Saying a Tearful Goodbye to My Sweet Otto.
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.
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.
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.
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.