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She Was One in a Million: Onca Dog


February 10, 2012


She came crashing into our lives in the Summer of 2004. We were two fools in love, living in upstate NY, in a darling apartment that was much too nice for us. We drove 2 hours to get her, to the Starlight Diner off some highway I can’t remember the name of anymore. We were meeting up with a man who delivered dogs in a horse trailer all over the country. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. It was sleeting and raining, as only it can do in upstate NY, and the wipers on our Ranger didn’t work so I kept leaning out to wipe off the windshield.

We’d found her through a rescue group that dealt with “bully breeds” and hard to place dogs. She was two and had been abused and abandoned. We thought she was perfect. Upon arriving at the diner the man with the big belly lumbered out of his truck and declared with a southern accent I couldn’t place, “This is the god damn biggest dog I ever seen. She broken two of my collars already. Good luck.”

I don’t think I really was listening to him because I was too distracted by the three or so missing fingers on his hands. We loaded her up in the truck, brought her home, and so began eight years of laughter, love, tears, frustration, fierce loyalty, unwavering protection, and never-ending dedication from a dog we’d call Onca.

At the times I needed her most she was perfect. Standing by my side in a dark alley in NY, ferociously growling and barking at the man trying to cross the street to get to us. When Matt would go away she wouldn’t leave my side, spending the whole night at the foot of the bed, quietly growling at the bumps in the night. He would come home and she would turn into pure goofy maddening puppy again. And so it went.

I used to joke about what life would be like without Onca. Without having to sprint out of the house in the morning, only to realize in a big important meeting she’d gotten a full slobber on me. Without scrubbing drool off the ceiling, off the walls, off the windows. Without having to get the postman an apology Christmas gift every year and writing a “sorry I try to eat you on a daily basis note…love Onca”. But I never thought about all the other things we wouldn’t have.

The utter joy and delight of an old dog acting like a puppy each and every day when she got her peanut butter kong. The unwavering protection I would feel walking her at night. The way my heart would burst when she’d be curled up, just so, happily snoring and purring away.

Today, we lost our dear Onca, and I’m not quite sure what we do now. There’s a big hole missing that will never be filled. She was one in a million: Onca Dog.

The weekend we got her.

She was amazing with kids.

Happy Days at the polo fields in NY.

Squishiest fact I knew.

Onca in the Badlands

A striking lady.

When Gabby Came for a Weekend at Camp

Sun tanning with the best of them.


  1. Oh no. I am so very very sorry. I’m sending you and Onca very good thoughts.

  2. jillyfishh says:

    It will hurt for some long time, but, in the end, squishing so much love in too short of a time is completely worthwhile and will bring you more smiles than tears. Every time I say that I will not have my heart broken again, I always go back into the ring of furry love and give it another go. Such different personalities, more silly stories and more unconditional love. Why would I pass that up? My deepest condolences for your loss She was one lucky pup and is happily snoozing in the sun in doggy heaven.

  3. Abbie J. says:

    EM, my heart goes out to you and Matt! I am so sad to hear of Onca’s passing. When I look at her pictures above, it looks like she was such Queen and Jester rolled into one big dog–and what a powerful friendship you had with her! I am truly sad to hear of your loss. Bless all the pets who bring us such joy and love unconditionally forever. Onca was blessed to have you as her family, but it sounds like your family was more blessed to have Onca. Peace to you.

    • Erina says:

      A queen and a jester. Abbie, you could not be more correct. She was a moose and a mouse, a goon and godzilla. We were indeed blessed to have her.

  4. Shar says:

    Sending you, Matt, and Duke all my love :'( xoxo

    • Erina says:

      Thanks Shar…I don’t know where I’ll get my amusing, and exasperating, and oh so entertaining dog stories from anymore!

  5. SunnyD says:

    So sorry to hear this Erina. Know that you’ve got neighbors thinking about you during this time. It’s so tough to lose a loyal household member. Sounds like you and Matt gave her a very full and happy life.

    • Erina says:

      Thanks Sunny. The neighborhood has been amazing…dropping by flowers, whiskey, doggies for playdates for Duke. We are lucky indeed.

  6. Maman says:

    Onca leaves an amazing trilogy of adventures and lessons.
    Such goofy, bonkering love.
    She had the winning ticket when she came to you guys.
    Oh, I miss her already.

    • Erina says:

      Don’t you just miss her?!? I’ve been cleaning slobber off the ceilings and walls for days now and I’d take her back in a heart beat.

  7. Wendy Walker says:

    So very sorry, dear Erina. Thank you for sharing the wonderful photos and stories of your beautiful Onca.

  8. Russ says:

    May Onca have a million squirrels to chase forever. I’m so sorry for the hole in your heart right now Erina, and in Matts. I’m thinking of you and hope there’s some cheer in your week.


    • Erina says:

      Thanks Russ. Duke is doing his hardest to be pretty dang cute, so that helps. We do miss our girl though, that’s for sure. Thanks for your thoughts.

  9. Tara says:

    Your story and video brought me to tears. I can’t imagine what life will be like when I lose my girl, Indy. She sounds just like Onca. So sorry for your loss. I’m sure you wil continue to save a Cane Corso’s life someday.

  10. Geoff says:

    Always so sad to hear about the loss of a loved pet. Great story about him and how he came to be part of your family. You made me cry at work.

  11. Angela says:

    We were recently fortunate enough to “foster” an American Bulldog for AB rescue. We’ve since adopted her, after 7 months of battling heartworm and pneumonia after being given to a homeless man when the tire shop she lived in closed down. What an incredible breed. So resillient and able to bounce back even after the worst of circumstances. I’m truly sorry for your loss, and know we will all face it one day. When and if you are ready, there will never be a replacement, there are so many bullies out there waiting fir their shot at a furever home, and what a great breed they are.

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