I just returned from taking our dear Bo to the vet one last time. We adopted Bo on January 1, 2002, from Turbo Kees Keeshond Rescue in Chicago. He filled the huge hole left by the death of our Prissy. I liked to think that, rather than our rescuing him, Bo rescued us from being a family that had no dog. Our children had never known a home that did not have a dog, a Keeshond, in it. There had been Keeshonden at their cribs, begging treats from their high chairs, soaking up tears, listening to secrets, all their lives.
Bo was barely a year old when we met him. He had been a pet shop puppy, probably as cute as can be, as there's not much cuter than a Keeshond puppy. His first family was an older couple. The woman had diabetes, and it got much worse shortly after they brought their puppy (then named Lobo) home. She had to have both legs amputated and was in a wheelchair. Imagine trying to adjust to that with a wild halfgrown puppy in the house! Little Lobo spent a lot of time in his crate to keep him out of trouble. His paws were his main toys, and he chewed on them, a habit that lasted his entire life. Thankfully his owners realized that this was not a good situation for Lobo, and they turned him over to a breed rescue group - just not a Keeshond breed rescue group. He eventually was passed along to Lysa Bea at Turbo Kees, and joined her happy pack at her home outside of Chicago.
We had contacted Turbo Kees because we knew we needed a Keeshond again. Lysa looked for the perfect dog for a family with three children, one of them a toddler. As she got to know Lobo (renamed Bobo), she realized he was the dog for us - or probably was the dog for us, as no adoptions were done sight unseen. So on January 1, 2002, we packed up the kids, left early in the morning and drove to Chicago, where we walked into a house full of Keeshonden, happy balls of grey fur. The largest was Lobo. He was a tall, rangy, rather thin youngster with huge ears. His reaction to us was interesting. Lysa commented that he obviously knew we had come for him, as he quickly attached to us and began to warn the other Keeshonden away, especially if they tried to approach baby Lil Miss A as she walked around and around the coffee table. I think he was worried they might knock her down. Evidently he was going to be the only one allowed to do that. :) He quickly made friends with Barry, and Barry thought at last we would have a dog that liked him best.
We were approved for the adoption, and allowed to take Bobo home with us that day (rather unusual, but Lysa was sure this would work out). So we drove back home to Iowa. On the way home we discussed changing his name, as everybody thought Bobo was a silly name (though Lobo was worse). Trouble was, Lil Miss A could say Bobo quite well, and she said it, a lot, from her car seat, talking to him the whole way home. So by the time we got home, he was Bobo. Or Bo, as I usually called him, as I thought it was slightly more dignified. He answered to either, as well as Baby Boy, Sweet Doggie, Wingnut, You Crazy Keeshond, Kissy-Dog, and any number of other silly names.
Bo stitched himself into our hearts. He was not accustomed to being hugged and it made him nervous, but he realized that we wanted to hug him to show our love, so he learned to accept and eventually like being hugged. He was never a lap dog, but he would put his chin on a foot or a knee and sigh deeply and go to sleep. He was a protector of his pack, defending us from the Evil UPS Man and from the Evil FedEx Lady Until She Started Carrying Dog Cookies In Her Pocket. He loved cats and tried valiantly to make friends with neighborhood cats, unsuccessfully; when we finally adopted poor little stray scrap Beckham, he was delighted, and played with Beckham very tenderly, growling ferociously and pretending to bite Beckham while really tucking him under his chin, making it really exciting for a young cat who longed to attack a great huge furry dog.
He loved the little animals in the family, warning me when the cats were pestering our bird or guinea pig. He never much liked it when Beckham and our second cat, Briggs, would wrestle, and he would bark at them to make them stop. He would alert me when the chickens gave an alarm, as he could hear it when I could not.
He loved camping and picnics and the farmer's market. He loved fresh snow. He loved water. He loved helping me hang the laundry on the clothesline. He learned the sound of the television powering down and would leap up from a sound sleep when he heard it, to lead us up to bed. He enjoyed digging nice cool holes. He adored rides in the car. His favorite place in the car was the front passenger seat, with his chin resting heavily on the right arm of the driver. Try changing gears with about 15 pounds of Keeshond head/neck resting on your arm. Not easy.
This summer he started dropping weight. I became alarmed in late July and took him to the vet. Laboratory tests revealed that he was in liver failure, a terminal condition, as the damage was not reversible. Beth Wohlert, DVM, our vet, encouraged us to try supplements to help maintain what function was left, and as long as he was not uncomfortable, to love him and enjoy him and let him enjoy life. She warned us what the signs would be that he was nearing the end. She told us there was no way to know how long it would be, days, weeks or months.
Thanks to her advice, we had 5 more good weeks with our dear dog. I learned just yesterday that when we found out he was ill, Lil Miss A had asked God to let him live at least till her birthday. He made it a week past that date. When he became acutely ill, it was very rapid; I posted on Facebook just this past Monday that he was doing so well. Two days later he was throwing up his food, tottering around on weak back legs, and whimpering little whines as he lay at my feet. Yesterday I realized he was turning yellow. We made the decision, made an appointment for this morning with the vet, and began our final goodbyes.
Britta and Amadeus drove home to visit with him one last time. We all loved him up. The other two children hugged and kissed him as they left for school, and asked me to text them when it was all over. I drove him to La Crescent. He was in his usual seat, but he was very uncomfortable, and did not put his head on my arm as usual; he hunched over and stared into space. In the morning light, I could see how much his jaundice had advanced. The whites of his eyes were bright yellow. Even the insides of his beautiful, sensitive ears were yellow.
I drove slowly. I thought it was a writer's cliche to drive more and more slowly to a place one does not want to go, but I learned it is not; I kept finding myself dropping my speed, letting cars stack up behind me. The day was cold and cloudy. It suited.
We arrived on time for our appointment despite all I could do to delay. The staff at La Crescent Animal Care were sweet and empathetic, as I expected them to be. Dr. Wohlert was not in, so another vet whom I had not met helped us. Everyone agreed that it was time. One of the staffers commented that she always felt it was important to make this decision while the animal still had the dignity to walk into the clinic, rather than waiting so long that one had to carry it.
We left Bo on the floor, as he never felt comfortable lifted onto a tabletop. They shaved the fur over his vein and injected the anesthetic. He whined softly in my arms. Out loud, I thanked him for being such a Good Dog. In my heart, I thanked God for giving us this beautiful dog to be our own. The anesthetic took effect, and Bo relaxed, stopped whining, and eventually stopped breathing. He was gone.
I cried loudly on the way home in my empty Jeep that was full of dog hair and always will be, as it never comes out of the upholstery. When I got home I could not even get out of the car at first, as the idea of facing that house with no dog was just too much for me.
Now I'm here. The cats are concerned about me and are being very cute. Jack-Jack the cockatiel is making kissy noises from his cage. We will be okay. But we are once again a family without a dog.