The Otis Diaries
I took Otis out for a private walk on the beach at the end of the evening and
again this morning, and both times I was struck by how, as I stood in a spot, he
would investigate everything within about a 50 foot circle of me. But then when
I moved, he was immediately at my side as I walked. When I stopped again, he
would again sniff around this imaginary circle. I did this over and over for at
least a half hour: when I moved he moved; when I stopped he browsed. Very smart.
And he's already picked up on our eating etiquette, where only calm dogs get the
By sundown he was laying on his back on the couch (a good sign) sleeping away.
This morning got interesting as Otis was trying clumsily to mount Maya. Maya, of
course, wanted nothing to do with this. But the way she handled it surprised me.
Over a half-hour period, when this behavior was attempted, Maya would give just
the briefest of corrections--just a look really--and Otis began to learn the
lesson. It was interesting because Maya has rarely been in the role in our house
as a teacher, so this was a great thing to see.
By the end of this session it was evident that Maya and Otis were friends.
The dog food in the water trick work great and we saw Otis polish off a
third-liter of water this morning in one sitting.
So far so good
all doing great. We've been doing lots of beach walks. Maya and Otis are now
exchanging kisses. Very cute.
On Sunday, we took him for a ride in our truck with Lucy and Maya. (We have a
king cab with a special doggie back seat.) They all had a great time.
Had a friend over on Sunday for a visit and Otis was totally calm. Happy to have
one more human to pet him.
Meal times are going well. We have a policy that Bogart gets the first bowl of
food (age has it's privileges) then whoever is sitting the quietest gets their
food. Of course, as soon as everyone has their food, the silence is broken by
the roar of gluttony. Otis caught on to the routine almost instantly. Now, as
soon as I start preparing the bowls of food he is sitting as quiet as he can
possibly stand it! He's better than Maya and Lucy. So, the perfect little
AM: Well, today is our first day away from the newly-sized clan. I went to work
yesterday, and Dan was home with the dogs. Today we are both at work. Otis and
Maya both went into their crates with no issues whatsoever this morning. First
time Otis has been in his crate since Saturday.
4/21 PM: Today was a good day. He did just great
in his crate, but was even happier to go for his beach walk (from which we just
got back.) We think Otis is teaching Maya and Lucy to be tolerant of other dogs.
Over the past year they have formed a sister bond that is sweet when no other
dog is around, but gets heated when they think they need to protect each other.
We're working on it and every day the issues diminish. Not bad for the third
We celebrated our 1-week anniversary with wine and peanut butter dog treats (you
decide who had what.)
We continue to think that Otis is giving as much as he is getting. Maya is
becoming a better dog and Dan and I are becoming better Pack Leaders. As you can
see from the pics, Maya and Otis are bonding nicely.
I'm hoping it warms up today. I want to try a bike ride. I ride, Otis runs!
We'll practice in the school yard.
That's all for now!
We continue to work on deciphering the Otis code.
One thing is clear: Otis is smart. If presented right, he understands almost
immediately. For example, when he first arrived he thought all of the food was
for him. Almost immediately he understood his bowl was just one of four being
served, and that he had to sit calmly before he got it. That quickly extended to
getting treats in general (all our dogs must be calm and sitting before they get
the treat), and is now one of our primary ways of calming him down. Otis is now
at his absolute calmest when he's eating.
But his nervousness/anxiety is a learning block that makes some learning hard
for him. What makes him anxious? That's the big question. Though his anxiety
is clearly diminishing, it's by no means gone (nor would we realistically expect
it to in just a couple of weeks) Partially, it may be our issue as much
as his. It's very possible we need to show more strong leadership in order for him to
feel safe and relaxed, and for him to clearly understand expectations. If we
can deal with his anxiety, I'm convinced, any other issues he has will just fade
Another obvious thing: Otis wants to be a Dog. There's no doubt that his lack of
socializing with other dogs earlier in life has left him lacking in doggy social
skills. Like the high school boy going to the prom who wants to ask someone to
dance, Otis just doesn't quite yet know how to do the asking, and doesn't seem
to know how to dance if someone were to say yes. Otis craves interaction with
Maya and Lucy, but he doesn't know how to initiate it and doesn't quite know how
to play once he gets it. When he stumbles into real quality interaction with the
other two, he's thrilled. Beyond Maya and Lucy, limited interaction with more
dogs will almost certainly help this process along. And we're started to take
him on long walks. That's the best bonding and teaching time there is!
Despite his quirks (and partially because of them) Otis is one very
likable dog, and one who doesn't have a mean bone in his body. When his anxiety
level does rise (when he gets frustrated that he doesn't know how to play, for
example, or some strange sound....), we see absolutely no aggression associated
At the risk of anthropomorphizing a bit more, you can sense he knows he doesn't
quite fit in, and how much he wants to. How can you not love that?
Read more about Otis' adventures by clicking