One day in February 2007 I had a brief errand in Ngauranga Gorge. Deb decided to come with me but wanted me to drop her off at the Animates pet store.
By the time I returned to pick her up, only a few minutes later, she was in love. She'd picked up one of the puppies they had there who had promptly snuggled into her neck and whispered in her ear
Take me home, I'm all yours.
Well, of course it wasn't fair to take just one of the pair of puppies, so we soon found ourselves buying a crate, dog beds, food, toys, and two small 3 month old dogs.
Sasha was a small pitch black puppy-sized mix of Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu. A pair of white front paws was really the only way to tell which end was which. When she stood up a white chest would appear. She closely resembled a floor mop.
Oshi, who had so endeared himself to Deb, was a guinea pig sized mite with black face, plenty of ginger hair and some white patches. The pet store told us the dogs were siblings, but in appearance and personality Oshi tended more to the Shih Tzu side of the breed mix and Sasha to the Lhasa Apso.
As he grew his colouring had changed — the black faded away and the ginger became a pale tan. He finally came to look like a dog rather than a guinea pig.
Oshi had a slightly hunched back and a funny little crooked nose. He often had one lower tooth sticking up over his top lip, so sometimes we called him Fang.
While Sasha was always more aloof and self-contained, Oshi loved to be the centre of attention. At puppy class when let off leash for play and socialising Sasha would do a circuit around the perimeter of people, while Oshi would join in with the pack of dogs at the centre. He'd be last as they chased around but he didn't care. I doubt he could have handled being a leader, he just wanted to belong.
If we were ever petting Sasha then Oshi would muscle his way in between Sasha and us, snuggling in to be as close as possible.
He loved cuddles, sitting on our laps, having attention. If we were bathing or grooming the dogs Sasha would endure until this terrible thing was over. Oshi would adore being the focus of attention while wriggling, and jiggling and even getting overdramatic about the agonies of this torture.
Between grooms Oshi would gradually start to look like an old fellow. Once groomed though he'd be back looking like a young pup.
Sometimes we'd be out, at the beach or dog park and I'd call the dogs. Sasha would trot towards me while Oshi would lie in wait and then thunder across at an angle to knock Sasha off-course so he could be the first to get cuddles.
Oshi was a food focused dog, always keen for a treat, and always aware of where he could find something edible. We used to joke that in a disaster we'd never starve because he'd be able to lead us to food.
One day a visitor had some yummy liqueur chocolates in a zipped up bag behind a closed baby gate. No matter — while our backs were turned those chocolates found their way into Oshi's tummy. He was hyperactive for 3 days and spent much of that time beside himself, frantically digging holes in the garden. Digging was a go-to activity.
Sometimes too we'd make the mistake of leaving food on a coffee table while saying goodbye to visitors. We'd turn around to find Oshi (and Sasha) had cleaned the table.
It wasn't just food though: Oshi would make it his business to find, retrieve and 'eat' all kinds of items. Papers, cosmetics, wrappers, an expensive stylus for a graphics tablet, pens, Nurofen (from a closed bag) all found their way between his jaws. The Nurofen had both dogs at the emergency vet because we couldn't be sure who'd eaten what exactly. We learned many lessons about closing doors, shutting away items, and what areas were out of dog reach.
On the other hand we'd find him bringing things in from the garden to chew on — random sticks, leaves, bits of mulch and other mystery items would turn up. Even, one day recently, somehow a mummified small animal that may have been a rabbit. How that could possibly have been in the dog yard was beyond us, as if it had died there we would have known about it long before it could mummify.
Sometimes, conversely, he would bury things — a tasty dog chew would be carried out to the garden and tenderly buried for safety. Sometimes he'd dig it up within a few minutes, at other times Sasha would score the win.
Oshi loved his breakfast, dinner, treats … We knew that if he were ever to go off his food that would be a sign of problems. And indeed, in his last year he became fussy about what he'd eat, and the final visits to the vet were because he wasn't eating.
Funniest though was when Oshi would take his beloved furry duck toy, with him since Day One, and 'bury' it in a corner of the room, scuffing 'dirt' over it to hide it, only to retrieve it again and run round whimpering while he tried to find the best hiding place. That duck survived many a burial in the garden too.
That duck was his only toy, he had no interest in other toys at all. Except for the day we were visiting our friend Willow whose numerous toys were stored in a small crate on the floor. Oshi, probably searching for edibles, unloaded that crate one toy at a time. As a small dog he had to clamber up and stretch down into the crate to reach the toys at the bottom.
As the dogs got older they could either walk to the beach or on the beach, but not both. I used to put them in a trailer behind my bike so I could take them to the beach for a walk.
For the last 6 or 7 years we've lived next door to Willow who's a fussy eater, leaving her breakfast lying around all day for the taking. That state of affairs was just unbelievable as far as Oshi was concerned. Although we kept our dogs contained, Oshi could find any breach in the defences. We had to learn to unload shopping from the car by reaching the bags over the dog fence and then coming through the gate unencumbered so we could be sure he didn't slip through any momentary gap and bolt for Willow's house.
One day late last year one of Willow's mums texted me to say: "Oshi's here". Since I believed Oshi to be fossicking outside in the secure dog yard this was quite a surprise. Somehow, and I'm still not sure how, he'd found a space where he could squeeze under the fence so he could head down to check out Willow's food bowl.
The one thing was that if he ever ran away from home we knew exactly where he'd go.
Apart from food and digging holes, one of Oshi's favourite activities was peeing. He never 100% learned the lesson that peeing was only an outdoor activity. We could never trust him if we took him with us while visiting. We also couldn't trust him at home if we went out for too long. The third time he peed on an excellent but expensive floor-standing heater he killed it totally. The replacement heater was stood on a plastic crate or coffee table to keep it above peeing height.
On walks, of course, he could be relied on to pee on what sometimes felt like every blade of grass. If he wanted to pee on something, like maybe a pole, he'd plant his feet several metres in advance, forcing me to a stop. Then he'd approach the pole circuitously, taking a sideways angle to it. It used to drive me crazy, especially since he'd just cut across in front of me if he wanted to get to the other side. Since I always had Sasha with me as well I could end up tangled in dog leads. I've often said that any future dogs will learn to walk properly on a lead. I never managed it in 15 years with Oshi.
The day young Oshi met our friend Amadee's samoyed, Mr Blue, he fell in love and discovered his true self: he was a samoyed! Any time we would meet samoyeds on our walks Oshi would try to join their pack — even as late as last year at the Levin dog park when Deb and Oshi met a pack of 4 samoyeds and Oshi went over to continue his walk with them.
I'm not sure how Sasha will get on now without Oshi around to keep her company and bug her. When they were little they'd chase around and play. Sometimes that involved Sasha standing in one spot while Oshi ran circuits around her. At other times the two of them would run around together before flopping down on their rugs exhausted.
Oshi would also lick Sasha's ears and face while she would move her head around as though to get out of his way. She never actually stopped him, so it can't have been totally intolerable. It always meant though that we'd have to spend ages combing knots out of her ears.
Oshi was a mischievous boy who gradually evolved into a somewhat cranky old fellow. In his later years he suffered arthritis, various eye problems, skin allergies, failing eyesight and failing hearing. Ultimately his kidneys failed and we had to say goodbye in February 2022, just about 15 years since he came to live with us.
He's been a huge part of my life, our lives, and will be sorely missed.