Let Bosco Be Bosco

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Sorry we’ve been gone so long. All this walking takes up a lot of time and energy!

And then there’s the post-walk recovery napping. And I’m not going to give you the percentage breakdown of how much time we spend on each.

So… When we last saw our hero, Bosco was being dragged around his neighborhood by an evil person, intent on destroying his cuddly layer of fat. Bosco has stoically submitted to the evil master plan, going as far as losing 5 pounds, just to give the illusion of compliance.

According to my Fitbit stats, I’ve walked 330 miles in a little more than 2 months. I think Bosco’s done at least half of that. I doubt this dog walked that much in his whole life leading up to it. Combined.

And he HATES it. He hates the noises, he hates the distance, and he hates getting hot and panty. And this got me thinking….

What if …. Bosco were to get a sister? Someone who could help him understand that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Who could show him how to let loose and have fun. Someone who could take some of the walking duties off of his plate.

I remembered stories from his shelter days, of dogs that he enjoyed being with, and I’d heard how he flirted with the girls when he was at his hotel. So I pondered it for a while.

And one day, a sweet face showed up in my Facebook feed, and a few days later I saw it again on Twitter. She was a big, good-looking girl who looked just like Bosco, except she was white, with a big brown spot on her head. She looked so sweet, and I thought maybe Bosco would like to be with somebody just like him. Of course she was at BARC in Brooklyn.

So I arranged a visit with Vinnie and Jay, and Robyn and Bosco and I headed off on a big road trip. Robyn and I gabbed the whole time, and Bosco farted up the car.

When we got there, Vinny and Jay were waiting with the dog on the sidewalk. How did that go? Well…….. The first thing she did was mount Bosco. We can safely say that set the tone. I really think she’s an unpolished gem, but Bosco haaaaaaaaaaaaaated her. He went so far as to growl. We all talked for a while, and my three friends were of the same opinion – this was not the dog for Bosco.

Vinny spelled it out for me – Bosco just wanted to be with me. And he didn’t want to share. Robyn and I talked it through over Asian food, while Bosco flirted with strangers. She helped me understand that if that particular dog was added to our household, it would completely destroy every step Bosco has made in building his confidence.

And I’d told Bosco he had the deciding vote. And that vote was no.

So no it was. I’ll be honest and admit that I was more than a little sad about it. I wasn’t ready to rule out future roommates though, so I thought the next step would be a little more socialization with other dogs to see if he was opposed to all dogs, or just that one.

Last week Bosco and I went to visit a friend and her dog. I wanted to learn how Bosco would be with a more passive dog, who he’s met before.

Bosco taught me something totally different.

He interacted with the other dog the same way teenagers with cellphones interact. They were both there, both fine with each other, but beyond that, could care less. But…..

My friend has had some horrible changes in her life, and her world is upside down. Bosco was drawn to her. And during this visit, which was full of emotional conversations, he was at her feet, or sitting two inches away. He requested a tummy rub, and fell asleep while she rubbed him.

You might already have picked up on this, but – Bosco doesn’t go out of his way to interact with other people. This is way out of character.

I felt like he was saying to her “I know exactly how you feel. It’s really scary. Let’s just be together and everything will be okay.”

So Bosco may not want another dog in his life. So what. He knows what’s important.

Bosco’s Blatant Ripoff

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Dear blogger: I am 7 years old.
Some people say dogs don’t know about Santa Claus.
They think Christmas is for silly hats and stripey knit sweaters.
But please tell me the truth; do dogs get to have Santa?

Bosco de Lazzara
Allentown PA

Bosco, those people are wrong. They are skeptical people in a skeptical age, unable to believe anything other than what they see. Their little minds think Christmas is nothing more than an excuse to play dress up with fine fellows such as yourself. In this great universe of ours, these thoughts are limiting, contradictory to the bountiful truth and magic of the season.

Yes, Bosco, dogs have Santa Claus.

Santa exists as certainly as the love and generosity and devotion of those two generous women who saved you at your deepest point of despair, who imagined for you a life of beauty and joy. How dreary the world would be without them! It would be a dreary world with too few good dogs, without the faith and poetry of companions in this existence. Without them, the lives and light of thousands would have been extinguished.

No Santa for dogs! You might as well not believe in saints!

You might look in every window to catch sight of dogs and people, but you will not see saints. The most real thing in the world is what you will not see. Do you see the shelter staff and volunteers on the lawn? Of course not, but they are there. Nobody can conceive or imagine the wonders they have created, unseen and unseeable, in the dog-loving world.

You can tear apart a squeaky toy to find what makes the noise, but there is an armor created by these unseen people, the strongest men and women who have ever lived, and no one can tear that apart. Only their faith and love can push aside the wall of neglect and cruelty, and picture the beauty and glory to come. Oh, Bosco, they created your world, which is real and abiding.

No Santa! Thank God he lives forever in these people. Years from now, Bosco – and ten thousand years from now, they will continue to protect the lives and make glad the hearts of big good dogs.

– with thanks (and apologies) to Frank Church of the New York Sun, 1897

Bonus/Bogus

It’s the holiday season.  Last year was probably Bosco’s first Christmas, and he had no idea what to make of my rituals.

This year, however…. He’s seen it all before. And he’s formed opinions.  And he’s quite willing to share them.

The main thing I do is put up a fake tree that probably has more lights and ornaments than the other trees on my block – combined.

tree

Last year I half expected Bosco to wipe it out, but with a few exceptions, he didn’t bother it at all. Once was the intentional removal of one ornament, for the sole purpose of seeing my reaction.  Note that this year, the bottom section does not have the same ornament density as the rest of the tree.  That’s because Bosco’s tail is very strong. A good wag cuts through an ornament like a hot knife through butter.

He wanted to participate this year.  He likes the ornaments, and enjoys sniffing the boxes – since they’re all from my family or thrift stores, I imagine they are quite stinky.  I never ever want to know what he’s smelling.  He thought the bead garlands were a lot of fun, and enjoyed trailing behind them as I wound them around the tree – until I didn’t see him, and stepped on him.  That was the end of his decorating dreams.  He promoted himself to supervisor and watched from the other side of the room.

The holidays are running 50/50 for him.  Either something is wonderful, or it’s dreadful. Every event has a little bit of both.

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BONUS:

I got a present!  A blanket of my very own.

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BOGUS:

My person’s blanket is bigger.  And it matches me. It should be mine.

big quilt.

BONUS:

We got another present! It was a big box of cheese and baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaconnnnnnnnnnnnnnn…..    I got to play with the box.

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BOGUS:

I only got to play with the box. No cheese or bacon for me.

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BONUS:

I got another present!  It was sitting on a table and I found it and I played with it all day. It was soft and squishy.  Since I found it, I got to keep it.

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BOGUS:

sweaterIt wasn’t a toy.

poutingI was so traumatized that I took my teddy and went to bed.

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BONUS:

sitThe tree is done! Now I get to pose for pictures and practice my “sit” and get rewarded.

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BOGUS:

hatI should have eaten this hat last year.

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BONUS:

normal poseI got some cheese!  I am very handsome.

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BOGUS:

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The only reason I’m doing this is that it’s damn good cheese.

And I’m gonna eat the hat.

A Part ……. or Apart?

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Trying something new today – a podcast.  Okay, to be honest, I recorded this last night while I was driving, and I don’t want to transcribe it.

Part 1:

Bosco touring Lisa's enormous yard

Bosco touring Lisa’s enormous yard

The book I mentioned is called “I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship.” Ummm…  yes you are.

Part 2.  I lost patience with garage band and trying to split this up into sections.  So somewhere around 3:14, scroll down and look at the next photo:

the view

the view

Part 3:

Awareness

Last Saturday was pit bull awareness day, and this week wraps up awareness month. I’ve seen tons of stats, and this one really stayed with me:

On average, 22 people are attacked and killed each year.

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By cows.

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Now you are aware, and I bet from now on, you will cross the street whenever you encounter a cow.

A certain cow-spotted fellow and I are building our awareness.

I now know that when at a vet’s office, to ask what the side effects of steroids are. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say they were extreme, and had me worried that we’d lost ground in building Bosco’s confidence.

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I am aware that a large dog who consumes 4 quarts of water each day needs to release 4 quarts of water each day, regardless if I am home or not. Bosco is aware that towels are extremely absorbent. The county water authority is aware that I am doing lots of laundry and they will make more money from me this month.

We each became very aware of food. Bosco did not know that wonderful things like peanut butter and cream cheese existed, and does not care that there are pills jammed in them. Now he knows to wait until my back is turned to stand up on the counter and eat out of the containers. Now I know to close lids and put things back right away.

I have experienced the hysteria of an 80 pound dog who thinks he will starve if he has to wait another hour until supper. I am aware that no matter how ravenous he is, he still will not eat green beans or carrots. Even if they are covered in peanut butter or cream cheese.

We are both aware that he can lose all inhibitions and be silly and super-cuddly, and run in circles and sit ON my lap and demand tummy rubs.

And now that the drugs are leaving his system, he’s ready to relax. He is newly aware of the greatest doggie possession that isn’t food – a warm fleece blanket.

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Ownership

ImageWe interrupt your regularly scheduled blog for a very special announcement…..

Emotionally, Bosco became mine as I drove on I-78, somewhere around the Hellertown exit. Legally, he became mine three weeks later when I handed some cash to BARC shelter and swore I would always do what’s right for him.

I’ve always loved my dogs with all my soul. I’ve also always had this Peanuts cartoon stuck in my head – the one where Lucy says (of Snoopy) to Charlie Brown, “He only likes you because you feeeeeeeed him.” God, Lucy’s a jackass.  But it made me wonder what the dog/person relationship was like from the dog’s side. Is it just food, shelter and security?? I didn’t know.

Until last weekend…..

I became Bosco’s.

Something clicked and took away any remaining doubts he had.  And for once, I actually noticed when it happened. We were on the sofa. His head was on my leg, and I was rubbing him. He twisted around, tilted his head up and we locked eyes.

Yep. Dogs love.

Ever since, he’s never been more than a few feet away. If I go upstairs, he’s coming with. Taking the garbage out? Maybe I should make that bag a little lighter for you and eat something in it. How come I can’t go to work too?

My favorite thing in the whole world is our weekend morning routine. I drink coffee and screw around on my iPad, and he sits with his head in my lap. Having been awake for an interminable 30 minutes, he falls asleep almost immediately, and has woofy, ear flicky dreams, and he eats in his sleep.

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Hanging on a Sunday

The bond really sunk in last Monday. We were out for our morning walk, which is at the same time kids walk to school. There were two girls half a block behind us.

Remember how I said Bosco is a freak deterrent?  Well… I noticed a guy, and my spidey sense told me he wanted to play some “hey baby” game with those girls.  Of course I wasn’t going to let that happen. So I stood 10 feet away from him until they went past, ruining his game.

And Bosco? He picked up on it – and moved so he was standing between me and the freak.  This is the dog who hides behind me when he sees a goose or a group of children. But a freak – a potential threat – he took the lead. And the freak went away.

Bosco knows now, that aside from nose buttering, he has nothing to worry about when he’s in the house. And he’s been a cuddly clown, prancing around and making sure I notice him. He HATES my new workspace, and does everything he can to pull my focus away, mostly by asking for (and receiving) affection.

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“hi”

His last resort is to play “sofa shark,” where he pretends to give up and go sit on the sofa. Then he suddenly pops his head up, and the cutie faces start all over again. I have to explain that work means money, and that means snacks, and he sighs and flops down in resignation.

Image But the best part, when I know that I’ve done right for this dog, and that he is happy, is when I catch his eye. There’s no caution, no worry. No fear.

It may not be a cute YouTube video, but to me, it says “I love you” loud and clear.

Tipping Point

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Professionally, I am known for my attention to detail. But apparently that is not the case in my own home.
 
Bosco’s made huge, huge strides in the last few weeks. I don’t think these changes were like a light switch got flipped.  But apparently I’ve missed all the little things that led up to these moments. So for Bosco it’s a progression, and for me it’s an epiphany.
 
We started working with Robyn right around this time last year. I don’t know if either of us could have pictured the big goofy “woofus” that he’s becoming.
 
Don’t get me wrong – Big Boy enjoys peace and quiet and loves his sleep. But when he’s awake, he wants attention. He’s requesting affection, and enjoying physical contact. Last week, when I was vigorously cuddling him and rubbing his head, I thought it was too much for him, and stopped.  Bosco leaned back into me, tilted his head up and gave me that pittie smile, which said, “more, please.”
 
I was thrilled a few months ago when he understood that he could interact in his environment, and not just be there while things happened around him. Now he understands that he can put in requests. Last weekend he pestered me until we went for a walk.
 
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Yesterday, he decided that watching me play Candy Crush was not how he wanted to spend his day. So he sat in front of me and whined. I took him outside, but that was not what he had in mind, so he went off to pout.
 
And speaking of opinions and pouting…. The top of his nose got awfully dry this week, and it looked like the dryness was spreading. For once I did research before I rushed off to fling my wallet at a vet, and discovered that what would be prescribed is also sold in people stores…an affordable cream called Shea butter.
 
So every night last week, Bosco got his nose buttered. And he was unhappy every time.  Don’t know why.
 
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 I remember a year ago, when I was learning the mechanics of interacting with a big dog – I was standing next to him, looked down and discovered I was standing on his tail.  And he just sat there and didn’t say a thing.  Now, the dog who was too timid to express pain slinks away when he thinks he’s about to get buttered – or get his ears cleaned.
 
But here’s the absolute best part – early one recent morning, I saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks.
 
Bosco was on his back, asking for a tummy rub. Not on his side, not half rolled, not responding to a rub-in-progress. But spine on the floor, front paws tucked up for maximum rubbing room, full-on tummy rub requesting position.

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Rolling back to see why the rubbing stopped

So I was really late to work that day, because damn it, I gave the best tummy rub ever.
 
Qualifying statement: while Bosco being more expressive is wonderful, and exactly what everyone wants to happen, I know that this is where my role as a responsible dog owner will fail or succeed. I am fully aware that this is the time where his training must be reinforced every single second of the day. This is our tipping point – I can’t let him be goofy and out of control.
 
I hear Robyn reminding me of that every time something cute, yet not okay, happens, and we do some homework.  Oddly enough, I’m also hearing her say something else:
 
Bosco needs a treat!

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