Tag Archives: Otis

Into the woods

20 Aug


I don’t go into the woods much anymore. Not since we lost Otis seven years ago.

It’s too quiet out there. Memories of the two of us trekking through the trails and brush together, day after day after day after day, for a dozen years, lurk behind every oak and maple, poplar and hemlock, like it was Tuesday.

I am not as strong as it sometimes appears.

A few days ago I found myself in the woods just to the north of our house. A project that I was working on required an amount of natural stone; collecting them is easy because they are more plentiful around here than the trees.

After a couple of hours of scavenging I’d collected enough stones to complete my project and started back to the house with the last of them. The sun was shining brightly and for an instant I spied a brief but colorful reflection at the base of a giant oak.

It never occurred to me that the shining purple and blue light might be my old friend.

Rambunctious may begin to describe Otis’s spirit but that’s all it does. Don’t worry, I’m not a man who forces others to suffer through “the cute.” Let’s just say that I loved my constant companion deeply and leave it at that, shall we.

As I bent down to inspect the shiny objects the few stones that I was carrying slid out of my hands and onto the ground. I found myself grabbing the oak and trying to catch my breath.

Otis never cared much for collars and leashes. Over his all too brief time with us we replaced several of both. The purple and blue tags shining in the sunlight that day were the very first ones that he wore, very reluctantly, as a pup.

After a good cry I scooped up the tags and left the last few stones behind. My wife Joan was having a pretty bad day and so I decided to wait a bit before showing them to her. When Otis died, you see, a very important part of her died too.

Last evening, after finishing the stonework, an outdoor fire pit that Joan had been wanting me to build for some time, I brought out Otis’s tags. Turns out she had already discovered them hidden behind the garden tools that I thought she never paid any attention to.

And, like me, couldn’t quite find the right moment to mention it.

Otis’s cheese

23 Nov

It took a while for me to fall in love with Otis. It was never my intention to include a dog in my life, and so welcoming an 8-week-old that had a long run ahead of him was quite the leap. Having never had a dog before, this particular one, a high-octane, smart as a whip Australian Shepherd, proved challenging. More than a year into our relationship I remained skeptical of its merits, and even its future.

Then we shared a piece of cheese together.

I was alone in the kitchen, working on a spaghetti alla carbonara. When I reached into the fridge to grab the Parmigiano-Reggiano, Otis, who had been wrecking his usual havoc elsewhere about the house, suddenly appeared at my side. He looked exceptionally curious, even for him. Busy with my cooking I patted the dog’s head absently and went to his stash of cookies, but when offered one he declined. Clearly the animal’s full attention was on the Reggiano and so I broke off a small piece, took a bite of it myself, an offered the rest to my handsome friend.

“You’ve got good taste, I’ll give you that,” I told Otis after we’d quietly shared our third of several small hunks of cheese, both of us on the kitchen floor by now. “Maybe there’s hope for you, after all.”

That was more than a dozen years — and certainly hundreds of pounds of Reggiano — ago. Otis has been at my side for all of them. I can honestly say that I have never loved another creature more.

I also cannot ever think of this cheese without thinking of him. Because no food, not one, ever pleased either of us more. Reggiano is way more than a staple around my house. It’s as important as water and air. For me and for Otis both.

And so on the way over to the vet’s office yesterday morning my wife and I made sure to bring along a nice big hunk of Otis’s cheese. When it’s my turn to go out, hopefully with loved ones helping me along, it’s what I’m gonna want too.

Addio mio caro amico.