According to his dog dad, Larry Levin, Oogy was a dog only his family could love.
I found this so very much not to be true, as adult after child, toddler followed by senior citizen, lined up to pat Oogy, meet his dog dad, catch a photo, and hopefully, learn about breed bias.
For those unfamiliar with this rags-to-riches canine hero, Oogy entered the life of Larry Levin and his family in 2002 as a puppy. Through a chance encounter at the veterinarian’s office, the white pup appeared to have been in a fire: He was missing an ear and half his face was covered in scar tissue.
It is believed Oogy was a bait dog in a dog fighting ring, having been discovered by police during a suspected drug bust. Bloodied, battered, and beaten, Oogy fought all odds. Surgery after surgery, the rambunctious pup grew to a loving, loyal member of the family.
Our Afternoon With Oogy
On the grounds of the L’Oreal’s plant in Cranbury, New Jersey, hope came alive, cancer research and funding became the focus, and all in the name of doggone fun in 2011.
On behalf of a then-client, my family and I set up shot next to a grassy area marked “Hold for Oogy.”
Oogy’s dad, Larry Levin, signed books and Oogy was on hand, er paw, to greet his fans. What a loving boy and inspiration.
What I saw that afternoon, however, was a dog surrounded by love.
“He needs to keep moving,” one of his family members told me. “We think that because he had to stand in place and get attacked by fighting dogs, he feels more secure moving around.”
And most often, Oogy sauntered across the grass, allowing people of all ages to greet him, taking each pat and smile with ease, and never taking his eye off his dad.
I recall telling my spouse on our way home from the event that I felt like something spiritual had crossed my path. I have no idea what I meant by it, but I definitely felt as if I were in the presence of something greater than myself. He moved me and gave me goosebumps: In a very good way.
From Whence He Came
In his book about Oogy, Larry Levin writes, “The pup’s ribs were prominent, which told Dr. Bianco that he was malnourished. His breathing was shallow, but he did not open his mouth for additional air, which was a sign of distress. His head and neck were caked with iodine brown dried blood. His features were horrifically damaged. There were multiple infected puncture wounds on the right side of his face and skull. The left side of his face and head were gone. What had been that side of his face, from just back to his muzzle to behind where his ear used to be, was now yellow green pus, oozing blood, fully infected. All that remained of his left ear was a jagged stump. The tissue surrounding the yawning cavity where the left side of the pup’s face had been was dead and blackened; the rotten flesh smelled like meat that had been left out in the sun for days. The blood vessels on that side of his forehead had been torn apart.
And yet, incredibly although he had to have been in tremendous pain, he gave no indication of it.
In reading this book, that sentence forever embedded itself in my memory. I read the book only after meeting Oogy and formed a whole renewed sense of respect for these innocent dogs who ask for nothing but love. And a complete and utter disdain for those who put them through hell.
My passion for dogs and career choice solidified the day I met Oogy. I knew I wanted to do more than write for others: I also wanted to write and make a difference for myself and for the other Oogys of the world.
For meeting him, I will forever be grateful.
Bias Be Gone
Levin himself admits to having bias against certain breeds prior to encountering Oogy, who turned out to be a Dogo Argentino breed and not a Pit Bull mix as originally suspected.
In his own words, Oogy’s dad, shared the news of Oogy’s passing on March 2, 2015, writing on Facebook:
Adopting and Being a Wigglebutt Warrior
I am a Wigglebutt Warrior and I have had enough. I write. I educate. I talk about it: To you, to others, and to anyone who wants to make a difference in the lives of animals. Knowledge is power. I’ve learned that educating people helps turn the tide. If enough people are educated, the tide washes over hate and will prevail to goodness. Karma and all that.
Why do I rescue and why should you?
On March 1, 2013, my heart broke into tiny little pieces. I am heavily immersed in the pet industry and I have found my passion, my calling, and when I say my heart beats dog, I mean it. It also bleeds dog and breaks dog, especially when I see requests like the one I received tonight land in my email cyberbox.
“Urgent Foster needed in Connecticut. Freddy is tied to a dog house 24/7 the owner no longer wants him. He cries for attention. A concerned neighbor has got the owner to agree to give him up. He is 8 years old. Please help us find a foster so he doesn’t spend another cold and lonely night tied to a dog house.”
I was ready to get in my car tonight with a family member and my dog and head to Connecticut. You know that storm that fell in the northeast a few weeks ago and pummeled the northeast with feet of snow? Freddy was left outside in it.
Freddy, you are not forgotten. I sit here with tears streaming at the anger I have that someone found it normal to tie a Cocker Spaniel outside and let him live there like a forgotten lawn ornament. So I formed Wigglebutt Warriors and encourage others to do what they can to help a dog in need.
Am I Ordinary?
I am not an ordinary dog lover, and this I know to be true. A dog has been by my side for over 20 years now, with a very rare occasion one is literally not there. I mean it in every sense of the word when I say my heart beats dog.®
There is something very unique about the spirit of canines: No matter what breed, what circumstance, or from whence they came: Dogs are real. It’s true that dogs don’t judge. Even more so, dogs teach me every single day to be a better person.
It breaks my heart to see the many dogs who need forever homes, those who are stuck with owners who could care less, and the ones who will leave this world because there simply was not enough room on the planet.
I want to be one of those people who shows others how to make a difference in the life of a dog.
I am truly living my dream and putting the effort into making my goals happen. It isn’t easy, but it can be done with the pitter patter of paws beside me as I type this, and the knowledge that each day there is something I can do to teach others about the magical qualities encased in a dog.
You don’t have to leave home to help a pet in need. Consider cyber fostering a dog – ask your favorite rescue group how to help with even $5 or $10 a month. You can feed a dog with the savings on a cup or two of coffee.
Here is a snippet of our afternoon with Oogy, my wife gently caressing Oogy’s head while talking to Larry, and I hope that Oogy and his family are forever feeling the embrace of those who met him, even if for a moment in time. Say hello to our Brandy Noel at the Bridge, Oogy.