Three and a half years ago we lost Buckley, our innocent, delightful friend and companion - no, wait, he was more than that; he was a member of our family - to untreatable liver disease. It was a shattering blow, and reading the posts I put up around that time have only in the last few weeks reduced me to tears once again with the remembered pain of that loss. It seemed so unfair, but then the universe is random and careless, and we must play the hand that we are dealt.
Today, on a day when I had planned to finally share some up-to-date photos of Bosco with you, we have had more disturbing news. Firstly, the big black dog has torn the cruciate ligament in his left knee. He must have done it weeks ago when he first went a little lame, but he's been fine every morning on his regular walks in and around the countryside which surrounds our scruffy little town. His evening lameness wasn't improving any, so we took him to the vet yesterday, and again this morning for tests and x-rays.
The phone call 90 minutes ago was not fun. Our vet - a man of many words, all of them deeply considered and uniformly wise - was concise. Yes, Bosco had indeed torn that ligament, but his hips were in an even worse state. In his words: "...awful, just...well...AWFUL." We zipped down there to view the x-rays and take advice, our hearts heavy with dread. The x-rays were graphic: Bosco's hips ARE in awful condition - one in particular is barely a hip at all any more. He's never complained or shown tenderness around it, but apparently he must have been in a deal of pain with it. This soppy, dopey dog who dishes out affection like a clown gives out balloons, has been in pain for a long time without us knowing it.
With the guilt hanging heavily around my neck, I listened as the gentle, considerate vet laid it on the line. Bosco needs new hips - but the cost of an operation to make that happen is wildly out of our reach, and as the vet says, there are still no guarantees of a permanent resolution, especially with a dog of his stature. Bosco needs a new knee ligament too, but there is no point doing anything about that unless his hips are stabilized. We're stuck with the compromise option, an option which leaves us staring down a dark tunnel, at the end of which I see no light.
The choice is to manage his condition with painkilling and anti-inflammatory medications. Even then, the cost is something we have to consciously plan for, rather than glibly write off as being of no consequence (for example, just his tests today have produced a bill very close to $500).
The harshest reality - the simple truth - is that Bosco is now on borrowed time to some degree. We have to nurture him and be very careful with him - as far as you can be with a dopey dog who likes to jump and run and leap and bound - we have to try to keep those hips in place...If we fail, and he dislocates one of his hips, because of a number of risk factors that we have been made aware of, the reality is that it could very well mean the end for the loveliest dog to grace the planet.
The hardest part is that Buckley's death - even as it was some time ago - is still fresh in our hearts. The tragedy of that loss is too real for me to not be shaken to my core by today's news. My heart says that I can't lose Bosco - in the wake of Buckley's passing, I attached myself even more to this big gentle being, who gives and gives without ever taking (although he is always available for treats and left-overs), who guards our little domain and alerts us to the impending vicious attacks of paper boys and mail men. Bosco - as so many dogs are - is much more than another species with whom we share our home. He is a full-blown personality in our lives (I frequently have long yet quite one-sided conversations with him), as much a feature of our home as any other member of the family. When he is not here (in kennels or at the vets for some reason), the house feels emptier and less homely without his constant companionship, his persistent checking-up on us all, and without the ever-present sound of him shaking himself or having a scratch. When he is not here, we miss him every minute.
The idea of him not being here ever again is one that I had pushed a long way into my future. I told myself that he could after all live to a ripe old age. Now that probability has been reduced almost to zero; the chances of him not dislocating that hip in the next two or three years are very low. Bosco deserves a long, happy life - he has already unconditionally given us all so very much, and become so much a part of our lives, I could keep him for ever if it were only possible. Today has brought home to me how vain that wish is.
The universe doesn't care, of course, and we are left to face the grim truth that whatever will be, will simply be.
I have, on occasion, and as per a lifelong habit, quietly tortured myself with trying to imagine what life without this big daft bugger would be like. I have imagined this as being in six, seven or eight years' time, but now I have to face the fact that it may be a very great deal sooner than that - and I will never be ready for it. Now, though, our work begins - working to keep him healthy, to strengthen and stabilize his joints as much as we can and to make his life - however much more there is of it - as fun and comfortable as possible. So long as he enjoys life, we will keep him with us.
He has given so much; we will give all we can back to him.
You CAN believe your eyes...I'm back! It occurred to me that it's been so long since I've posted that some of you may have come to the conclusion that something calamitous had happened - but rest easy: all is well. Bosco is alive and flourishing, as the pictures below will confirm. He continues to live in his own little fantasy world where, if he runs to the bottom of the garden fast enough after I have opened the gate for him, there will be squirrels just asking to be caught and given a good chewing.
He's never caught a squirrel, of course: a one pound rodent with incredible climbing abilities |(if occasionally cancelled out by their incredibly stupid road-crossing strategies) tend to have the edge in the ability stakes when in competition with a dopey, 110lb dawg. He is - deedless to say - utterly incapable of sneaking up on anything, and has the same hunting technique as an angry bull in a red rag factory. Come the apocalypse, Bosco will not inherit what's left of the earth...
There is, of course, the slim - very slim, admittedly - chance that we will ob=ne day happen across a squirrel that has become so tired of life, it is simply waiting around for a dog hungry enough to end it all for him/her. I suspect that this may be Bosco's plan B, but I have my doubts about its usefulness...
Below you will find a few (phone camera quality) pictures of our early walk today. It's cool and crisp in these here parts at the moment, but Bosoc and I both love this kind of weather...
An early morning walk with Bosco today - the dawn is coming later and later of course. Today's early start was rewarded by dodging the could and rain which rolled in not long after we reached the comfort of home. here is a view from our walk to enjoy...taken on the phone camera...
On a morning when, having slept fitfully despite being sleep-deprived, I woke early and started the day by walking my faithful hound Bosco around one of our local picturesque woods, I sat down at around 0900 hours (can you tell that I used to be a police officer?) in a soemwhat less than contented frame of mind, and began to trawl through the BBC and CBC news websites. As some of you may remember, this is how I choose to obtain my updates on the craziness that surrounds me, having some time ago given up on local TV news programs, which typically kick one local and one international news story to death, and then for the rest of the program follow up with a series of 'human interest' pieces (I won't call them news stories) which are little more than neighbourhood tittle-tattle. My 'poor ickle puppy-wuppy' threshold having been overwhelmed, I now pick and choose news items which interest - or even better intrigue - me.
This strategy also has its pitfalls, as I have a very bad habit (which, as you may also remember, I've touched upon before today) of scrolling down the page and starting to read reader's comments. Having dealt with a great many traffic accidents over the years, I have little interest in gawking at such things at the roadside (and zero tolerance for anyone who does wish to do so), and I'm coming to the conclusion that this is my substitute for that distressing habit. I know I'm going to dislike what I see, but I look anyway. Needless to say, today was no different from any other, and within a short time, I had graduated along my personal scale of pissed-off-ness from a starting point of 'Mildly Grumpy' (level two on the 'Pissed-er Scale) to a state of 'Irritated and Fidgety' (level four).
It was in that condition, therefore, that I happened upon a small story from Ontario, where a woman has come from vacation to find that her garden - which she was (somewhat defiantly) growing as a wildflower meadow in order to attract insect and small wildlife - has been mown down to a lawn by persons unknown. Level five, based on those facts alone...
This lady, going to battle with her municipal authorities, had come to an agreement/compromise with the local conservation/environmental folk which allowed her to keep a portion of her garden as wildflower beds, so long as she mowed around them. In the interim, somebody (apparently NOT the municipality) has mown the lot, creating a lawn that she had no desire to have, on her own property. A solution had therefore been agreed upon, yet someone in her neighbourhood was still moved to take matters (the 'matters' in hand being wildflowers) into their own hands and destroy what the lady was trying to create. You can probably guess how I feel about that, since we grow nothing but a permaculture-style vegetable garden on our steeply-inclined property. If you still can't guess how I feel, hopefully this will help:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the comments on this story (as in every other story, no matter what the subject) degenerated into verbal abuse within a very short space of time, the most interesting of which drew a direct link between an unkempt (i.e. no orderly rows of non-native plants and a totally unnatural grass lawn) garden and her ability/suitability to raise children. Level seven - I skipped six at that point.
Leaving aside the smaller issue of gardening preferences and conventions, I find myself increasingly alarmed by the apparent need of many people - and so often the people with the loudest and most obnoxious voices - to have everyone conform to their idea of 'normal' or even worse: their version of 'nice'. People use the word 'nice' as some kind of objective measurement of acceptability, but I have yet to find a standard level of niceness, even among groups of white-haired little old ladies who sip tea from 'nice' china tea cups and saucers inside 'nice' tea rooms, and quietly, discreetly make their sinister plans to control the hearts and minds within small municipalities like my own, in order to make things 'nice'. Somewhere, I fear (perhaps hiding behind Jupiter) there floats a 'nice' Death Star, made of Victoria Sponge and encircled by a ring of lace doilies, it's 'nice' ray at the ready and pointed at the earth in the event that the undercover agents of lace and tea and false teeth (little old ladies) should fail in their mission to brainwash us all.
Why must we all conform to this mystical, completely arbitrary notion of 'nice' or 'normal'? One of the most abused words in our language at the moment is the word 'freedom' (you thought I was going to say 'nice' again, didn't you?). Our politicians, in the midst of telling us all what we really want - and curiously enough, that never seems to be what I was actually thinking about - frequently wave the 'freedom' thing in our faces, as if to suggest that we all already have it, we all cherish it, and we should all vote for that particularly slimy twerp if we want to keep it.
It seems to me that in a country where freedom is such a fundamental principle (at least in theory, and politician's speeches), it should not be impossible for a person to grow a wildflower garden on their own property, even if it is to the distaste of their up-tight neighbours. The neighbours don't like it? So what? Why do the neighbours have some kind of entitlement in such a matter? If you're scared of seeds spoiling your lawn, pick the bloody things up or even better, weed your lawn! People face similar challenges with regard to growing - whether in regimented, amazingly ordered rows, or like us, more haphazardly - their own food on their own land. Apparently, doing so in a suburban setting is offensive to some people. Again: so what? In fact, so fucking what? Why are flower gardens (filled with imported species) acceptable, and other things not? Why are water - soaked grass lawns (a completely unnatural landscape, maintainable only by excluding native species, either by chemicals or fastidious labour) acceptable, yet wildflowers are not?
To me, it seems like insanity, and worse: it's a symptom of our modern western society's need to have everyone - everyone - conform to some kind of vague 'nice' ideal. Since that is an entirely subjective concept, what's the betting that 'nice' begins to change over time, and will eventually become the preserve of the most powerful groups within our society? I want to be able to preserve my version of life - that's my freedom. I want to be able to live quietly, without bothering anyone, and without them bothering me. That doesn't mean that I can take any measures I choose to make that happen, but it does mean that I am responsible for finding my own happiness, rather than expecting others to create and/or maintain my ideal world for me. My choice - and the clock is counting down on making this happen now - will be to find a few acres somewhere nowhere near anybody else, fix up the house (which, by virtue of what we can afford, will probably be on the point of collapse) and grow as much of our own food as we reasonably can.
One thing that the internet illustrates to me every day is the depth of intolerance for difference. The degree of antagonism, belligerence and downright viciousness directed at people with a different point of view is frankly alarming. It's true that the overwhelming majority of this behaviour is conducted by cowards who have probably (to use my dear old dad's phrase) never tasted their own blood, and who would never dare speak to anyone in the same way face-to-face. However, words can be powerful weapons: they coalesce into ideas and soon become conventions and accepted norms if they go unchecked. We are living in a world where anyone can say almost anything and hide with no likelihood of being made to face consequences for their actions, where cowards have voices that they do not deserve, and where difference - contrary to the mush that we're fed through the TV every day - is rarely celebrated or even accepted, but is consistently trashed.
I worry about what this means for the future - in particular for my children and my grandchildren. It bothers me that every kind of extreme view can be spread so widely, and with such hate behind it. Hate does not deserve a wide audience, and neither does intolerance, bullying and discrimination. The problem we face right now is that all those destructive attitudes are free to proliferate among the (distressingly) uneducated, ignorant and the plain stupid members of our society.
Is, I wonder, the genie permanently out of the bottle?
Yes I am, because I've done so little here this year - effectively nothing. The stats are still good for th esite, which is encouraging. If you've enjoyed what I do here, you may (emphasis on the 'may') also enjoy one of my other sites which is rather new, and helps explain why I've been almost completely absent from this one.
Check out www.liamsamolis.com
It's rather self-explanatory.
Good grief, I haven't given you the attention you deserve! In my inadequate defence, I've been very busy writing a book (not about dogs), starting another book (about a dog) and blogging elsewhere, as well as working and having Bosco inflict a truly debilitating injury upon me (unwittingly, of course). I'll not bore you with the details, suffice to say that until today, typing for longer than a few minutes has been excruciatingly painful. Actually; it still is...
Never mind: here are some pictures of our walk a couple of days ago: as ever I hope you find them enjoyable.
A useful article for our consumption and consideration:
Bosco seems to fly in the face of some of these: he's a physical contact junkie and throughly enjoys having his head stroked, scratched, rubbed etc., and uses it to make his presence felt. If my lovely wife and I are having a hug, wrestling (yes, I know!) or even close to one another, he usually notices and will try to insert his bulk excitedly into the moment somehow...
The point in this article which most catches my eye is - as you may guess - the one about walks. The other day, while waiting for my teenage daughter to pack the car with an amazing amount of bags, I watched a woman of a certain age walking her toy something-or-other. I couldn't tell what it was because it wasn't much larger than a big squirrel and I didn't have my glasses on, but the poor little thing had the head of a cocker spaniel - albeit on a microscopic scale. The lady wasn't walking particularly quickly, but because of the terrible mismatch of scale, even her leisurely stroll meant that the tiny little dot was scampering along just to keep up with her.
As I watched, the dog/puppy would stop occasionally as it came across an interesting smell on the pavement/sidewalk. Mrs I-want-a-dog-that-I-can-treat-like-a-baby/cat/dolly was having none of that, and each and every time (they were in view for a full five minutes) the dog tried to sniff something, she almost took its head off simply by continuing to walk at the same speed and allowing the leash to tighten.
There is no way that dog was having a satisfying walk; neither physically (restrained on a leash and walking along on concrete) nor mentally (not being allowed to use its instinctive skills and senses). I'm sure that the lady feels that she walks her dog like a good and responsible owner should, but really; haven't we evolved enough intelligence to understand that a dog's needs are different from our own? If we don't have the means to give our dogs proper fulfilling exercise, firstly seriously consider whether it's fair to even keep a dog in such circumstances, and secondly; let's dop our best to make the walks we do provide for them as
He's more than four years old now, this silly pooch of ours. You'd think that the world would be settling into understandable and predictable patterns for him...but apparently it's not that simple.
Bosco seems to be the dog most likely to be surprised by pretty much anything - anything at all.
He's surprised to see me arrive at the bottom of the stairs even though he's just heard me walking down them, and even if I've been talking to him (as, I admit, I frequently do in a sort of invented-conversation kind of way) as I approach. He's surprised to see me or my lovely wife even though he's watched us walk up to the front door, and he's run (well; I say run - more of an enthusiastic amble, really) to the door to greet us.
He's surprised to be given his dinner even when he's watched me (pretending to not care at all whether or not he gets any food) making it from out of the corner of his eye. He's surprised by every single noise he hears when out walking, every noise outside the house (usually imaginary - he's obssessed with Raccoons and those pesky Squirrels and will move heaven and earth - or the glass in the window in the picture above to try to get to them) and everything he sees through the window.
Basically, he seems to live in one of two states; either torpor or shock. It must be quite stressful for him, but he seems to enjoy himself and occasionally the surprises are fun as well as...surprising. Travelling in the back of the truck (under a canopy, people; relax) to or from his daily walk in the local countryside, everything is new and wonderful, his ears shooting up to the top of his head every few seconds as things come into view (I just accidentally typed 'thongs come into view', and I have to admit that my ears shoot to the top of my head if that happens).
The thing he most likes to be surprised by is a squirrel - squirrels appear to be the things he would most like to get to know, mostly from an omnom-omnomnom perspective, closely followed by the aforementioned raccoons, although since he's never even got within fifty feet of a raccoon, I suspect that if he did, things might be...well...surprising. The thing he least likes being surprised by is a snake. If he comes across a snake - let me start that again; if he comes across a snake AND realises it's a snake, he rapidly levitates about a foot, darts away looking mightily alarmed, and then stands off with an "I don't like the look of THAT!" expression on his face. I should mention that the snakes around here are typically harmless garter snakes, at most the thickness of my index finger and about two feet long...oh dear.
Oddly enough, the 'surprise' stuff doesn't seem to work if anyone walks into the house unannounced. If that ever happens (one of our kids' boy/girfriend for example), he tends to react with a level of complete indifference and calmness that I find a little unsettling. Anyone could stroll in and he'd probably just give them a dirty look for waking him up. We are clearly on our own in the event of trouble, and at the mercy of the zombie horde.
Sometimes I think he's just toying with me.
A husband, dad, stepdad and someone who has enjoyed living with dogs most of my life. I enjoy exercising the hound and getting a very mild workout at the same time!