This is a tough world. There are a lot of bad things about it, so the good things are precious, and it’s always painful to lose one. My big dog Bo was one of the best things, and now he’s gone.
11 years or so ago, my former wife found a big German Shepherd mix running the streets. Despite looking for his guardian, she did not find one. She had him penned up on the side of her house, as her own big dog would not permit the lost dog to encroach on his home. She named the big young dog Bo, in true Texas style.
As she was running a business, she was too busy to take him to adoption events, and she asked me if I would mind. I agreed, and took him to a big pet store event. Everyone oohed and aahed, but no takers. The same thing happened the next weekend.
I felt bad that Bo was stuck on the side of the house, and since her house was on the way home from my job, I started stopping by after work to walk him. Then we’d sit on a blanket in the driveway and i’d watch him chew on the toys I brought him.
Then I thought , why not take him to the dog park. It will be good for him, and maybe someone from there will adopt him. So I started taking him to the Balboa Dog Park after work. He was very shy of people, but the five acres at the dog park gave him plenty of room to make wide arcs around scary encounters, so he was very happy there.
All the while, I was promoting him for a home. My last dog, an invalid who I had literally carried for a year had died, and I had resolved to not get a dog in order to see where my life might go without that responsibility. For more than two years I had adamantly avoided giving in to the numerous dogs I met who needed homes.
One day I ran into a friend in town who had property in Ojai where she operated a bird sanctuary. I ran into her unexpectedly, and almost out of habit asked her if she wanted a dog. She said she hadn’t been looking, but that if I had a dog who got along with the birds, she’d consider it. I wasn’t sure I was glad that she was receptive, but we made a date for Saturday to take him up to Ojai to test things out.
The Friday night before the Ojai trip I took him to the dog park, and then on a whim I did what I had never done, I took him home with me. I had been hesitant because I didn’t know how he was with cats, which I had, but I took him home and kept a death-grip on his collar. I led him into my room and closed the door. As he lay on the floor, he gave a huge sigh and closed his eyes and slept. The weight of his ordeal seemed to lift. I thought of the date the next day and figured I was under no obligation to give him up, but that I might as well keep the date and see what happened.
He passed every test with flying colors. He ignored chickens and ostriches alike.
” We’ll take him. I’ll put him in the yard with our Rottie.”
I drove back to Los Angeles in tears.
The next morning my boisterous neighbor Don came calling at my fence. When he saw my downcast face, he asked what was the matter. I briefly told him, and he insisted he take me for a morning beer to cry in.
As we sat at the bar with him at least getting happier and happier, he finally said to me. “Why don’t you call your friends and tell them you’re coming to get your dog.”
I braced myself, called and got the voicemail. I said “I’m really sorry, but I made a mistake. I don’t think I can live without that dog.”
I didn’t hear back till dinnertime. They had spent all day with their new dog Bo. They liked him a lot.
“Well, ok, ” said my friend reluctantly, “but if you ever change your mind, we’ll take him back.”
I swear I made that drive to Ojai in five minutes, and I know that’s impossible. I wanted to retrieve him before anyone changed their mind.
When I got there, her husband did not come out of his room. He was not pleased with me. When Bo appeared at the end of a hallway, I said his name, he looked up in surprise, ran to me and stood on his hind legs to kiss me.
As I drove off the large rustic property, I was overcome with guilt for taking Bo away from this Paradise.
“I’ll make it up to you. ” I promised, although I didn’t know how.
Years later, that friend lost the animals in her care due to an unjust action by an animal control agency. Bo would have been among the victims.
Through other unforseen circumstances, I took in two other dogs in a fairly short time. I felt like I was cheating on Bo, but this trio meshed so well that we soon became the Four Musketeers.
About a year and a half ago, Bo had a seizure. This began an escalating series of seizures and other unrelated health issues, many common to German Shepherd dogs, which was clearly Bo’s primary makeup.
Bo gradually lost more and more use of his back legs, had periodic seizures which required longer and longer recovery, developed and fought pneumonia and bronchitis, and smiled through it all. Smiled through the meds, supplements, vitamins, herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy and magnetic pulse therapy. Smiled as I helped him up by his tail to go outside to relieve himself. Smiled as I changed his bedding as his incontinence increased. Smiled and and smiled and smiled.
A couple of days ago, when I got up, he was on the floor away from his bed and clearly had experienced at least one more seizure. But something was odd, and the seizure didn’t really seem to be over. I took him to the emrgency vet, who put him on an additional medication to forestall any more seizures, and I prepared to facilitate another recovery.
But it didn’t come. He didn’t get stronger. He couldn’t sit up. He wouldn’t eat. He had a hard time swallowing, so I could only give him the most crucial meds and squirt water and broth into his mouth. The next day, he was so knocked back that I though I was watching him die. Dina, who gave him to me, stopped by to say farewell.
Friday morning I didn’t expect to find him alive, but he was. But he was having just a little trouble breathing. Although I got his antibiotics into him, the trouble increased rapidly. I tried to find a mobile vet to come to the house to assess the situation and to release him if need be, but they were not able to come quickly. Finally, Dina and a mutual friend who got up from his sickbed came to help me get my big old dog to the vet office. I needed to hear the vet who had treated him tell me the words I did not want to hear from anyone.
When I learned that he might endure days of this difficult breathing should I choose to let him go on his own, I couldn’t let that happen to my sweet boy. As the vet ended his Earthly life, the woman who plucked him from the streets and his human Dad who couldn’t part with him held him and poured out their love.
I have a lot of problems with the design of Life. One of them is the short time we get with beings we would love forever if we had the chance. Life just lost one more chunk of appeal for me. Happiness that has its end destined before it begins is a cruel plan, and whatever created our reality may be powerful, but I think many of us subjects would be more merciful if we were in charge.
Bo, I hope the life you had somehow made up for me taking you away from the country. I tried, buddy, I sure tried. When I met you, I knew I could not live without you. I don’t know yet how I’m going to.