On Monday, November 25, 2013, I said goodbye to my best friend. I didn’t know for certain when I carried him into Banfield Pet Hospital that this would be the day, although the feeling pressed in, waiting for cognition to catch up.
What can I tell you about my sweet angel Bo? Sent to be my companion in the midst of a lonely, troubled marriage. Stayed by my side through divorce and more seasons of change…rode shotgun with me on my adventures in Mexico…then stuck with me through my mom’s death, the dissolution of family relationships, health challenges and an unexpected move back to the Midwest.
He was regal, like a young prince—not aloof, but not a compulsive “pleaser” either; he followed his own star. If he had human skin, I think he would have been a 12-year-old boy...the kind of kid who reads Hardy Boys novels and has an old cigar box filled with marbles, acorns and pocket knives. A hobo at heart, just like me, he didn’t need no stinkin’ leash. He loved fresh air on his face and the symphony of smells that caressed his nose as he perched on the gunwale of a moving car. He reveled in the odors of spring, throwing himself with abandon onto wet grass, or on really special occasions, deposits of goose poop. He was also a selective listener, prone to ignore my commands and disappear on reconnaissance missions into the neighborhood. But I liked that about him. J I gave him his space.
The first time Bo saw the ocean was in 2009. I parked on a hill in the small fishing village of La Celestina Gasca, Mexico. He impatiently jumped from the SUV and ran down to the beach to attack the waves as they hissed up onto the shore, then chased them as they receded, only to collide with the next incoming wave.But he was happiest in the winter snows of Colorado—the more frigid the better. I’d take him to an open field where he would dive nose-first into the snow and come up with his whole face covered in the white stuff, except for his deep brown eyes which burned bright with pure doggie exuberance.
While Bo could take or leave most other dogs, he adored humans. He greeted everyone he met as a long-lost friend—galloping up the sidewalk with helicopter tail communicating “hello,” while he leaned into their shins and gazed upward with a look that said, “I love you…pet me.” Reminds me of a favorite quote: “Sometimes we give comfort and receive comfort at the same time.” He couldn’t wait to park himself on the floor between the knees of people he knew needed a dose of dog love. Few could resist his silky red fur and that mysterious Bo healing energy.
He had maybe two or three good pals in his life—an old hound dog that lived next door to me and Stephen in Florida…a little white poodle at the park in Tucson…and Bowser, another older dog at my dog sitter’s house here in St. Louis. For the most part, Bo was content to watch the other dogs from a distance, or simply follow his nose where it led. But no matter how far he wandered, he always came home to me.
At home, he would jump up on the recliner between my legs and draw himself up with a sideways glance—my cue to pull him gently onto his back and scratch his belly until he flopped sideways in a trance—lost in his happy place.
He was a “muy tranquilo perro,” thoughtful and reflective, happiest hanging out under the bed. He hated thunderstorms and really loud noise. At the first rumble of thunder, He would head immediately for the safety of the bathtub, where I would sometimes find him trembling, not to be dislodged until the danger had passed.
Bo had grown increasingly feeble in the past couple of months, his once cheerful trot slowed to a ginger hobble. The cold Midwest humidity aggravated his arthritic hips. Going up the few steps to our apartment had become difficult for him. Often he would pause at the base of the steps as if summoning the energy. Other times, he’d lose his footing and his hind end would simply collapse. He accepted assistance grudgingly, growling in either pain or humiliation, I’m not sure which.
In the space of a few days, he developed an abnormal thirst, lapping water compulsively until I finally took his bowl away. Lately I found large puddles of urine which at first I mistook for one of Rocky’s “accidents.” On Sunday night, the 24th, he began vomiting, first greenish foam, then what looked like brown bile.
At the vet’s office, his blood work panel came back positive for diabetes. They gave him an IV to rehydrate him—not dissimilar to what was done for me at the ER in Los Alamos in 2011. I asked about options. The vet suggested that Bo might be stabilized with several days in the clinic and the possibility of insulin shots for the rest of his life. But there were no guarantees. For over an hour I angsted about what to do. I finally made the decision to let my boy go. I still can’t say the “e” word.
The vet gave Bo the initial injection of a sedative to ease him into a twilight sleep. It took nearly 10 minutes to take effect. At one point, Bo struggled to his feet and vomited more of the blackish bile. My poor little Bo. He finally settled into a sleep from which there would be no waking. When he was given the injection that stopped his heart, I heard myself wail…my beautiful, beautiful Bo. I didn’t care who heard me. He was the love of my life.
Bo’s passing came less than a week before my move to a new apartment in the city. There has been little time to grieve. But just as God let me see Mom and Dad in brief, but reassuring dreams after they passed, He also gave me a glimpse of Bo, sitting in profile, healthy and erect, bathed in sunlight and surrounded by blooming roses—beautiful smells for his life after this life. No doubt there is goose poop in abundance where he is now, a big cushy car to ride in with the window rolled down, a universe of new smells and unending belly rubs to keep him happy until we’re back together again.
I believe dogs do go to Heaven. In my mind, they are the closest thing to Jesus in their unswerving devotion and unconditional love. They don’t love us because of anything we’ve done or because we deserve it. They love us just because we belong to them. If you want to know how to love people, simply observe a dog.
For those of you who were blessed enough to know my darling Bo, I thought you might want to know about his passing.
Have a blessed Christmas.