Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Transformed by Otto

Have I ever told you the story of Otto?
The story of Otto is something that should be pinned up over every dog's enclosure at Battersea. It's a heart-warming story . . . just right for the winter.

I first met Otto over a year ago. Walking home one morning, I almost stumbled over an enthusiastic puppy. Straining at its leash, the small, wriggling Dachshund was quite determined that I shouldn't pass by on the pavement without giving him the greeting he deserved.
I stopped . . . and tickled its plump tummy.

"I'm so sorry," the apologetic owner was standing beside me, flushed with embarrassment, "he shouldn't have waylaid you like that," she picked up the wriggling puppy, "Otto, this lady doesn't want to stop and play with you!"

I assured her that stopping to play with Otto had made an enjoyable distraction, but she wasn't convinced. With Otto firmly clasped in her arms, she explained that she had never had
a dog before. On retiring from a demanding job, she had been persuaded by friends that a dog would provide both interest and company.
"I'm not sure that I'll be keeping him," she said with a worried frown, "he's such a handful. I really wasn't expecting anything like this."

Looking at her anxious face, I wasn't sure that life with such a novice owner was in Otto's best interests either. Pale, diffident, and clearly rather shy, she seemed emotionally ill-equipped to cope with an exuberant puppy.

But who was I to judge? Perhaps her friends were right.
"I'm sure he'll be a wonderful companion," I said, before tickling the squirming Otto under the chin and continuing on my way home.

Three months later I once again encountered Otto on the pavement. But was this the same owner?
No longer pale, no longer apologetic, she smiled happily as Otto rolled over on his back for me to tickle his tummy.
"Hasn't he grown," she said indulgently, "He has such an appetite!"
Clearly there was no longer any question of finding Otto a new home.
"He's a credit to you," I agreed.
As we stood there, talking about the exuberant Otto, several local residents passed along the pavement. Not a single person failed to call out a greeting to the small dog and his owner. With a new-found confidence, Otto's proud owner waved happily to these new friends.

Enthusiastically, she told me how Otto had a good walk every day in the park . . . that they
regularly met other dog owners . . . that Otto had made countless friends. The rather diffident, retiring woman whom I remembered meeting three months previously had been transformed into a proud and gregarious dog owner.

As for Otto . . . ? He's now the friend of everyone in the district . . . and doesn't he know it!