How Otto came home

Dana Kollmann – former professor, fellow deviant (in a legal, only slightly unhealthy way), and troublemaker. She was the beginning of this adventure, and we will forever be indebted to her for bringing us this goofy, wonderful ball of joy. It all began when I saw this post on her Facebook wall:

Dana's FB Post About Otto
The Facebook post that started it all…

After seeing Dana’s post, I emailed J, who was, of course, exceedingly practical in saying: “he’s too big and our house is too small”. I continued pleading with him though, because I had a very strange strong GUT instinct that told me that we needed this dog as much as he probably needed us. We were each going through a lot of personal struggles, and settling into a fairly unhealthy/sedentary lifestyle, so a dog was one solution we discussed to get us moving (and J had wanted a dog badly for as long as I had known him). I reminded him of this, and he relented, allowing me to email the woman who posted the initial plea. Below is the email exchange with her:

Emails About Otto
The initial email exchange.

The following day, much to our surprise, our landlord agreed to let us add a dog to our already very full house (for a VERY reasonable pet fee of $20/month) – we were almost positive that he would not agree because he had seemed so adamantly opposed to dog ownership when we signed the initial lease, but very thankful that we were wrong! I enthusiastically updated Dana, and thanked her for sharing the post.

Thanking Dana
Thanking Dana

On Saturday, April 20th, we drove to Middle River, MD to meet Otto. We met Missy and her husband in the parking lot of McDonalds down the street from Otto’s original owners’ house. From there, we followed them to the house, all the while feeling both apprehensive and excited to see this big boy.

When we arrived, the two men that had been “taking care” of Otto brought out a shaggy, skinny, sad-looking dog and I thought my heart was going to burst into pieces – he walked right up to me, licked my hand, then continued past me to Jason, on whom he rested his head, and leaned his (obviously) weary body. The men loaded him into their SUV and asked us to follow them to a local park so we could “see him out in the open” (we now think that this was an attempt to hide Otto’s living conditions from us so that we would not report them). Upon reaching the field, they unloaded him and we sat under a pavilion and talked to them about Otto’s story – most of which we have since determined was one giant lie.

We were told that he was a 5-year-old purebred Shiloh Shepherd, a rare breed thought to be a cross between large German Shepherds and possibly a Malamute line. They explained that he had undergone K-9 police dog training, but unlike his father and brother, had not been selected to be a police dog because he “lacked a prey drive” (these people were idiots – just ask my poor cats about his ‘prey drive’!). They went on to say that their father had retired from the police force after suffering from complications related to Lyme disease, and since both the father and brother had been killed in the line of duty (we are still looking into whether this part of the story is true), they had no desire to keep Otto as a pet – they only wanted working dogs.

Meanwhile, while they were telling us about him, Otto was desperately searching for water on the ground (he was clearly extremely dehydrated), climbing on the picnic table (apparently his go-to sleeping spot in his “habitat” in their back yard), and endearing himself to each of us individually in various different ways. By the time the massive impending thunderstorm hit, both J and I were already telepathically communicating (mostly via pleading looks at each other and Missy/her husband), and we agreed with the two men to come back and get him the next day. After they left, Missy and her husband climbed into our car and we finalized the plans to bring him home with us. It was everything J could do not to follow them that very night and beat them to a bloody pulp – but Missy and I both felt that it was best not to antagonize them until we had him in our possession.

After we left them, I realized that I didn’t take any pictures, so I quickly sent a text to Missy, who replied with (the above) photos. We continued to text back and forth, and discussed how to get his vet records – we were very anxious to remove him from this terrible situation!

Yesterday, Sunday, April 21st, we brought Otto home. He was neither afraid, nor even remotely hesitant to get into the back of our CRV, and perhaps I am making him a bit anthropomorphous, but to me, he looked relieved. Of course the “crate” they said they would provide was rusty and disgusting, so we met my mother at the Catonsville PetsMart to buy him a new crate. He had a very unpleasant accident in one of the aisles after eating a can of dog food after going probably several days without any real food or water, but my Mom and J helped the employees clean it up, and we got him some new things and packed him up to go home.

Otto Riding Home
Otto Riding Home

Today, we took him to the vet, where we learned that he only weighs 83lbs (grossly underweight – according to breed standard, he should be at least 120lbs!), and that he has a skin infection, fleas, worms and probably other issues as well. He did, however, test negative for heart-worm, so we are saying prayers to the puppy powers that be that he will be able to thrive given some TLC (and lots of expensive tests and antibiotics). He’s also still “intact”, so we’ll likely need to get him neutered once he’s healthy.

Welcome home, Otto!