Sports fans will surely recognize Scott Van Pelt from ESPN’s SportsCenter and his work as a golf correspondent. Those with a keen eye may also recognize his beloved dog Otis from Van Pelt’s Covid-era live casts. The Rhodesian Ridgeback was a constant presence in the host’s home office, visible on screen just over Van Pelt’s right shoulder in his favorite leather chair.
The Van Pelt family said their final goodbyes to Otis last week after what the sportscaster indicated was a long battle with cancer. A few days later, Van Pelt shared a beautiful tribute to his first and only dog during the One Big Thing segment of that day’s SportsCenter broadcast.
He begins the nearly six-minute eulogy with an advanced apology for “however this thing goes,” suggesting that he may not be able to get through it without crying. The seasoned host is able to maintain his composure until the four-minute mark, when he begins to describe the cherished evening ritual he and Otis used to share.
When I’d get home from the show late at night, I’d sit in a chair in a room off of our kitchen in the dark, and I’d wait to hear the click of his nails on the floor,” Van Pelt recounts, his voice beginning to crack as his eyes fill with tears. “And then he’d barrell down the stairs, tail going like a helicopter, and he’d headbutt my knee again and again like he was saying ‘Give me some love, Papa! And some treats!’ ‘Alright big fella, I’ve got plenty of both.”
Otis was Van Pelt’s first dog, entering his world shortly after his late-in-life marriage. He describes the dog’s life as a battle consisting of “so many surgeries we lost count.” Van Pelt and his wife dubbed Otis “The Bullet Dodger” for his ability to endure so much illness yet “keep on trucking.”
In a sentiment every dog lover can relate to, Van Pelt says no one has ever loved him like Otis. The dog gave him the cold shoulder whenever a suitcase appeared and went on a “hunger strike” when he was gone too long, but Otis was never truly angry with his dad.
“Nothing we do could earn what our dogs give away to us for free, Van Pelt says.
“The truth of the matter is that all our dogs have to do to take up this much room in our hearts and our souls, is be ours.”
When Van Pelt’s three children came along, Otis took on a new role as a patient, gentle protector who “would have taken off your arm if he thought you meant to do them harm.” Yet, no matter how much the kids pestered him, Otis “never so much as showed his teeth in protest.”
Like all good dogs, Otis wanted nothing more than to be close to his people. Whether he was playing with the kids or lounging behind Van Pelt as he worked, Otis was a cherished family member whose loss will be felt for years to come.
“After the show tonight I’d rather drive from D.C. all the way to the Pacific Ocean instead of taking the short ride home where I’m going to sit in the dark waiting for my Otie-boy,” Van Pelt shares tearfully. “But if this hurt is the cost of the transaction of being on the receiving end of a mighty love that I got to know in Otis the dog then I’d pay it with enormous gratitude. Because even though I’m crying, I’m just so happy he was ours, and I’m so happy that we were his.”
Watch Van Pelt’s full tribute:
One Big Thing
Otis the Dog
Long Live The King
— Stanford Steve (@StanfordSteve82) April 29, 2022