Our home is so much quieter now. Mornings used to begin with Lori rising early to get ready for work, accompanied by Otto, our doe-eyed, gray-muzzled Jack Russell Terrier.
The two of them would take a short walk in the predawn darkness so Otto could relieve himself. Back inside, Lori would fix a pot of coffee and Otto would start in on his first meal of the day, a mixture of wet food and dry kibble.
Some 30 to 60 minutes later, Charlotte’s whimpering from her kennel would awaken me and I’d bring her downstairs to join her older brother. Without fail, Otto would wag his stump of a tail at Charlotte, our rascally rescue mutt, and make his way over to me to say hello.
Sad to say, our sweet Otto is no longer with us. He died a week ago today, July 10, just two days after we had returned from our last trip to Orcas Island.
Fittingly, he passed away in Lori’s arms as she held him across her lap in a quiet room at an animal hospital. The bond between those two was like nothing I’ve ever seen with any of our pets during our 40-year marriage — so much so that our three kids and I referred to Otto as “the fourth child.”
As an 11-year-old belonging to a breed that’s prone to heart disease, Otto had already slowed down quite a bit and was taking several pills a day to lessen the discomfort and prolong his life.
He’d made two visits to the E.R. in recent months and we had to hospitalize him the day after we got back from Orcas. He was battling heart failure and tachycardia, an abnormally rapid heart rate. He spent the night at the pet hospital and we hoped for the best. When we saw him struggling mightily the next morning, we knew the humane thing to do was to euthanize him.
Losing a beloved pet is always hard. In Otto’s case, even more so, owing to his sunny disposition and strong attachment to Lori. I don’t exaggerate when I say Otto loved everyone and everyone who knew Otto loved him back.
Otto came into our life at 9 months old when we already had Max, a Black Lab/Great Dane mix who was a 120-pound teddy bear. When Max died in 2009, Otto became the only canine in a household with two cats. When we adopted Charlotte in 2014, Otto had to accommodate his new roommate — a Terrier/Pug/Chihuahua mix half his size, with a big bark and energy to burn.
He did so gracefully.
Now that he’s gone, we vacillate between mourning his absence and celebrating an exceptional creature.
We miss seeing Otto curled up in his bed next to our street-facing window, his favorite soft toy typically beneath him. We miss the routine of feeding both dogs a handful of baby carrots at dinner. We miss the simple pleasure of taking a leisurely walk in the neighborhood, where everyone knew Otto and had a kind word to say.
I’ll even admit to missing him in our bed, tunneling under the covers, then coming up for air, then diving back in to get warm, then surfacing again to cool off. Annoying? Yes. But he did keep our feet warm and the nighttime routine was uniquely his.
We called our loyal, loving friend Mister Otto (because he had class) and Sheriff Otto (because he’d keep an eye out for shady characters from his vantage point overlooking the street).
In our last few minutes with him, there was only one thing to say as we stroked his face, his head, his ears: “Goodbye, sweet Otto.”
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