As I was bringing Boomer home from the shelter, he whined the whole way home. For those 15 or 20 minutes, I wondered what I had gotten myself into, but when we got home, he turned out to be the perfect gentleman! Maggie, who had always been an only dog, was not particularly interested in having a friend. She wasn't hostile to him, but more aloof. Boomer respected her and didn't bother her. They really didn't play together. Boomer was OK with that. He could play with us.
Boomie integrated so well into the family, that after 2 days it seemed as if we'd always had him. I took him to the vet to have him checked out, and address some concerns that, in my initial excitement in finding and adopting him, I had managed to overlook. First was his skin. He had patches on his rump and inner thighs where the hair was gone, and the skin was thick, wrinkly and gray, like elephant skin. I really don’t remember if the vet had an idea what it might have been, but I remember she said that Boomie might always have skin problems, and his hair might not ever grow back, but even back then, she underestimated Boomie. The elephant skin must have been a result of something in his environment before. His skin returned to normal almost from the first day, and the hair grew back quickly.
The other problem was nothing that could go away on its own. X-rays revealed that Boomie had hip dysplasia. The vet recommended a double hip replacement. Or, we could return him to the pound, she suggested. There was no way I would return him. After just a couple of days, I already loved him. But I couldn't spend thousands of dollars to fix his hips, either. So even back then, I opted for a more conservative approach. Let's just give him joint supplements, and see how he does. If he lasts a year or 5 years, or whatever, we will love him just the same.
Boomie ended up doing very well, for a long time on joint supplements. After a few years, we did start seeing a very slow decline in his mobility. We added more supplements and medications, and it was enough to keep him going. He could run and play. He was free of pain.
Boomie was not without his quirks. With his early life a mystery, we don’t know what might have happened to him that would cause him to be so slow to warm up to people, especially since he had responded in such a positive way so quickly when I first met him at the shelter. He was very un-lab-like in the way he barked at anyone who came to visit, and even barked at Jerry and the kids if they were dressed in dark clothing, or a big hat, or came into the house carrying a big box or package.
Then there was his fear of Jerry’s sneezes. Maybe it was because Jerry tends to get these “sneezing attacks”, where he’ll sneeze about 10 times in a row. But whatever the reason, Boomie would always come looking for me and try to hide behind me, or just stay close to me when he heard Jerry sneeze. And if I was too close to the sneezing Jerry for Boomie’s comfort, he would go hide in the bedroom. He never, not once, showed anxiety for anyone else’s sneezes. You could let out a huge WACHOO! right in his face and it wouldn’t bother him a bit.
He liked to sit with his chin resting on the coffee table. Or on your knee. Especially if you were eating something. But he wasn’t a drooler.
He never went to the door to bark, whine, or otherwise indicate his desire to go outside. If he did want to go out, he would just come to me, all excited and wiggly. That was his way of letting me know. Of course, I had long come to know his schedule, and since he was usually fed and let out according to our established routine, there wasn’t always a need for him to get wiggly. And speaking of routine, I could swear Boomie (and Marley) could tell time. At least when it was their mealtime.
Boomie seemed to have picked up two bad habits from Maggie before she died. I’m pretty sure he didn’t eat grass when we first brought him home, but I think he saw Maggie doing it. She only did it when she had an upset tummy, and it would make her barf. Boomie grazed like a cow, and he never threw up afterwards. The other bad habit was barking at the jets waaay up high that left vapor trails across the yard. Thank goodness he didn’t seem to think it was necessary to bark at lower flying jets and private planes, because there were a lot more of those.
He loved being brushed. Long before he lost his leg, his bad hips and arthritis made it very difficult to scratch himself. I tried to brush him as often as I could. He would be so happy to see me coming at him with the Zoom Groom brush. Most of the time, he would sit still for me until my arm was tired from brushing. And he almost always showed his enjoyment with, um…his…you could tell he was happy.
Boomer was more closely bonded to me than to any other person in the family. But he also bonded with Marley, our black lab that we adopted in early 2005, after Maggie had died and Boomie seemed lonely. Although there was a period of adjustment when they were getting to know each other, Boomie and Marley became best friends. Because they were already mature when they met, they didn’t engage in a lot of boisterous play, but they did enjoy a bit of “bitey-face”. In the last year or so, when Boomie seemed to be whining and barking for attention, often it was Marley who would go to him and sit quietly right next to him and ask for some love. He would settle down and nibble and lick her around the face and ears, and they would both be happy
Boomie had health concerns from the moment we brought him home, the most significant being orthopedic and mobility issues due to hip dysplasia and arthritis. But with medication and supplements, he did really well over the years. His condition and mobility declined ever so slowly, but I really think he was mostly pain free. His amputation in May of 2008 seems, as I look back on it now, like just another bump in the road (and a bigger bump for us than for Boomie). He just kept going and never looked back.
We were told that he would probably live about 6 months after the amputation. At the time, I was preparing myself for the inevitable. But after 5 months, he seemed fine. After 6 months, when he was still fine, I realized that this dog had his own timetable. Still, it was hard knowing that we just didn’t know when it would happen. It’s hard to stay ready. Easier to just say, “today is a good day. Tomorrow will probably be OK, too.” And that is how time slipped by. Last month, when he started having seizures, I quickly figured out that it was the beginning of the end.
I can hardly believe that it's been 4 weeks since Boomie died. It's been strange without him, but I'm in no hurry to get another dog. Soon, I'll post about Marley, and how it's been having her as our only dog.