Losing Otis

It is never easy to lose a loved one. When you lose a pet, you become lost. Their presence that once filled up a room is now hauntingly quiet. On March 21, I lost my best friend and support dog, Otis.
Otis was a ginger long-haired dachshund rescue who lived with my family for eight years. He was the quirkiest little furball, and he hated every single person that he encountered. He had a love for belly rubs and rides on my mom’s paddleboard. You knew that Otis was always lurking somewhere in the house. The drop of a needle would send him into full alarm mode, and he would bark until he knew there was not an intruder.
Otis was put on the classifieds page of my mom’s hospital website. His first owner was looking for someone to take him in since she was downsizing to a smaller apartment and could only take two dogs. Karen brought Otis over to meet our family and our Labrador Luke one night. His sleepover lasted for almost eight years.
We knew early on that Otis was the alpha of the house. He wanted all the attention and used his bark to command that everyone needed to stop what they were doing to pet him. If you walked into the same room as him, instantly he would demand belly rubs.
I think Otis was the most stubborn dog we have had. He hated going for walks, and as soon as you walked him to the end of the driveway, he wanted to turn around. Halfway down the street, he would start to tug on his leash in protest. Oddly enough, this same dog loved to go for hikes. He would lead the hiking pack on two to five-mile hikes.
Otis had a problem with new people in his house. He wanted to know at all times who was in what room. Otis only liked our puppy Mecka. He did not want my sister’s dogs in our house, and he never went to doggy daycare like Mecka. The house always needed to be quiet and free of people for Otis to be at peace.
I started an emotional support bond with Otis in high school. I struggle with anxiety and depression, and very day after practice, I would immediately look for him. I wanted him near me whenever I was completing homework or a major project. When I lived at home during my time at Green Mountain College, I started to take Otis to campus with me to outdoor classes. It was hard to leave him at home on days I was struggling mentally.
There were some days I felt at my lowest and I could just look at his goofy smile to instantly feel better. He always waddled his way to you to plop himself on his side for a belly rub. That dog got grumpy if you missed the opportunity to pet him. He would put on a pouty face right away. Otis had heterochromia; one eye an icy blue eye and the other one amber. Those big, sad eyes could fill someone with regret for not petting him right away.
We bought a small cottage on a pond three years ago. Little did we know it was going to be Otis’ favorite place to be. He enjoyed sunbathing on the dock and long paddleboard rides. He became an avid swimmer and got stuck under a dock a few times. He loved the tranquility and peace the lake offered. He had free range and took himself for walks around the property. My dad purchased a shed in 2019 that we named the “Kibby Kabin” after Otis.
A few weeks before Otis died, my parents took him to the lake. My dad walked Mecka and Otis out on the ice, but he stepped on a soft spot, and his foot went in. Otis was quick to alert my mom from the other side of the lake that something had happened. He was wearing his favorite red plaid sweater.
We began to notice a change in Otis after that trip. He slowly got hesitant to go on walks and rarely wanted to be in the same room as me during my Zoom classes. He became attached to sleeping behind the rocking couch in our front living room. He started to get sick more often, and we thought it was because of his food. My mom then started to give him soft kibble or small slices of pork chops to help with his brittle teeth.
Starting around March 10, he got sick more than twice a day. He slowly stopped his normal habits of barking to go outside. When 4:30 pm came around each day, he was not calling out to be fed. He began to sleep more and wanted to go outside less. A week later, he stopped eating. He could barely make it through a day without getting sick or doing his business inside. My parents wanted to peacefully let him go but I could not come to the idea of doing that to my own dog.
I made an agreement with my parents on Thursday, March 18. If Otis could not eat or physically function without help by Saturday, we would take him to the vet. I did not let him out of my sight that day as I gave him the space he needed. It was hard to see him working through his final days. Saturday morning came, Otis was almost like new. He wanted to use his last final day to hang out on the dock at the lake and take long car rides.
Sunday, March 21 was my twenty-third birthday. It was probably the hardest day to celebrate my life knowing that Otis’ was ending. I told my parents that it was time. Otis could not walk anymore, and I said my last goodbyes. My dad wrapped him up in a cozy blanket and brought him out to the car with his favorite toy. I made peace with his death, and I knew he was ready to cross the rainbow bridge. I spent my birthday with friends to distract the oncoming anxiety that was going to hit me in the next week.
It has only been a few weeks but, we are still in a cloudy mindset. Mecka does not know when he is supposed to eat or go for walks now. If anyone mentions Otis’ name, Mecka goes looking for him. It has been an extremely tough transition without having Otis’ commanding presence in our lives. There will never be another dog that could replace the silliness that dachshund had. I am still struggling with how to cope with my anxiety without him. It is so quiet in the house now that my anxious thoughts take over where Otis’ barking once had filled up the air.
Otis will forever be the best dog I have ever had. He had helped me through so many horrible and heartbreaking times. He was well known for his ever-growing list of nicknames; Owie, Kibby, Kibster, Weetie, Weet-Weet, Otie-Otie-O, Kibby Wiener-Dog, Ski-Boots, and so many more. He will be missed for his “lizard kisses,” cuddles, crazy stares and being the best passenger on car rides– I always played the song “Jackson” by Nancy Sintra and Lee Hazelwood. He loved every minute of it. Forever and always, Owie.