Wednesday, December 5, 2012


What can you say about an eight year old dog who died?  That he was handsome.  And mischievous .  That he loved dog parks and swimming.  And treats.  And me.

On November 28th, 2012 it was the one-year anniversary of the death of Otis.  He was put to rest in my family room on his favorite dog bed with me assisting.  I wanted him to be comfortable when he passed.  I got his ashes back and sprinkled some at his favorite place, the Schweitzer Woods dog park.  It's hard to believe it's been a year without Oats.

Boy was he handsome.  When I look back at pictures from his last few months it's hard to see how much he had changed and wasted away. I always knew he was a special dog.  One of those, once in a lifetime dogs.

Sure when I first got him he was trouble with a capital T.  He was loud and destructive and tried to dominate me by biting me.  At one point my dad wanted me to get rid of him because I was covered in bruises from his bites.  But I had always wanted a dog and he was my first.  I wasn't going to give up on him.  With the help of training classes and the gentle leader he became more manageable.

He was a naughty boy who peed on everything.  Once at a friends' dog party we had to go inside due to weather and he lifted his leg on their wall.  Another time I had him at my work and he lifted his leg and peed on my friend's greyhound's head.  I crated him when he was young and I videotaped him in the crate only to find that shortly after being crated, he would lift his leg and pee outside the crate.  At the dog park he peed on a friend's chair.  He couldn't be trusted.

Even as he grew older, he destroyed many things.  Shoes, a sonicare toothbrush and countless rooms of carpets.  He was an anxious dog who was afraid of loud noises. Once we came home to find he had pulled back half the carpet in a bedroom and peed all over the floor.  His paws were bloody and he had bits of carpet tape stuck to them.  I learned to watch the weather and even sent him to doggy day care on days when storms could hit.

He had many friends, the first being a rottweiler who lived next door to my parents.  She would go into her yard and come around to the side of her house so she could stare into our house at Otis.  His best friend was an American Bulldog named Zoey.  They'd go on various outings together like to the woods or to see Santa.  When we moved to the townhouse he made fast friends with the dogs and people next door.  I'd let him out the back door and he'd run down our deck stairs and up the neighbor's deck stairs and cry at their window till they let him in.  Sometimes he'd stay for hours chewing on bones and hanging out. The neighbors even bought him Frosty Paws and would call to see if he could come out and play.  One time I let him out and he went to the other neighbor's house.  I didn't find out till later but he walked right in their back door and stole a pork chop off a plate on their kitchen table.  His favorite thing to do was go to the dog park or walk in Raceway Woods.  When I first moved to Carpentersville, Otis and I got lost in the woods a few times.  I had to carry him through a field of thorny bushes. We crossed muddy rivers and steep hills together.  At the dog park he'd make friends with people and stand next to them waiting for treats.

That damn, red, dog was smart.  We used to play hide and seek with treats and he'd run through the house drooling and foaming looking for his treasures. He had tons of toys and knew them all by name.  We could say, go get your birdie or kong and he knew the difference.  He had a few tricks like army crawling and stretching and speaking on command.  He could flip a treat off his nose and catch it from the air.  When I was teaching at a grade school I convinced my principal that Otis should come and be a station at our early childhood science night.  He performed his tricks and let all the kids pet him.  We went everywhere together.  I used to sneak him into my classroom on the weekends when I was working and he'd hang out while I organized the classroom.  He was patient and posed for thousands of pictures with things on his head or dressed up.  When I blogged about being pregnant, I put the pregnancy test on his nose while he posed for a picture.  At my wedding I used photos of him in various winter outfits for my table numbers.  He was the star of my Christmas cards.  

Later when I knew I was going to start trying to get pregnant, I went in search of a wife for him.  I found Sweetie on petfinder. She was a teen mom who was rescued from southern Illinois and was living in Batavia with a foster family.  I renamed her Greta and brought her home for Otis.  I had visions of the two sleeping in the same dog bed curled up together like the yin-yang image.  It was not a match made in heaven but they learned to tolerate each other.  During my pregnancy I napped, a lot.  Otis was always there for me and we spent many afternoons spooning.  He was so warm and cuddly and his paws smelled like cornflakes.  Whenever my nephews came to visit from Texas, Otis could always be found curled up on my parents' couch with one of the boys.
Otis was a best friend to Ella.  She still talks about him on a daily basis.  He was very tolerant of her and they reminded me of E.T. and Gertie.  She'd dress him up and he'd lay on her toys.  I imagined them growing up together but that was not the plan. During his last year, I casually mentioned to a few people that I thought Otis was sick and dying.  He didn't really have any outward signs but was just a bit different.  People said it was because of the Ella or he was just getting older and slowing down but it turned out I was right.  I just knew.  I could write a book about this dog but I need to stop for now because it's too hard.  I just wanted to get something down about him so Ella can read this when she's older and I can remember some of our good times.  I love you Otis Van Nostrand!  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Family photo shoot

Every time I come to Texas we plan on taking great photos of the kids and we procrastinate until the last day. We all dread it and usually there is an uncooperative toddler and two grade-schoolers fighting and one teen rolling his eyes and texting. This shoot was no different. But Kerry always manages to get some great shots and here a sampling.

The Mirazozo in Downtown Austin

The Mirazozo is a luminarium sculpture people enter to be immersed in radiant light and color. Since 1992 it has traveled to 37 countries. It was made in Nottingham, England.
Yep, we took that many kids. Take a good look friends because this is our future...

There were a bunch of volunteer teachers running the joint and boy were some of them on a power trip. Shushing and stalking and scolding. Pretty annoying.

Kerry has to copy all my best moves!
She got in trouble for jumping.
These are her good friends. You can see why...
This is one I call, "The birth of Kelly." Get it?

Next we headed over to some pizza place and then to Amy's Ice Cream!

Aidan and his friend enjoyed entertaining the motorists.