Sally Samantha Ottenberg: August 13, 2016 - November 11, 2019
Friends, colleagues and clients - I wanted to share the obituary I wrote for my beloved dog, Sally, who was tragically hit and killed by a car at "camp." I chose to be a part of this industry in part because I felt a calling to help make the worst experience of someone's life 1% easier. My commitment to this calling, and most importantly, my empathy and respect for every grieving person has increased ten-fold -- in part because of all of the compassion and support that's been sent my way these last few weeks. Thank you.
Sally Samantha Ottenberg* (born Phoebe) was born on August 13, 2016 in Mount Airy, North Carolina. True to form, she entered this world as Hurricane Hermione was bearing down on the entire state. The headlines from that day declared “New polls show Clinton thumping Trump in several swing states,” US swimmer Katie Ledecky broke the world record in swimming at the Rio Olympics and Barbra Streisand (a noted lover of Coton de Tulears) received a glowing review for her latest tour.
In October of 2016 I nervously made the decision to get a dog. As a first-time dog owner, my requirements included a calm, sweet, low-maintenance animal—a dog that knows it’s a dog, accepts the family hierarchy, who won’t ruin (or change) my life or my beautiful home. After the breeder assured me that Sally was definitely that kind of dog, I picked her up on October 30, 2016 at a Chick fil-A parking lot somewhere in Virginia.
After we nervously settled in later that night, Sally was exhausted and could barely keep her head up. I remember thinking, “what a cute little angel!” A few hours later, I met the real Sal. Around 3 a.m. she woke up in her crate and indicated that she needed to pee. When I took her to the other room to go on the pad, she looked at me and basically said, “Sucker! I just want to play!” and ran around the apartment at lightning speed.
Admittedly, I had some buyer’s remorse that week and was worried that I had made a huge mistake. I mourned my old life, my clean apartment, and privately wondered if I got a lemon. That changed almost overnight, the day after the 2016 presidential election. Her aunt Jenny came over and three of us spent the whole day on the couch in punch-drunk shock about the election results. (I do live in DC, after all!) In between her snuggling up between us and demanding tummy rubs, she went out a few times and provided a lot of comfort to everyone on the street. She smiled a lot that day – she just “got it.”
In the ensuing years, I went all in. I became the living embodiment of every mom/dog owner I previously made fun of. I happily and openly laughed at the irony that after years of saying I would NEVER be “that person” I became…“that person.” (The only reason we didn’t wear matching outfits everyday was because she wasn’t froufrou and she hated clothes.)
Sally was funny. She made eye-contact and had the most beautiful smile. She danced and twirled on her hindlegs for treats. She was so friendly. She loved dogs. She LOVED people! (especially men.) She even loved cats, though she never truly understood why it wasn’t reciprocal. She was incredibly confident, flirting with everyone in her path. She was trusting and loving. She was a welcoming and gifted hostess—no one ever went to the bathroom in her home without her insisting on accompanying. She could play and run and dig into the dirt and then happily settle in, snuggle up and lick my feet for hours. She was perfect. I was so proud to be her mom.
I didn’t think it was physically possible to love anyone or anything as much as I loved Sally. In her short time on earth, she opened my previously guarded heart and allowed me to love her, truly and purely. I know she is looking down on all of us and giving us a zillion kisses. Thank you, Sally. Thank God you weren’t the boring, docile dog I fantasized about. How wonderful life was while you were in the world. You were greatest joy of my life and I will love you forever.
*Aka Sally Boo, aka Boo Boo aka Sallzy aka Sallzy Boo aka Honeeeeeyy
P.S. I also want to give extra thanks to Evan Lambert and the FOX 5 DC team for sharing Sally's story.