Puppy love

Remembering Bo, my extra-special dog

I enjoyed how some folks wrote descriptions with their submissions into our pet photo contests (see page 34) for our Pet Issue. One that stood out to me is of a French bulldog named Lola. Her owner, Kevin Myers, says she lived in a cage for the first four years of her life as a puppy mill mama. “She’s a rescue dog (who rescued us!),” he wrote.

I can relate. For some of us walking on two legs, life just wouldn’t be the same without an animal buddy. I’ve had pets my entire life—dogs, cats and horses, mostly. All of them were part of my family, but for me, one of them was extra special. That was Boaz (Bo), a German shepherd who helped pull me from the depths of grief.

Bo wasn’t a rescue dog, though these days I know better than to buy a dog from a backyard breeder. This goes back to the mid-’90s—I was 20 years old and ill-informed about animal overbreeding. I found him through a classified ad not long after losing my grandmother, who succumbed to aggressive brain cancer in a matter of months. This great loss did a number on me, and I needed something to love—and love me back.

So, on Valentine’s Day, I ditched my then-boyfriend, drove from my home just outside of Sacramento to a rundown Marysville neighborhood and picked out a puppy—the friendliest one. Animals don’t solve our problems, but I swear this dog, my best buddy, helped me get through that heartache, as well as life’s other trials, just by being at my side.

Bo was with me when I finally dumped that boyfriend, and then years later when I met my now-husband. He moved with me seven times, including when I headed to Chico to finish college. After I got my first job out of school, he greeted me halfway down my quarter-mile-long driveway each evening when I returned home. Even after dark, he’d trot out to meet me, his eyes glowing in my headlights.

He brought me much joy and comfort for many years, but, as we all must learn, nothing lasts forever. Since Bo was the result of irresponsible breeding, his hips were never good. But after 13 years, they were shot. No amount of medication allowed him to walk pain-free anymore, and one day his back legs wouldn’t work at all.

After spending all morning with Bo, my husband and I gently loaded him into the bed of our truck—just as we would if we were headed out for a hike. Instead, though, I’d arranged for my veterinarian to meet us outside his clinic to make Bo’s last moments stress-free. There, in the back of that truck, as he lay in my lap, my sweet and loyal companion took his last breaths. We held our sobbing until he was gone. It took a good 20 minutes to be able to drive back home, where we buried him under the shade of an old walnut tree. That was six years ago, but it feels like yesterday.