I have learned many valuable lessons on grief over the span of my career. One of the most helpful is the ability to express your feelings during a time of loss.

We lost our beloved Pug, Otis last week. It will eventually transition into a celebration of his life but the pain is raw as I write this. He had a great life. He was nearly 16 years old at the time of his death. This is an extraordinary length of life for a Pug and I will always be grateful. 

My wife and I returned home from work. As was our custom, we would be greeted by our five year old dog, Marley. Otis had been completely deaf for several years so Marley would say hello and then go to Otis’ pillow and wake him up to let him know we were home. This time, Otis wouldn’t get up. It was heart breaking to watch her try to wake him. My wife, Debbie immediately broke down. Even from a distance, I knew he was gone and his life had ended peacefully in his sleep.

We picked up Otis when my youngest son Adam turned six. His older brother had a pug named Wally and I had my lab Sabrina. Adam was especially bothered by the fact that if he threw a ball to Sabrina she would bring it back to me and not him. He was entitled to his own dog and we all agreed. The thing I love about Pug puppies is that they look like miniature adults. The only difference is their face is all eyes and believe me when I tell you, they know how to use them. Saying no to those eyes was a difficult task.

He quickly fit into our family and wasted very little time in grabbing more than his share of attention. As he approached maturity he developed a habit that I would not describe as endearing. He was nicknamed the “mad humper”. Fortunately, he earned this title by mounting Wally and not anyone else in our family. Old Wally put up with it but he proved to me that dogs are able to wear a look of disgust on their face. I had always told owners that the behavior would usually reduce within a couple of weeks of being neutered. Otis didn’t read the same books I had. 

Otis used to sleep with his chin on Wally’s back every night. After Wally passed away he would rest his head on one of us. It is one of the many things we are missing now. He also became attached to Debbie’s hip. When she would go anywhere in our house he would follow. We used to laugh because if she would stop suddenly he would often walk into the backs of her legs. As he aged, the attachment grew as is often the case. By the time he had lost his hearing this became a real challenge for the little guy. If we moved downstairs when he was sleeping, he would eventually wake up and we could hear him running from room to room to find her. It wasn’t unusual to go upstairs and find him standing in front of the closed door to her walk in closet. He was never frustrated, just eager to find her. Many of us have asked, what really goes through their little minds that allow them to be so incredibly happy all the time?

I am very sure, as his doctor, the fact that we always gave him exercise, several times a day for his entire life allowed him to live so long. As he got older we carried him to the park several times daily to allow him the short walks he could tolerate. He was always slow going away from the house but had renewed energy when we turned towards home.

I know I will not remain sad about his passing. He had a wonderful life and he reinforced every single good thing I can think of about having a dog in your life. I treasure his memory and am reminded to enjoy all my blessings every day.

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