He's also dying. Not in the typical way, I should point out. His internal organs are all working fine. It's his skeleton that's letting him down. As of yesterday, this German Shepherd/Mastiff mix weighed 116lbs. The problem with being such a big lad has revealed itself this year - he basically has no hip joints left. Great! No problem! I hear you say enthusiastically. Just get him new hips! I hear you yell encouragingly. Well, no. If it was so easy, there wouldn't be an issue.
First problem: $10,000 per hip just for the operation. His femurs are almost worn away ( he has no ball & socket joint at all - it's all held in there with musculature) and requires extensive reconstruction. Minimum $20K just for the operations.
Second: After-care would cost thousands more, plus medications for a long time afterwards.
Third: The vet advises that there is a strong chance that the operations would not be successful, especially given his size and previously active nature. He could screw it up within a week of getting back on his feet, and we might be back at square one.
Fourth: He also has a blown cruciate ligament in one knee (which was when we discovered the hip problem)...another $5K plus associated costs.
It's a horrible choice to have to make, but our very experienced and kind vet doesn't recommend that we even try to find the money (which we don't have). Putting it clinically, our wonderful dog is dying as his disability worsens despite the drugs that we're feeding him. It's heartbreaking, and it overshadows our lives right now. We're about to lose a family member.
I've lived with dogs from my earliest years. The first one that I have memories of (Baron, the yellow lab) came into my life when I was five years old and stayed there (at times he was my best friend) until I was nineteen, when he was taken out of the house while I was at work and never came back (euthanized by the vet due to a heart condition, and a complete shock to me). I'm still very sad about that. Dogs, however, otherwise make me happy; they interact with us in ways that no other animal seems to. They give and they expect nothing in return. They so obviously enjoy being with us - being the pack member. You might say that I'm a confirmed dog lover.
Bosco has been an exceptional companion. He and his brother Buckley came into our lives six years ago and instantly became delightful members of our 'pack'. Incredibly good-natured, gentle and easy to train, they were both wonderful companions for us and one another. Sadly, Buckley died four years ago from what was thought to be a congenital liver problem. From diagnosis to his death, we nursed him and cared for him for over five months (coincidentally, the same period between Bosco's diagnosis and the point we have now reached). That was bad enough; watching our friend fail and lose his sparkle over those months, watching him fight back against the odds and then lose the energy to struggle on any longer. Ending his life was traumatic, our goodbyes heart-wrenching and heartfelt.
We have had four more years to become entangled in whatever cunning web it is that Bosco has woven around us all. Each of us has fallen under his spell of innocent, unconditional loyalty and affection. If a dog has ever been more loved, I'd be astonished. Now, his final days are on the horizon, years too soon for it to be considered in any way fair.
The universe doesn't give a shit. Bosco's death will change nothing in the grand scheme of things (although there is no 'grand scheme' of course) and the planet will continue revolving on its axis and screaming at breakneck speed around Sol. We will know, however. Our small family group will understand what the world has lost: the gentlest of beings, an unconditional, dutiful and brave member of the pack, but most importantly to us all, a member of our family loved openly and completely by each one of us. I don't know how he did it. I'm not sure how he so effectively wrapped each one of us around his dew claw and made us love him as we would another human, but he did. He will be so sorely missed by each of our family, I cannot imagine his star every fading from our memories. He has been the best.
In fact that's how he's done it: he's the very best dog in the world and we have been so fortunate to have him with us for his brief stay. Thank you big fellah; thank you for being the best and for sharing your awesomeness with us.