Aside from the first eight weeks after his birth, Oleś spent his entire life with his human companion, Helena Marles. His name is a diminutive for Alexander in Polish (the “ś” in Oleś is pronounced like “sh,” but a little softer).
Helena Marles’s memoir about him, A Life Worth Living, is being readied for publication.
The World of Oleś
From the very first night when I brought him home, Oleś seemed hardwired to love me. I couldn’t resist. I watched him, this new, ever-present companion of mine, with curious fascination and marveled that he was physically so unlike me yet I could relate to him and find so much delight in his presence and closeness to me.”
—Excerpt from A Life Worth Living
Days of Illness
Oleś was diagnosed with cancer in April 2015 when he was evaluated for symptoms of pleural effusion (fluid accumulation around the lungs). He was 13 years old. For a time, there was hopeful expectation for a different diagnosis; it never came.
He received one round of chemo for thoracic carcinoma—whether the illness originated in the lungs or in the mediastinal space around them wasn’t entirely clear—and an antibiotic treatment for a possible infection. Despite grave prognosis and early suggestions for euthanasia, he defied all odds and got startlingly better for over two months. He seemed nearly completely recovered, and then rapidly declined.
These photos are from April through July 2015.