Tomorrow, my best friend, Oscar, turns 105! Honestly, he doesn’t look a day over 100. Really honest, it’s 15 in dog years. You see, I’m speaking of Oscar de la Rascal, the Golden Retriever service dog of Colleen, a disabled neighbor at the Shores. As it happens, Oscar was the the first legal service dog here, so I often refer to him as the “Rosa Parks of canines.”

When he was young he was so handsome and rebellious I called him the “James Dean of dogs.” When he got old he was still so handsome, I labeled him the “Cary Grant of dogs.” But today I want to share one of my favorite “amazing Oscar” stories. Please note that I had a human witness, otherwise you might not believe the following tale.

It was 10 years ago on the boardwalk down by the Pier and next to a bicycle rental shop. Next to that was a fenced construction pit that eventually became a small condo complex. Just west was a beautiful grass area Loew’s uses for its guests with dogs, which locals adopted as an informal dog park.

At dusk Michael, a longtime Santa Monica resident and fellow Oscarphile, and I were semi-speed walking to the the end of the Pier and back for exercise. We stopped at the “park” for Oscar whereupon I began throwing the tennis ball down the grass, which he chased furiously. But the ball inadvertently hit the concrete pathway, bounced high up into the air and landed right into the construction pit. Yikes!

Though he’s usually a prince about all matters, Oscar can be demanding about his tennis ball. He began angrily barking at me as if to say, “You threw it, now you go get it.” But the pit was fenced and locked.

Indignant, Oscar barked up a storm. So much, a security guard volunteered politely, “There’s a hole in the fence on the street side if you want to squeeze through.” “Thanks anyway,” I responded, not revealing that I didn’t want to get dirty crawling in the dark for an old tennis ball. (Or a new one, for that matter.) The security guard and Oscar looked like I was heartless. Fortunately, Michael was on my side.

As we resumed our walk, Oscar soon forgot the tennis ball crisis. Especially when we passed the Hot Dog on the Stick stand where he found and immediately inhaled ½ a hot dog.

On the Pier and before I could stop him, Oscar scored a discarded pizza slice and remnants of an ice cream cone. (His version of a balanced meal.) We finally left the Pier and and headed toward Ocean Park. As I often did, I let Oscar off the leash as he loves being his own boss. Dark as it was, the chances of a ticket were very slim.

As Michael and I continued chatting and solving the world’s problems as we were prone to doing, suddenly Oscar took off running. Like lightning. Stunned, I hollered after him but, on a mission, I could almost see him tune me out. I took off running after him and Michael took off running after me.

Up ahead, next to the bike rental shop, Oscar made a left hand turn heading east toward the street which runs by the back of the Loew’s. When I got there, I breathlessly looked in both directions. To my horror, Oscar had vanished! As they say on the Internet, OMG!

As Michael and I scoured the street calling out Oscar’s name I kept thinking what was I going to tell Colleen? “Gee, sorry about Oscar but at least here’s the leash.”

Then, suddenly in the pitch dark, behind the the construction pit fence, I saw a pair of green eyes like a coyote. It was Oscar! And believe it or not, in his mouth… was the tennis ball!

Dumbfounded, on the walk home Michael and I debated. Had Oscar actually heard the Security Guard about the hole in the fence? Impossible! And yet…

The next afternoon, I called Michael to see about going hiking in the Santa Monica mountains. He lamented that he had to stick around work because, “I spent the whole day telling everybody about Oscar and the tennis ball.”

In honor of your birthday, Oscar, good buddy, happy #105. Because I love you so much, I pray there will be a whole bunch more.

Jack is at, and