We lost Oso today. He was a really special dog and took such good care of his sheep. Like Big Otis, he was unsocialized to humans, was nearly impossible to catch in the pasture, and hated to be touched. By people, that is. But he loved his lambs! Unlike Otis, who was more circumspect, and would patrol around the flock but not mingle too closely with them, Oso loved to snuggle with his sheep. I remember coming upon him in the shelter, literally buried under a pile of lambs and looking completely content. He was a great protector–the year we raised 200 lambs, Oso was often the only dog with that group, and I swore he could count to 200, because if one lamb was in trouble, he knew it. On summer evenings when the lambs were in the “lamb park” pasture on the hill opposite our house, I would watch them graze their way to the top of the hill at sunset, and see Oso sitting nearby on a high ground, alert and watchful. And the sun would set and the coyotes would begin to howl, but I knew my lambs were all safe with Oso on duty. He was a really robust dog, and started his 10th year looking as strong and youthful as ever. But just a month or so ago, he began to show his age. His decline was dramatic in the past week–he stopped eating and grew very weak. The diagnosis was a hemangiosarcoma, a malignant tumor of the spleen that has no cure. We decided the most humane thing was to put him to sleep, and this guy who never wanted human attention seemed relieved to have me hold and stroke his head until he was gone. I wish he could have died surrounded by his lambs. Last week I promised him that he would see one more lambing, but that was not meant to be. We all will really miss him, and hope he found Big Otis on the other side, and all those lambs they loved and cared for so well.

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