Tim Otto was five miles away when he got the call.
In sparsely populated Langlade County, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conservation warden based in Antigo was the closest law enforcement officer.
There was a man lying on a floor, and someone else had started cardio pulmonary resuscitation. He was classified as a pulseless non-breather.
“I was way closer than anybody else,” said Otto, a 1994 graduate of DeForest Area High School. “It’s a rural county with only about 20,000 residents. It’s about 30 miles north to south, and 30 to 40 miles east to west.”
Otto raced to the scene, took over administering CPR and was able to get a pulse, to get him to start breathing again. Sheriff’s deputies arrived and gave the opioid overdose victim Narcan, saving his life. The patient was transported to the hospital for treatment. This all happened the last Saturday of the 2018 deer-firearm season, right after Thanksgiving.
Otto was one of 27 conservation wardens recently honored by the DNR for lifesaving acts or acts of valor at a State Capitol ceremony.
Admittedly, Otto said he feels a little awkward about receiving the award. “I feel like I’m being rewarded for somebody else’s misfortune,” he said.
Otto added, “I just hope he’s doing better.”
Still, Otto is grateful, knowing that this kind of recognition shines a light on the work of conservation wardens everywhere and the role they play in public safety.
“I don’t think anybody who received the award did it for the award,” said Otto. “We just did what anybody would do, what any law enforcement officer would do.”
This is the second time Otto has given someone CPR, the last one coming in 1999. He said he’s hoping not to have to do it a third or fourth time.
Otto has been a DNR warden for 20 years. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
“I guess I always had a passion and an appreciation for the outdoors,” said Otto, who likes to hunt and fish.
Growing up in the DeForest area, Otto worked on local dairy and tobacco farms and competed in wrestling, which he credits for developing his character, values and perspective on life.
Otto thought a job in a factory or an office was in his future. He’s glad that didn’t happen.
“After 20 years, there are a lot of things I enjoy and appreciate about it,” said Otto. “It’s very fulfilling.”
About four years ago, Otto began a hobby that’s led to more awards.
“For a long time, I always wanted a well-trained hunting dog,” said Otto.
Finally, Otto got an 8-week-old puppy, an American water spaniel. His American Kennel Club registered name is Wine Country Green Fire on the Mountain SH MH WDX WDS, but his call name is simply Aldo. Wine Country is the kennel where Otto got the dog. Otto said Green Fire on the Mountain is a reference to Aldo Leopold’s book “A Sand County Almanac.”
SH stands for senior hunter, while MH represents master hunter. WDX is working dog excellent, and WDS is working dog superior.
Before starting with Aldo, Otto wasn’t clear on what exactly defined a well-trained hunting dog. This is the first time Otto has ever trained a dog to acquire the master hunter, or MH, designation. There are three levels: junior hunter, senior hunter and master hunter.
Training consistently five times a week for six months a year, Otto and Aldo have reached the top of the mountain. At a recent competition in Baldwin, Otto and Aldo went through a series of tests to reach those levels. The first was a flushing activity, where two to three game birds were placed in a field. Aldo was sent to flush them, make them fly and later find one. The birds were shot. The dog had to wait and watch the birds, until the command came to retrieve them. When Aldo returned with the bird, Otto had to take it from his mouth.
Then came a land blind, where a bird was placed in a field 50 yards away. Otto had to guide Aldo to the bird using hand signals and a whistle. A water blind was completed as well, with a similar concept. This involved Aldo swimming to the bird.
The activities grew more complicated. There was a triple land mark activity, where Aldo had to find three birds in sequence. A triple water mark was also completed.
Otto called it a four-year journey to get to this point, saying he had to unlearn a lot of preconceived notions about dog training to work more effectively with Aldo. It was a daunting task.
“The dog is really smart. It’s his trainer who is really slow,” said Otto, with a laugh.
Otto added, “For me, it was just a learning process, and that can be said about anybody and any hobby.”
Otto said he and Aldo may compete in more retrieving games, or they make take a break. Getting to this point has been rewarding. Otto said he was ambitious at the beginning of his work with Aldo, but it was frustrating for him.
It was worth it, though, when Otto said he saw trust in the eyes of his dog.