Thanks for accompanying me on this journey back in time. As our "14 Years in 14 Days" series comes to a close, I realize I still have a million stories to tell about my handsome boy, Beau. But I've had fun reminiscing with you. Maybe we'll do it again sometime. In the meantime, here's a few last words...
As I've mentioned previously, Beau kept me busy in the health department. Starting with ACL surgery before he was 2, he was in the vet's office so often, most of the staff knew me by my voice alone over the phone and absolutely all adored Beau for his good nature and gentle demeanor even when he wasn't feeling his best.
Things started to get more serious though, when he had his first grand mal seizure in 1996 shortly after I moved to New Hampshire.
Seizures are a great leveler. My big, bold boy who always stood ready to protect his family suddenly became a needful pup again writhing helplessly in my arms. But we were lucky and his epilepsy was mild. While the seizures were not, they only happened once every 3 months for most of his life and we opted not to put him on medication.
He finally went on phenobarbital when he was 10 and the seizures had started to cluster. It worked like a charm. After a short period of adjustment and ataxia, he never had another seizure in all his remaining days.
We had a cancer scare around the same time which was removed and found to be malignant but non-metastatic (non-spreading). We had frantic rides to emergency clinics due to bee stings and "broken" tails. And there were certainly plenty of bloody noses, abscesses, ear infections and upset tummies. Beau even "lost his marbles" once (canine vestibular disease), which proved harmless and actually somewhat entertaining as he stumbled around looking for all the world like a drunken sailor.
The biggest scare he gave us, however, and one that comes with a story about the magnificent empathy of dogs, is when he developed pneumonia from the laryngeal paralysis we didn't know he had.
One morning while I was working from home, Beau began having trouble breathing and started spewing up a white foamy liquid. I called the vet and then Jan who rushed home to help bring Beau in for an emergency appointment where we were given 3 devastating options: take Beau home and watch him die slowly over the next few hours, allow them to put him down right then and there in the office, or try to get him to Tufts Emergency Animal Hospital 30 minutes away and see if they could do anything for him. We opted for a white-knuckled ride down Rte. 495 and through some sleepy New England towns to Tufts.
When we arrived, we witnessed an amazing scene as technicians and orderlies moved our now 95-pound dog from the back of my car onto an awaiting gurney and rushed him in to the facility complete with crashing doors and doctors shouting orders. I could only stand in the middle of the waiting room watching Beau watch me as they wheeled him away.
When the doors slammed shut behind him, I finally lost it.
There in the middle of a waiting room full of clients, staff and pets, I buried my head in my arms and fell apart crying right there in front of everybody. It only took a moment for me to realize I was making everyone uncomfortable as they began to study the floor and shuffle their feet or rummage through their bags. I took a seat in the corner hoping to make less of a spectacle of myself.
As I sat there sniffling, the most extraordinary thing happened: the biggest Rottweiler I have ever seen (at 160+ lbs, he was both big and overweight) did something none of the humans in the room found themselves able to do, he acknowledged my grief.
Obviously not feeling well himself, he slowly stood and crossed the room to come stand in front of me. And then he gently laid his head on my lap.
I laid my head on his, stroking his ears and we remained like that for several minutes. I don't know if the room really did fall into a hush but my little corner of the world did. I will forever remain in awe of Moose, a stranger's dog who offered me comfort in one of my darkest hours.
Beau came back home to us 8 days later after life-saving surgery and was with us for just over another year. We helped him cross over to The Bridge on May 18th, 2008. After a traumatic morning, he passed quietly in my arms in his favorite spot on the front lawn over-looking all his domain. He lived a long and wonderful life immersed in love and was a joy to all who knew him. He will be ever missed.
A dog's time with us is all too short.
Beau taught me, in both his life and death, to pay attention, to see and remember life as it spins too quickly by. To appreciate those who are with you now and recall fondly those who are no longer. To take lots of pictures, give innumerable hugs, to play with your dog and never give up on the ones you love.
Beau was a good dog.