Rescued dog’s owner speaks

Matt Gardner
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Otis, a black Labrador retriever, had been missing for days. But because his owner lives on a farm with feeding and water systems that the dog can access himself, she had no idea anything out of the ordinary was going on.

After being rescued from the river and nursed back to health, Otis appeared in much better condition on Thursday morning.

Continued from Thursday’s Daily Herald.

“There’s been times when I get up in the morning and I don’t see him,” Otis’s owner Laura said. “At the end of the day I say to my husband, ‘Have you seen Otis today?’ ‘Oh yeah, he’s up for his morning walk.’ … And so days go by that I don’t see him all day long, because he’s old and so he gets up and does his little walk before I get up.”

The fact that Laura — who asked that her last name not be printed due to privacy concerns — had not seen Otis in days was not in itself unusual. She could not have known that her pet had wandered down to the Shell River and gotten stuck in sediment near the shoreline for days on end.

One of Otis’s rescuers, Justin Monette, noted how easy it was to get stuck in the mud, which kept pulling his shoes off.

“I don’t know he got himself in there so deep,” Monette said. “I’m just guessing that the more he struggled, the deeper he went.”

Rescuers managed to free Otis and drove him up to Laura’s neighbours the Fahlmans, where a similar-looking dog had been seen wandering around.

“I got home that evening and there was a message from (the neighbours),” Laura said. “So I was rushing over and he was unresponsive, but (lying in) this wonderful little shelter they built for him.”

The Fahlmans’ 16-year-old daughter Alicia cared for Otis over the next few days, partly because Laura was starting a new job and couldn’t spend her first day worried sick about her dog, nor could she simply miss work. But the teenager was only too happy to continue looking after him.

“Alicia is like a little miracle worker, that girl,” Laura said. “Her own dog … lived to a ripe old age of 17, because that young girl … is just the biggest animal lover you have ever met. She spends so much time and so much love and care and attention.”

He’s got some arthritis and he’s a little crickety, but as long as he’s happy to be alive, I’m going to keep taking care of him. Laura

Because Otis is old and suffers from arthritis, Laura had taken him to a veterinarian several months before out of concern that he was in pain. The vet said the dog was very healthy overall and prescribed him some pain medication, but at the same told her, “If he doesn’t die by the summer, you’ve got to dig the hole before fall.”

When Laura saw her shivering dog at the Fahlmans’, she doubted he would survive the night.

“I just thought, ‘Well, he’s just barely holding on as it is.’ … But you know, I was so thankful that they found him and got him home because I thought, ‘Well, even if he dies tonight, he’s cared for and with people that love him.’ ”

Fortunately, Alicia Fahlman’s patient care helped Otis recover. Though Monette said the dog was covered in sores when he was rescued, Laura believes he was referring to a harmless mole on Otis’s head resulting from old age.

Despite his horrific ordeal, Otis now appears relatively healthy again.

“He’s perking up every day,” Laura said. “I’ll take him to the vet in a little bit here and (see) what they think. I’m not going to keep him alive beyond what’s humane, but the vet and I agree that he’s still happy to be alive … He’s got some arthritis and he’s a little crickety, but as long as he’s happy to be alive, I’m going to keep taking care of him.”

It is fitting that Otis first came into Laura’s life as a rescued dog: She picked him up from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals when he was only 10 weeks old. Since then, the canine has only brightened the spirits of all who meet him.

“I’ve had people tell me Otis is the kind of dog that makes you want to have a dog,” Laura said. “He’s just a super-great dog.”

Organizations: Daily Herald, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Geographic location: Shell River

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