Bosco, our 11-and-a-half-year-old Catahoula, had been suffering from bone cancer for the past several months, and gradually became close to an invalid. Things got worse yesterday, and our wonderful old veterinarian made a house call in the evening, and very gently sent the dog into the Next World. My son Nick and I assisted, although no real assistance was needed and Bosco slipped peacefully and painlessly into the deep sleep from which one does not wake up.
We buried him as night fell, just outside our back gate, where he liked to stand sometimes and watch the river go by below.
It was the end of an era. As a life-long dog owner, I think our human lives are segmented into eras marked by the boundaries of our canines’ corresponding lives. Our two youngest children grew up in the Bosco era. We renovated this house on the river during the Bosco era, too, and I retired during the Bosco era. Now another era has begun, marked by yet another dog, but it won’t be the same. All eras are different, and there’s no looking back (except when you use your memory to suspend time).
Of the many dogs I’ve lived with, Bosco was easily the best. I used to privately pat myself on the back for doing such an outstanding job training him, but later realized that Bosco simply figured out, without much help from me, what I liked him to do and what I didn’t like him to do. He made up his own mind but lived within those parameters, as a favor. He was not overly aggressive and in fact was gentle with children, but he would guard us with his life. He put himself between us and harm or what he believed was harm more than once, and when I went to work or ran errands and told him to “guard the fort,” I knew the family had nothing to fear from the outside world. He took on anything that dared trespass, and kept the home and the farm free from all vermin, no matter how fierce. Inside the house, he knew which rooms he was allowed to enter and kept out of the others. He knew better than to put his face up to the kitchen counters or the table, and although he loved human food, he didn’t beg, even for salmon, which he dearly loved. He would wait patiently by the grill as I cooked the fish, removed the meat to a platter and left him the steaming hot, fatty skin.
Other than that, his big twice-weekly treat came when I allowed him to accompany me in the early morning darkness when I opened the gate and pulled the big dumpster down the front driveway and out to the road on garbage day. This morning I made that trip by myself for the first time in more than a decade.
I’m going to miss that dog.