Friday, February 20, 2009

Odes to Otis

I started Wednesdays With Otis because I wanted to tell his story. His story will not end with his death. There is too much left to be told. His life was epic not only in dog terms, but in human. How many humans can say they've seen the lower 48? Otis lived. He really really lived. And his story, if recounted well enough, can be a lesson in how we can all live the best life possible.

I took a couple of weeks away from writing. I grieved a lot in the first days without him. I guess my immune system was no match for it because I was sick and worthless for an entire week. 

Anyway, before I continue retelling the epic journey of Otis, I want to use this entry to thank all of my family, friends, neighbors and admirers of Otis who offered their sentiments. Otis truly touched a great many people during his 13 glorious years. But not only do I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart, I also to share some of those sentiments here, anonymously, of course.

These words helped me through. They assured me that I was a good human to Otis, that he had a wonderful life - perhaps the most wonderful life any dog could ask for. I still don't fully believe that, because my guilt is too great. I know I could have been better, but many of these words stopped me from beating myself up over it. They also allowed me to find peace in the terribly difficult decision it was to end Otis' tongue-dangling, tail-wagging ride.

I hope they will bring comfort to others who have, or will have to go through similar loss and grief.

Here are those words: 

He had a good long run, and really gave ‘em hell these last few months!

Sorry to hear about the greatest dog of all-time. I'm thinking he's chasing butterflies through fields of alfalfa right now. Dogs reflect the things that are best about ourselves.

Otis was one lucky dog and I'm sure he knew it. In fact, that's one of the lovely things that animals show us-- that gratitude. Just for being us. And what other dog can say that he traveled around all of the United States with his best friend?

I'm so sad to hear about Otis. What a magnificent dog!

I'm really sorry about Otis. People deserve to die – not dogs.

I loved him from the minute I met him, when he took off running in our neighborhood searching for who knows what?

Our pleasure is having them for the brief time we are allowed their glorious presence.

You gave him a spectacular life - the fullest and most complete life of any dog I have known, or will know.

He had the most amazing life a dog, or human really , could ever ask for.

There are no words.
My heart just breaks for you...

I know how much of a friend he was...through some very hard (and very good) times. Not often you get something like that. It just breaks my heart.

God speed Otis. And you, my friend, need to take extra special care of you. and don't resist your grief or let anyone tell you he was just a dog. The loss is as real as anything. His energy is swirling around you now, and when you are ready you will harness it and know he will never leave your side.

You and Otis are two of the luckiest beings. You've indeed made me grateful for every day with mine.

He was a source of great joy...

He went out just like I imagined he would, still full of life. Funny to think, he probably cared more about how you and Sam and everyone else felt, than how he felt.

What sad news yet what an amazing and full life that lucky Otis experienced with you on this planet.

I'm really sorry to hear about your loss, but thankful for the great years you and Otis gave each other, and the honor, dignity and emotion with which you said good-bye.

I am so sorry for the loss of Otis: best friend, lover extraordinaire, ball-crazed, noble creature.

There aren't really words to console you, so I'll just say that I've been there and I know that the loneliness that follows is a strange and tortured one--it's profundity foreign to many people. But what I have always loved about animals--particularly dogs, but also cats--is their presence, not only during the big moments but the interstitial ones. They witness everything, and in those hours in our lives when no on else is around, there is that small comfort in knowing another heart is beating nearby--sending out a signal, as if to say, 'I'm here, you're here, that's good enough for now.'

There are no words, or feelings, or anecdotes that I can come up with in regards to Otis. His loss is too profound. And like him, it is your pain I am feeling.

So sad but so inspiring to me. To hear of all of the love and joy you received from Otis makes me want a dog. Our guys have been asking for a couple years and this may have put me over the edge.

Your honest love for Otis has been shared with so many people. I'm so damn sorry...

When do we have a ceremony?

I am so very very sorry. In my house, the kids are booted from our bed regularly, but my dog is under the covers nightly nestled in the crook of my legs and the jaws of life couldn't detach him, much to my husband's chagrin. So while I haven't gone through that horrific yet inevitable stage of a dog's life yet, I know the bond a person can have with a dog and wanted to share some sympathy.

I am so sorry. He was the greatest of dogs.

You gave him such a wonderful and long and filled and exuberant life. He gave you...everything.

You gave Otis an exceptional life. He gave you his unswerving loyalty, his absolute devotion, his bad breath, his reckless disregard for abstaining from cat poop. You were both winners, Jeff.

I am so sorry to hear about Otis. He had a good life with a great friend. You took care of him like a son and he looked up to you like a dad, which you were.

He had the best life a dog could ever hope for.

How awesome is it that people can have the capacity to love another so much (human or animal)? You and Otis were very lucky to have each other.

I don't know what else to say that you haven't already heard...but maybe this video will raise your spirits if you haven't already seen it.

Kid coming down from pain killers from his surgery at the dentist:

A cat can’t play catch, chew, fart like sewer pipe and love you like a dog.

Otis lived heaven on this earth - an incredible life. And - as for you - I heard something interesting the other day. Grief is a clear sign that you have loved well - it's part of the deal. Would you choose to live this life without love? I know how much it hurts but still feel that the pay-off of the past many years of companionship and unconditional love and affection that you've shared with Otis is worth it.

When my dad's dog passed it was almost as hard as my dad in a way, the relationship is so much more... unambiguous love. They are such amazingly pure love soldiers. You were a great partner to him obviously and everything you guys did together made the world better. Not just for you, but love that like is like a radio wave across the world.

I never cry for anything, including my mother when she passed 15 years ago, but dogs are different.

Someone told me just the other day that, unlike humans, dogs really never know when to “let go”. I think they are just so damn happy to be pleasing others that they forget to take care of themselves.

There is heaven for dogs, I've heard about it, believe me.

He has Gone. Hearts are Broken. But he is not forgotten, on the contrary, his spirit lives on in all the hearts of everyone who met him in person and through your writing.

I feel supremely lucky to have been witness to his journey on this earth.  I cannot tell you how much I have appreciated all the inspiration -- and the times when I was closed down and you two reminded me to be open to love and life's whimsy.

I wish we could just go take a gun a blow cancer's guts out. Since it seems to punch us in the gut and heart way to many times.

He had a great life......and we all were happy to have him while we did!

Feel what you need to feel. It's what makes us human. Let me know if you need anything, like vodka!

Oh... I loved that guy. I'm not sure he was as fond of NH as we were of him. Thanks for making him part of our life. He packed the most muscle per square inch of body of any dog I've ever known but his biggest muscle was his heart.

Otis was a rock star.

Our love is eternal, our lives are not.

I am so sorry, but so proud of you all for having the courage to love something so much you could let it go.

I am still amazed at all the photos of Otis and all the amazing places he got to see. So many people aren't nearly that lucky.

I know you had one of those man/dog relationships that books and movies are made of.

Otis will live on in our hearts forever.

Your dog left a rainbow in my heart. He was my hero. I loved the feeling of being protected when I was sitting on your porch. Thanks to you for raising such a good dog. (This was a note based on a real-life experience when a minacious man approach my porch. Otis never growled at anybody, but this guy was different. The man turned and quickly went away.)

I'm sorry to hear that Otis passed. I know how hard you worked to keep him with you and that is a fantastic act of love.

A generous donation has been made to the Oregon Humane Society in memory of Otis. So incredibly sorry for your loss. What a good boy.

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