If you walk into almost every household in America you will find small toys strewn about the living room, hidden in every nook and cranny. Walking into the kitchen you will see two small bowls on the floor, one for food and the other for water. Near a window you may find an elaborate climbing post, with a tattered rope pole and a comfortable platform top at the perfect height to view the passing birds. Next to the door you will find a leash hanging on a hook attached to a collar with tags that jingle every time the wind hits it just right. As soon as you walk through that door, the owners of all that paraphernalia come barreling into your arms to greet you with their unconditional love. They are your beloved pets.
Whether you are a cat person or a dog person, almost everyone in America has owned a pet at one time or another. Maybe you have had a fish or a bird or a reptile or even a hamster when you were a child but there is no mistaking that most people have felt the bond with an animal in their lifetime. When reading through blogs written by chronically ill patients, I have come to realize that the comfort of a pet has never been more important than when we are sick. I have seen photos of pets lying in bed with people, I have seen therapy dogs working in rehabilitation centers and I have watched service dogs assisting the disabled. The work that animals do to assist us and the comfort that they provide when we are ill is priceless.
In my adult life, I have been blessed with the unconditional love of only two pets. I had my first cat, Meisha, for almost ten years when she died in my arms at the animal hospital after being there for 21 days. She had been very sick for most of her life and she definitely used every one of her “nine lives” coming back to me through many severe illnesses. I never thought that I could open my heart again after I lost her but then I met Bosco.
This guy was a character. He was a rescue and I could tell that he had been a tough guy on the streets. The man who gave him to me told me that he was four years old but when I took him to the vet for his first exam I found out that the new addition to my life was eleven!! It didn’t matter to me that I had a senior on my hands, he was healthy and needed a home. It took a little time for Bosco to warm up to me after living in a hoarder’s house but after three months he became a Mama’s Boy.
As the years passed, Bosco continued to beat the odds physically. He never got sick and only needed some shots for a skin allergy that made him itchy during seasonal allergies. There was one scary surgery when he was 14 years old where we thought he might have fibrosarcoma but after they removed the tumor it turned out to be an abcess from the shots! He soldiered on until he was about 18 and then he started to have trouble breathing. It turns out that he had an enlarged heart and was starting to go into congestive heart failure. We put him on medications to help his heart, Lasix to keep the fluid out of his lungs and we just continued on with life. As long as he wasn’t in pain, I would let nature run its course.
Then, I got sick. Chronic Lyme Disease had taken over and ironically the tick was carried into my bed courtesy of my first cat. I had been bitten in the year 2000 when I woke up one morning with a tick on my scalp and my outdoor cat on my bed. As my health deteriorated so did Bosco’s. We spent every day together lying in bed sleeping, talking, crying and trying to cope.
He took his pills and I took mine. If I got up off the heating pad to go to the bathroom, when I returned he was lying on it. I finally had to buy a second heating pad just for him.
He only weighed seven pounds but he was the biggest couch hog! He could manage to stretch out those long legs of his and hit me right in the small of my back every time. As his health continued to decline, he couldn’t jump up on the couch anymore so I had to pick him up every time he came back from eating or using the litter box. He never had an accident in the house and he slept most of the time.
During my most difficult years of illness, Bosco was there for me. His fur absorbed my tears and his warm body laid close to mine every night. His paw was always on my arm reminding me that he was by my side and he wouldn’t leave me while I battled my illness.
For two long years Bosco fought his illness lying next to me while I fought mine. He lost some of his hearing and his eyesight, he started to get dementia and would cry if I left him. He would get “lost” if he traveled out of my bedroom so everything had been moved into my room/bathroom. He still wasn’t in any physical pain and I was still bedridden so as long as I was by his side, everything was ok in his little world.
At the end of July 2012, Bosco couldn’t fight anymore. He was almost 21 years old and he got sick. I could tell that something wasn’t right. We took him to the vet for some fluids and medicine. I slept on the floor with him for a week, giving him IV fluids at home over the weekend and feeding him with a syringe but he just couldn’t pull himself out of it. I knew that it was time to say goodbye.
My beloved Bosco crossed over the Rainbow Bridge on August 3, 2012. For the past year my sickbed has been very lonely but I know that he is still with me. His unconditional love got me through the toughest time in my battle with Chronic Lyme Disease. He was there at the beginning when I didn’t know how to cope. He was there to hold my hand in his paw and show me the way. I can honestly say that I am grateful that I was sick for those two years because I was there when he needed me. I couldn’t do anything about the first eleven years of his life but I definitely made sure that the last ten years were filled with unconditional love.