didn’t. We returned to the shelter. He slept on my lap all the way, and I was grateful that I had him for myself for at least a little while longer. Two weeks, more precisely. And I was certain that this happened for a reason that I was yet to discover.
It’s very strange that in those 2 remaining weeks it was harder and harder to go to the shelter. It was like I was being afraid of seeing, feeling him. I stayed at home till my colleagues called to say that he was sick. Pus started leaking from his eye. That was all I needed. In the next moment we were in Cluj Napoca again, at the vet who operated on him. He said it was an abscess, and a foreign object might have been stuck inside from the first surgery. It turned out that it was necrotized tissue, which should have been removed the first time, but because of the extensive bleeding, was missed. I was reassured that he will be just fine. I had to put him on antibiotics and … - oh, almost forgot. In the meantime, he developed allergies on his skin and he needed to be put on a strict diet. A good friend of mine from Cluj bought him hypo-allergenic food, which was very expensive and I could not afford. But the lady who was feeding the dogs at the shelter started giving that expensive food to other dogs too. I tried telling her a hundred times that the expensive food was strictly for Ochisor, but she didn’t care the slightest. She still does the same. All these convinced me once again, that Ochisor had to be cared for in a home, not in a shelter. But everything happened for a reason, like the mistake in his passport which made it possible for him to get treatment here and be well and cured by the time he had to go.
Two weeks later, he left for UK. For good. This time around the separation didn’t seem so hard. I was already fully convinced that the shelter wasn’t a good place for him and this beautiful soul deserves so much more. I will keep him in my heart forever. And my next plan is to visit him in his new home.
I don’t think there could have been a better home for him. He is with Maxine and her family now. She used to be a therapist, and worked with children dealing with autism and other problems.
She has two kids of her own, the youngest one a boy of 12, Sam, who loves Ochisor – now Osho, with all his being.
Maxine is retired now, sadly suffers from ms, and she became more interested in holistic therapies, especially Reiki. I am perfectly convinced that Osho loves her and is as attached to her as he was to me. But now he is a dog with a home. He likes to stay in bed and he became a bit lazy. He can barely be convinced to go for a walk, and he doesn’t like the rain or going by car, but he loves life in the house. He put on weight, he now has the optimal weight for his height and breed, his fur is gorgeous. He looks just like a well-taken-care-of family dog. His ear acted out again, but it was cleaned by the local vet. He is still on a special diet and he is getting proper food and nutrition. He also has a friend, Lucky, the other family dog, who is just like Ochisor, just with brown spots instead of black ones. And she is smaller.
Yes. Ochisor has a special place in my heart. His story is with a happy end, an ending I would want for every dog. Many dogs from our shelter got their happy end. And this is what keeps us going in what we do. Sometimes I wonder what would have been if I hadn’t found him. Better not. I like to believe that there are forces we cannot explain surrounding us, and those contribute to these most fortunate encounters. All dogs saved by me in my home turned out in front of my gate. Like they were guided by something. Something that showed them the way to the person that could help them. And all these dogs have their happy ending in the form of a warm, loving home in places like England, Scotland and Sweden. And whenever I receive news and/or photos of them, my heart fills up with joy and excitement. The joy that I played an important part in their journey to happiness. What could be better that this?
Gail, who adopted Sasha, and Maxine, who offered Ochisor the dream home, are now good friends of my soul. I am truly grateful to them and also to Jana Langer, the lady who shared Ochisor's story looking for the best home for him. And she did find it! I am yet again convinced that everything happen with a reason.
I really hope that one day I will write another chapter. “Visiting our dogs”. A trip to the UK and Sweden.
Till then, I will try to save other souls and tell their stories with a happy end.