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.