Miscellaneous / Service Dog Savvy

Crossing the Rainbow Bridge:

Otto enjoying the sun in Boquete, Panama (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)

Saying a Tearful Goodbye to My Sweet Otto.

A Proud Young Pup - Otto when he Graduated as a Fully Fledged Guide Dog
A Proud Young Pup – Otto when he Graduated as a Fully Fledged Guide Dog

Otto von Guidemeister passed away in his sleep last night. I don’t know how else to break the news. As you can imagine, we are all devastated, because everyone who knew Otto couldn’t help but love him.

The chemo seemed to be working until several spots showed up on Otto’s latest ultrasound. We discussed discontinuing treatment, but decided that, with two more chemo sessions to go, it might give him a bit more quality time. Well, that was not to be. As best we can tell, he had a stroke or some other brain-related event.

We knew Otto’s international traveling days were over, so I applied to Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) for a new guide. I was told the wait will be six to seven months.

A good friend of mine is an orientation and mobility instructor. She offered to help me refresh my cane skills if necessary. Well, looks like I will be taking her up on her offer.

There are some painful chores that will need our attention: removing Otto’s bed from our bedroom, running his bowls through the dishwasher, putting away his grooming tools, giving away his toys, treats and food to a dog who will enjoy them, Adding his collar the three others in a box of treasured mementoes.

Simon made the calls to family and friends, but there are a few only I can make. This will all tear me to pieces, but the worst is yet to come: the emptiness that has already permeated the house, the mornings when Otto won’t hop up on the bed for his cuddle, no sound of his constantly-wagging tail thumping against walls, furniture and people, the absence of the rapid pitter-patter of his paws when the ice-maker on the refrigerator dings, the softness of those buttery ears, the emptiness where his steady motion walking beside me used to be, and a million other never-mores.

Enjoying the Feel of the Warm Sand in Wadi Rum, Jordan (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)
Enjoying the Feel of the Warm Sand in Wadi Rum, Jordan (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)

Yes, before the year is out, there will be a new guide in my life. I will learn to love and trust him or her with all my heart. But there will never be a replacement for Otto in the same way there was no replacement for Regal, Buffy, and C.J.. Each of my guides had their own personality, endearing qualities and schticks. Each enriched my life beyond measure.

Perhaps because Otto was so young – just two months shy of his ninth birthday – the agony of his loss has hit us particularly hard. He deserved more time, travel and love. But life isn’t fair, and we will have to work our way through the sharp pain and sense of devastating loss until we can remember Otto with more smiles than tears.

On top of the Tower at Ajloun Castle in Jordan (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)
On top of the Tower at Ajloun Castle in Jordan (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)

Otto was my travel guide, the four legs to my two. We were a unit. He traveled with us to 17 countries, and left thousands of people smiling in his wake. Otto was always game for anything, whether it was an overseas flight, climbing to the top of a cathedral tower, or cutting through the water in a small boat. He was my joy, and he was joyful. There is no doubt that Otto was a love-sponge, and gave unconditional love. He kept me safe, and I am thankful for every second he graced my life.

In Front of One of the Pieces of Art on Board the Nieuw Statendam on Otto's Last International Trip (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)
In Front of One of the Pieces of Art on Board the Nieuw Statendam on Otto’s Last International Trip (©simon@myeclecticimages.com)

My precious Otto. I miss you so much. For seven years you were my guide, my buddy, my heart. You’re gone and my heart is broken. You gave me so much. You deserved a long happy life, far more years of working and traveling, and a long cushy retirement. The pain of your loss is so raw, I feel as though it will never end. But I’ve learned from experience that time will pass, the pain will soften into sweet memories. And yes, I will love another dog, because that’s what you, C.J., Buffy and Regal taught me: my heart can expand to love another guide. Thank you, my little butter ears, for all the joy you brought. And if there really is a heaven, I will see you again.

My thanks go out to Dr. Stephen Stelma and his staff at Animal Care Center for the love and care they gave Otto, far above and beyond what we could have reasonably expected. I would also like to thank Guide Dogs for the Blind for supporting us emotionally and financially during the last five months, and for their most precious gift of a phenomenal, lovable, sweet, exuberant yellow lab named Otto.

If you would like to make a donation to Guide Dogs for the Blind in memory of Otto von Guidemeister please follow this link.

7 Comments

  • avatar image

    Dona Baker

    Jan 19, 2019

    Reply

    Penny, I am so sorry to hear of Otto's passing. What a great guide and companion he was. He was a lucky dog, too. How many dogs, or people, get to travel to seventeen countries? I know your heart is broken but I also know that you have a big heart. It's big enough to love another dog who will travel the world with you. Hugs!

  • avatar image

    Patty McCarthy

    Jan 19, 2019

    Reply

    Dear Penny and Simon - My heart aches for you. Otto's gentle presence and joyful spirit when "off duty" were deeply felt by all of us during our Diverbo programs. Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to your little butter ears.

  • avatar image

    Dona Baker

    Jan 19, 2019

    Reply

    Penny, I am so sorry to hear of Otto's passing. He was a wonderful guide and companion and lived a very full life with you travelling the world and experiencing places and things that most dogs and people never experience. Your heart is broken but it is big enough to love another. Hugs to you.

  • avatar image

    Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski

    Jan 18, 2019

    Reply

    So sorry to hear about your loss. Our dogs are so precious.

  • avatar image

    Lori Sweet and Sylvio Roy

    Jan 18, 2019

    Reply

    Penny and Simon, we are so hearbroken to hear about your precious Otto. What a pleasure it was for us to meet Otto on several occasions over the last year and to read of all of your adventures together. What a gift you were to each other.

  • avatar image

    Jane Dempster-Smith

    Jan 18, 2019

    Reply

    OMG this is so sad. Such a beautiful soul Otto was. We will miss him too! Just want to give you both big hugs at this time.

    • avatar image

      Penny Zibula

      Jun 21, 2019

      Reply

      Thank you all for your kind words. I still miss Otto terribly, but also look forward to welcoming a new dog into my life at the end of this year or in early 2020.

Leave a comment