Memories of a good dog

Otto sunset at Capital Hills

By Greg

There wouldn't be dogs without humans. And it's probably fair to question what would have become of humans without dogs. I mean, who would want to live in a world without dogs?

Humans and dogs are so symbiotic, their stories so intertwined, that it's easy to overlook the fact that dogs are absolutely amazing. A whole separate species that lives alongside us, follows our directions, reads our emotions, and brings us joy. They'd seem like magic if they weren't already such a part of us.

And because they are such a part of our lives, there's an empty spot when they're gone.

We've been feeling that absence acutely ever since we lost Otto two weeks ago. He was such a presence in my family's life, in our neighborhood, and here at AOA.

We miss him. A lot.

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Asleep in my office shortly after we got him 10 years ago.

Otto was a good dog. But I think pretty much every dog is a good dog, even if some of them don't get the chance to show that. And Otto was lucky to have the sort of life in which he could be that good dog.

What made Otto remarkable was the way he met the world: with respect and an open heart. He had this innate ability to understand how to interact with a person or another animal. It was the sense that he could be exuberant with an adult human who wanted to play. That he needed to be calm with a shy kid. Or that he should be patient with an elderly person.

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My wife and I didn't really recognize this trait for what it was until someone who had worked with guide dogs pointed it out after Otto had played with her tiny dog. Otto had gotten down on the ground so the dog could jump all around him while they both barked happily. She called it discernment.

Because of this quality -- what I've come to think of as the dog equivalent of kindness -- Otto formed relationships wherever he went. He was very close with our good friends down the street and would often wander over to be with them and their kids (and even their rabbit). Sometimes he'd go visit our next-door neighbors, lounging on their deck with them. He made countless acquaintances on so many walks around Buckingham Pond. And he had a great friendship with his pal Daisy, whom he met when they were both puppies.

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Otto and his pal Daisy. They had a lot of fun together.

A lifelong skeptic of the United States Postal Service, Otto even warmed up to our mailman in his later years. I didn't think I'd ever see that. You know, old dogs and all that...

People, kids, and other animals were drawn to Otto, this big, fluffy, gentle beast. And I think being a collie helped, too. They're not a popular breed right now -- there's a lot of fur, it's true -- and that made him immediately recognizable, a neighborhood celebrity.

Back around when AOA was starting out, a woman stopped my wife and Otto as they were walking at Capital Hills: "Is that Otto from AOA?" It was one of the first times I realized how this thing had grown to reach thousands of people.

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Otto wasn't perfect. He was stubborn, as collies tend to be. And while he was exceptionally good natured and very well behaved, he was something less than obedient, one of the worst dogs in his class. Not because he didn't know the commands -- he just wasn't interested in following them. (We always joked how much smarter he got when a really great treat was involved.) But that also made him funny. He had personality.

When we brought Otto into the vet two weeks ago, we knew something was up. He had suffered from some longterm health issues. The end gathered gradually, then landed suddenly. It was hard to watch the bright light inside of him dim. There was some ugly crying as we sat on the curb in the parking lot of the emergency vet in the middle of the night.

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Capital Hills was just about his favorite place in the world.

Otto was such a big part of our everyday lives that now so many things feel a little off, like something's missing. It's just too quiet.

In those moments I try to think of a happy memory. The hours he spent in front of our house vigilantly doing his "job" keeping an eye on our street. The walks at Capital Hills that he enjoyed so much. How he loved pancakes. The snoring under my desk. Listening through the window as neighborhood kids stopped to pet him and talk to him. The joy he brought to so many people.

Otto had a good life. We were lucky to be part of it.

Comments

My condolences! There's no sadness like losing a canine friend.

Will Rogers — 'If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.'.

Crying.

I'm so sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful tribute to Otto.

This was sad and wonderful to read. Otto was a good dog and you expressed it very well. I'm sorry for your loss.

I'm so sorry. How fortunate for Otto that he found companions who appreciated and saw his emotional intelligence! My sheltie Kelsey (whose own puppy photos look a lot like the one you posted up there) died almost 10 years ago, and I still think about her often. I still draw on all of those happy and silly memories, like how much she loved playing tug with her fleece man toy and the clicking sound her feet made on the kitchen floor and how much she hated school buses. I'm glad you have such a store of memories to carry with you and revisit when you need them.

So sorry to hear. Such a touching tribute.

Deepest condolences to you and yours, Greg. There's no denying the impact of a pet on a family and I feel your heartbreak.I spoil Jeter more than I do my kids because we really get to keep our pets for such a short time that I am committed to giving my dog the best life possible, as I'm sure you did for Otto. Hugs.

My deepest sympathy on the loss of your beloved Otto. I feel your pain as I went through it myself recently. One thing that helped me, and may help you, was to make a shutterfly book of all the photos of my dog. It seemed like a more permanent tribute to him than having the photos on my phone and computer. I made copies for everyone who loved him, too. Also, there are a couple of pet bereavement support groups in the area. It does help to go to one.

He was a great dog. Sorry for your loss.

Very sorry for your loss. We had our dog put down two months ago and went through the same stuff. It's not easy. And yes, every dog is a "good boy."

Oh Greg. I'm so sorry. He was such a sweet, lovable character.

> he didn't know how to do the commands -- he just wasn't interested in doing them

Hey, you had a cat of a dog world then!

Great, now I'm crying at work. Heading home on lunch to hug my Otto.

Thank you for this.

Ugh so sorry!!

My deepest sympathies. Nothing worse than being at 'that vet' on Route 2. Trying not to cry at work...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Greg :( Otto was indeed a local celebrity and he'll be missed by many AOA fans - even ones who didn't get a chance to meet him in person. Thanks for sharing his story and photos.

So so sorry..I always loved getting an update on the state of all things Otto during your appointments. You were lucky to have him, and vice versa.

I've never met you or Otto but sad to see this news. What a beautifully written tribute, and reminder to enjoy the time that we have in this world.

condolences on your loss. I'm an early reader of AOA and always loved the pics of otto. what a sweet tribute. hugs to your family in this trying time.

So sorry for the loss of Otto. Been missing my Miss Murphy today, so this hit me.

I believe I encountered Otto a number of times at the golf course. I didn't bring attention to his celebrity status because I assumed he wanted some privacy. :)

He was a beautiful boy and I'm so sorry for your loss.

I was blessed to know Otto. What a beautiful soul and gorgeous dog he was. ??????

Otto who loved pizza. He will be missed. A good dog, indeed.

What a beautiful tribute. Our pets are family, and losing them is never easy. We lost our dog recently, too.

Am so sorry about your pooch , Gregg.
I know he is watching over you & yours wants you to find happiness.

I'm so sorry. We love them dearly and they leave us too soon. This is a wonderful tribute to your beloved Otto- a good dog.

Very sorry for your loss.

Thank you, everyone, for the warm thoughts and kind words. They're greatly appreciated.

I am sorry to hear this. Otto is now with the other good boys and girls running around the big farm in the sky.

So sorry to hear about this. I know where you are - I've been there - and it's always going to hurt a little. I grew up with a collie - my first birthday present - who died when I was 15. She had the same patience you mentioned that Otto had, and she was a great dog for 3 young kids to grow up with. Even when she was 9/10 with a toddler running around the house. May Otto's memory be a blessing.

I'm so sorry Greg. I know the pain. I lost my dear Jasper suddenly in February.

So sorry for your loss. He sounds like a good dog indeed.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Otto was indeed a good dog. Thank you for sharing Otto with the rest of us.

I had a rough-coated collie when I was a child; she died too soon, as all good dogs do.

This was beautiful, thanks for sharing your memories of Otto with all of us. So sorry for your loss.

Living on borrowed time with my ancient pal. he's been a stellar presence who shepherded the family through SO much! not ready for losing this member of the family :-( but reading about Otto is heartwarming. sorry for your loss.

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