Ode to Otis

Disclaimer: This is not one of those feel-good stories about a dog who taught his hapless owners how to seize the day, stop and smell the flowers, let go gracefully, or any of that tripe. The dog referred to in the title is not one of those dogs.


An Auspicious Beginning

Let’s travel back in time to that fateful day in July 2008 when my family met Otis at our local humane society. Lots of dogs—mostly big ones—barked and wagged their tails frantically, vying for our attention as we inspected each one in turn. One little guy, though, sat in the far corner of his kennel, glued to the back wall. He had been dropped off at the shelter because he was a bit too rambunctious for his previous owner’s small children. Abandoned in that noisy place, he seemed so forlorn, so lost, so sad.

I should have known better. I felt sorry for Otis. And he’s a puggle, for crying out loud. Is there anything more adorable than a mixture of pug and beagle? As my son Jake likes to say, “Don’t let the cute eyes fool you!” But I did. And once again, I have paid in spades for allowing myself to feel sorry for something and to choose love on looks alone.

We had another dog at the time, Boo, our rat terrier. (He has since passed away.) We introduced Otis to Boo at the shelter, and they got along famously so we brought Otis home. Fast-forward a few weeks and months. My children and I became slowly, painfully aware of Otis’s alter ego.

Welcome to the Dark Side . . . of Otis

It turns out, Otis is the doggy equivalent of the school bully. You know, that kid who pulled your hair and threw wads of paste at you in art class.

Not long after joining our little tribe, Otis revealed his true colors. He would physically push Boo away from their shared water bowl. Similarly, he would casually stroll up to Boo’s food bowl and begin eating as Boo trotted away quickly, not daring to look behind him.

He would stand—simply stand—next to the bed Boo was resting on until Boo stood up and walked away. Then he’d immediately make himself at home on the warm bed as if he’d just come across it and thought to himself, Ooh, look, a bed just my size. And it’s toasty too. How serendipitous.

This is a dog who not only ate his own excrement—or recycled snack, as I called it—but ate poop as it was being dispensed from the tail end of an understandably bewildered Boo.

Otis would wait until everyone had left the kitchen and then would sniff around the table and counters and lunge at whatever yummy tidbits had been left within his reach. He once swiped a loaf of bread from the edge of the kitchen counter. Needless to say, we all got in the habit of pushing our chairs in at the table and doing a clean sweep of the countertops after eating.

From Bad to So Much Worse

Fast-forward a few years. After a divorce and the dividing of assets that goes along with it, I inherited Boo and Otis. Maybe it was the pall of grief that my boys endured or the stress of adjusting to a new normal that caused Otis’s behavior to become even more egregious.

He would pee and poop in the house within five minutes after having gone outside, with the express purpose of peeing and pooping!

 He would pee and poop in his crate and then proceed to (pick one):

  1. stand
  2. sleep
  3. tap dance
  4. dream of his next meal
  5. all of the above

in said excrement, cheerfully smearing it all over the bottom and sides of the crate. Was this normal behavior? No. Did I enjoy dragging the dog and the crate outside every single day and washing/scrubbing/disinfecting them? Um, no. Were Otis’s days numbered? Yes. Yes, they were.

The Solution Appears

When I moved into a rented house, I couldn’t have more than one dog. Guess which one I took with me.

So what did I do with Otis, that unruly, rude, nasty bully of a dog? Did I return him, postage paid, to the shelter from which he hailed? No. Did I pawn him off on some unsuspecting frenemy? Nope. I did what any other woman in my position would have done: I gave him to my ex-husband, crate, leftover kibble, and all. Questions, anyone?

I swear I saw palpable signs of relief on Boo’s face. He now padded freely throughout the house, sleeping peacefully wherever he pleased, eating his food without fear of undue seizure, and no longer tip-toeing around the dreaded Otis of the mean disposition and hair-trigger temper.

These Days

I now dog-sit occasionally when my sons go on vacation with their father. Yup, I actually invite this buffoon of a dog into my house so he can terrorize me anew.

I call him Odie, referencing Garfield’s witless sidekick. My other nickname for him is Odious. One of his nastiest habits is scooting across the rug, leaving a smear of foul-smelling bum ooze in his wake. He sometimes plants his rear end squarely on top of my foot. He woofs and grunts in his demented slumber, stretched to the edges of his Serta dog bed. (Yes, the same company that makes mattresses for humans.)



Here’s Otis playing hide-and-seek. Can you find him? (He’s not very good at this.)


He still eats poop every chance he gets, but there’s a catch. He won’t eat poop he’s freshly generated, but he will gobble up poop he excreted during his previous visit outside. Go figure.

Odie is about eleven years old now. He takes medication for an enlarged heart and receives regular cortisone injections for allergies, which make him scratch almost non-stop. Ironically, the medication that eases his allergic symptoms exacerbates his heart condition, so the days of cortisone shots are numbered. He eats expensive, wheat-free food and treats (in addition to poop, naturally) to minimize his allergic reactions.

OK, He’s Not All Bad

Despite his innumerable faults, the Ode Man does have some endearing qualities. Someone in his previous life apparently used to feed him ice cubes as a treat. Mere seconds after the freezer is opened, he materializes, stealthy as a ninja, waiting expectantly for a cold tidbit. To us, it’s nothing more than frozen water. To Otis, nirvana.

Otis can be quite clever. Here he is, opening the door of his crate. He’s used to the door opening on the right. If you switch things up on him, he’ll continue to try to open on the right until you say, “Other side, Otis.” After a few more futile attempts, he catches on. His brain may be tiny, but he does use every neuron.


I insisted on adding him to our family without the slightest inkling of the baggage he would bring with him. What goes around surely comes around.

Don’t let the cute eyes fool you, indeed.




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