As told in the previous installment, we live in a small rural, unincorporated town in Central Missouri. We've taken in and fostered countless cats but one day, our path intersected with that of a dog left behind by somebody owning a "weekend home" along the river.
At this point, the dog, Bozo, had been taken in by an elderly brother and sister who lived two small lots up the street from us...and he still had all four legs.
How To Lose A Leg (and get a lot of "awwwwws" forever)
Boze liked to sleep in the street. That's not uncommon around here. We're at the end of a small, rural, two-lane road so there's not a lot of traffic. Most folks just honk their horns at the animal, ease forward and eventually the dog gets the hint.
One day, he was snoozing at the top of the hill...where any delivery trucks turn around. Sure enough, UPS comes into town to make a delivery and the driver goes up the hill, then backs up, swinging his rear end around so he can point the front of the truck downhill:
(looking downhill from the small wide spot at the top of the hill where Bozo was hit; that's his former house on the right. Our house is two lots down but further back on the right and thus, out of the picture)
And backs over Bozo. We didn't find out until years later during an open house at the Dauphine, that the driver thought he killed the dog. The driver was at the open house and we had Boze hanging around in the lobby. The driver walks in and says "I THOUGHT THAT DOG WAS DEAD!!!!!!" When he backed over the dog, poor Boze let out a howling yelp and ran off into the woods uphill from his house, again, we didn't know that until talking to the driver.
What we did know at the time was that later in the day, Cliff was on his porch and there was Boze with this dead limb hanging down. We knew Cliff and his sister didn't have the money to do much about it so we offered to take him in. Xrays showed no breaks but clearly there was nerve damage so we hauled the dog back to Cliff. And for the next 8 months, Bozo dragged that dead limb around town. The original hope was that the nerve damage would repair itself and he'd regain use of the limb. That never happened and in hindsight, the vet should have splinted the leg but nope, instead, it just hung there.
It was heartbreaking to see him walk around town and I think my mother might have finally said something to Cliff about it, mainly because after 8 months, that dead limb was getting open sores that wouldn't heal. Much to Cliff's credit, he took the dog in and arranged a payment plan with the vet for the amputation surgery. As Cliff said later on after his sister died "her Social Security paid for Bozo's amputation." Given how he lost his leg, many years later, somebody did a riff on the UPS marketing slogan at the time "What Can Brown Do For You?" into "What Can Brown Do TO You?".
Three Lives Down...
Boze came home to Cliff and within a couple of months, he was getting around just fine. He could run, dig and do pretty much whatever he always used to do. Sure, getting around jumbled terrain was a chore but nonetheless, he had adapted well. The dog was proving to have more lives than a cat: His first wherever he came from, his second being taken in by Cliff and his sister and now his third after being run over.
Then Cliff's sister died. She just dropped dead one afternoon at the house. With the prospect of Cliff living alone (and in his late 70s) and occasionally going all ranty and ravy on us, me, Mrs grog and my mom started "looking in" on him more and more.
He lived a life of squalor in that house. No central heating so he'd build a fire in the wood stove and half the time we wondered how he managed to avoid torching the entire house. By this point he had taken in two kittens who then grew up with Bozo. We'd go over in the winter and Cliff would be on the bed with the dog and both cats curled up with him. Regardless of his day-to-day living conditions, Cliff seemed pretty content and we were happy to help him however we could.
Which happened more and more after he wrecked his land barge. Bozo always loved car rides and was in the car when Cliff drove it off the road one day. Nobody was hurt but that was the end of driving for Cliff. Mom took over shuttling him into town for grocery shopping and doctors visits all the while we kept an eye on him and the animals.
Over the course of a year or two, the living conditions took their toll on Bozo. He had just enough Sher Pei in him to make his skin a disaster to being with. This was compounded by his diet: hotdogs, hamburgers and ice cream. Cliff was, if not killing him with kindness, definitely making his life harder to bear. We'd go over and note that all he ever seemed to do was lick, gnaw and scratch himself. So, we took him into our vet and sure enough, he had mange plus hyper pigmentation which was a sign of underlying skin issues, again, something Sher Pei's can get even in the best of circumstances.
We got him cleaned up and told Cliff he needed to keep Bozo clean(er) but there was nothing we could do giving his living conditions other than to bath the dog occasionally. Because of that, he'd scratch his ears a bunch and at one point developed a hematoma in one ear. Heh heh, another trip to the vet, another minor surgical procedure to get that fixed. Cliff took care of Bozo day-to-day but we took care of the vet visits.
Then, in the winter of 2005-2006, Cliff accidentally burned himself. In order to heat that old house, he'd turn on the electric burners on the stove and one night, his shirt caught fire as he was leaning over the stove. The result was a 10 inch square 3rd degree burn on his back. We only knew about this the next day when we went over and asked "how ya doing?" That began a six month series of visits to the doctors to get the burn treated and to finally get his only living relative, a niece who lived nearby in Jefferson City, to pay attention to his condition.
By the spring of 2006, it was clear that he couldn't continue living alone in that squalid house, thus, his niece convinced him to move into a senior assisted living facility nearby. Nice enough place. Clean, everything he'd need plus he could still walk to the stores. Except they didn't take pets.
We offered to deal with the dog and the two cats. Amazingly, the cats were easy to place: the niece's son took one and our vet took the other. But what to do with the dog?
And then I said those words "Well, we might as well keep him because after all, around here, nobody will adopt a three-legged dog".
Thus, in March of 2006, after being together for 25 years and around 25 cats, me and Mrs grog got our first dog: roughly 8 years old with awful skin and three legs. Thus Bozo's fourth life began. That and photos will be included in the next installment.