Thursday, January 2, 2020

One Less Bell to Answer, One Less Egg to Fry, One Less Dog to Pick Up After... Saying Goodbye to Otto

I've been putting this post off for awhile now, but I might as well get it over with.  This post has nothing to do with sewing or quilting and everything to do with why I haven't been sewing or quilting lately.  

The canine love of our lives was a joyful, ball-chasing, howling-and-singing companion full of energy.  He followed along behind Bernie every time he mowed the lawn, as if the two of them were patrolling the yard together.  He slept at the foot of my bed, and I swear his gentle snore was the best sleep machine noise ever.  Whenever I started singing anything, especially anything in a minor key or anything with "Alleluia" in it, he'd sit up, wag his tail, and howl along with me like a canine Andrea Bocelli belting out his favorite aria.   

Our Sweet Otto, Jan. 5 2011 - Dec. 20 2019
At nearly 9 years old, Otto was the absolute picture of health at the beginning of December, except for a troubling limp that was getting worse instead of getting better, despite restricting his activity and giving him anti-inflammatory meds.  We took him to the vet on the Tuesday before Christmas for X-rays and were totally blindsided by a diagnosis of advanced osteosarcoma, an aggressive and very painful bone cancer with close to 100% mortality because it tends to metastasize before it's even diagnosed.  Our choices were to either amputate his affected leg and put him through chemotherapy, which would eliminate the tumor pain but only give him another 4-5 months, or manage his pain with medication for as long as possible, likely 1-3 months.  

Otto and Lulu Snuggling With My Son, Lars (Otto in Foreground)
Even with that awful news, we expected to have a few months to pamper and love on him.  I was researching his bone cancer online, ordering him special orthopedic beds from Orvis so he'd be more comfortable and getting recommendations for veterinary oncologists.  But I didn't even get a chance to take him to a specialist -- his initial diagnosis was on Tuesday, and by Thursday afternoon he was absolutely leveled with pain that was beyond control, with vomiting and bloody diarrhea and so extremely ill that there was nothing we could do for him but let him go on Friday.  My sweet, loving dog who wanted nothing more than to be glued to our sides, constantly supervising us and snuggling with us, was at the point that he was hiding beneath the deck steps at 3 AM in 20 degree weather, unable to pick up his head.  He wouldn't come in the house, he wouldn't/couldn't come when called.  And when we brought him back to the vet on Friday he was so severely dehydrated, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, gums were pale and did not pink up when pressed, still having bright red bloody diarrhea, suffering so badly...  All of this happened only three days after receiving the bone cancer diagnosis, with a dog who had been full of playful puppy energy and joy up until that point.

Happy Boy Just a Few Months Ago, Visiting Lars at College

To say that it has been a sad couple of weeks for our family is such an understatement.  Even Otto's sister Lulu, our other Rottie, is grieving.  At first she seemed agitated after we took Otto away and didn't bring him home, and she would run to the door whenever someone came home like she was hoping they'd brought Otto with them.  Now she seems more depressed and anxious, even though we've been trying to give her lots of positive attention and distractions.  She won't play, she doesn't want to go outside except to go potty, and she's been licking at her forelegs a lot.  I got her some tasty chew bones for redirection and that's helping, but she's definitely affected as much as we are -- she and Otto were together since birth, she's never been an only dog before, and her personality is totally different now.

Lulu Snuggling with Lars's Feet on Christmas Morning
I just wanted to share some of my favorite Otto pictures and memories as a final goodbye to the best little choir dog and quilting supervisor ever:

My Sweet Baboo, Otto, Supervising Pineapple Log Cabin Quilt Construction
I loved it when Otto would hang out in my sewing room with me.  Such a cutie pie.

More Hanging Out With Mommy in the Studio
In the Studio With Me For the Last Time, The Day Before We Lost Him
Otto had three favorite humans on this planet: Me, my husband Bernie, and our oldest son Lars.  My younger son Anders and my mother were also in his "inner circle" of humans from whom love and kisses were tolerated.

Another Puppy Pic, Back When Bernie Could Still Scoop Him Up in His Arms

Snuggling With My Husband Bernie, In My Office.  Lulu on Left, Otto on Right
As ferociously as he could bark at would-be intruders and door-to-door salesmen, Otto was incredibly gentle and loving with family members.  He was such a snuggler!

Lars and Otto Had Such a Special Bond.
More Snuggling With Lars
On his last morning, once Bernie got Otto out from under the deck steps, he was able to get him into the garage where it was a little bit warmer, but he wouldn't come in the house and he was unwilling or unable to pick up his head, even when I started the car right next to him.    

When Otto Wouldn't Come In the House, Lars Came Out to the Garage
It's so strange not having Otto in my house anymore.  No howling when I sing.  No snoring in my bedroom.  No supervision in the quilting studio.  No furry friend appears in my kitchen, looking up at me with hopeful longing the instant I take out butter, chicken, or peanuts.  No one scratches the side of my desk chair impatiently to tell me "Enough computer -- time to throw my tennis ball!"  The worst is when I glance down at his favorite places where he used to lay and no one is there.

I Smell Butter.  Or Chicken.  Or Peanut Butter.
Raising this dog has been a wonderful experience that I would do again in a heartbeat, despite all of the challenges and inconveniences that come with owning a strong, powerful dog who is distrustful of strangers.  I wrote about my dogs the day we brought them home as 9-week-old puppies, I have shared their antics and adventures here over the years, and it seemed only fitting to give Otto a eulogy here on my blog.  

Selfie With Puppies On the Car Ride Home From the Breeder.  Otto on Left, Lulu on Right
Nine years was not nearly enough.  

No More Puppy Kisses For Me
Goodbye, my sweet Baboo!  We will never forget you.  


Preeti said...

I am holding you in a tight hug. Wishing you peace and healing.

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

oh wow Rebecca what a loss to your family and so quickly though which in itself sounds like a blessing to your dog that he didn't suffer for months and months but it will be an adjustment I'm sure. Sounds like it wasn't a happy holiday season for you. I hope this year will be better

Frog Quilter said...

Sending lots of big hugs. May the memories of Otto soothe your heart and bring peace.

LA Paylor said...

I can't read this now, too many tears. My 10 year old labradaughter chelsea had that. It showed up as a marble sized lump, and the vet xrayed and shook her head. It was only one month before it took over her leg. I feel your pain, I toyed with the idea of surgery but it's not a good outcome and so hard for a big older dog to recover loss of a leg. No good choice to make when you love them like your child. The sorry fact is our pets don't live long enough, and loss is devastating on those left behind. Otto was so handsome, and sweet, I'll come back and read the rest later but know my heart is with you. call if you want to chat, just email for my number and I'll listen because it helps. Others did that for me when Cole left of anal gland cancer. Hugs... LeeAnna

Sue said...

Hugs to you, your family and Chelsea.

Sue said...

Sending you, your husband, kids and lulu.

chrisknits said...

How devastated you must feel. Prayers for Lulu to find comfort and for your family to find peace.

MissPat said...

My heartfelt condolences to you and your family. Otto is the third quilt blogger's dog to cross the rainbow bridge recently. You've memorialized him here on the blog so he will never be forgotten.

Nancy said...

I'm so very, very sorry, Rebecca. Our dogs become our best friends and they live such short lives. And then they take part of our heart when they go. But what a beautiful tribute to Otto. We lost our Airedale, Hannah, in June and I'm still feeling exactly as you describe in this post. My sympathy to you, your family, and Lulu, too.

SJSM said...

Your family has lost a family member. No words can convey the misery one goes through when you must say good bye to a loyal and faithful friend. Knowing you did the right thing for Otto doesn’t dampen the hurt. My prayers are with you all. Love on Lulu and love on each other.

Lakegaldonna said...

Oh Rebecca. I'm so sad for your family's loss.
Thank you for sharing your Otto with all of us. We all love our fur-babies and what they bring to our lives. Life goes on but it is never the same with a loss like that.

Nikki said...

So sorry. Hope Lulu and your family find a peace.

beth said...

I am crying so hard I can hardly write this. Otto may be a dog but he is family, special family. Bless all of you.

KaHolly said...

Oh, Rebecca, I’m so sorry. Having gone through a very similar experience quite recently with my daughters dog and the love of our lives, I can feel your pain. He was one lucky pup to have had you all for family!

Tammy Hutchinson said...

I know this pain too well. I am so sorry for your family including your lonely Rottie. Dogs make us better people, especially wonderful dogs like Otto surely was.

sandi s said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet Otto. Hugs,

Nina said...

So sorry for your lost. My dog ran away 3 years ago and I still think I hear her whimpering at the door. I still look for her to return to me.