Dr. Henana Berjes
Bosco; The Shephrador who taught me a life lesson.
Bosco arrived in our home on a not so cold but cosy evening in the month of April. He was a tiny brown and white Sheprador with the most innocent and emotive eyes that I've ever seen. Despite his good looks and immense persuasion from my younger son, I wasn't willing to accept him to our house. My reason was simple; I hated furry and cuddly animals of all kinds. I found them weird. I found them uncomfortable and I hated touching them. I didn't know all this was about to change. And so begins the story of our journey or my journey with Bosco.
Bosco was our neighbours’ pet. He was a tiny little puppy of ten weeks when my seven-year-old son decided to take him in as a pet when our neighbours saw him craving for one. Bosco was one of the six pups in the litter.
“You won't know how to care for him. He's just a baby,” I told him.
“But you'll help me, won't you and you'll teach me to take care of little Boshki, right.” My son looked at me with a lot of conviction.
‘Little Boshki’ I sighed, “is just a tiny puppy. He needs a lot of attention.”
“Let's take him in,” said my Microbiologist husband looking at the little puppy that had just been left with strangers and was trying to escape from the small gap beneath the corrugated iron gate.
“He's going to hurt himself. Why don't you just send him back? I retorted.
“Mom please, let him stay,” I could hear two voices echoing in unison.
“Fine then, but don't expect me to look after him. You know I don't like pets. Bosco is your responsibility now.”
I left them with a huge grin on their faces.
‘I'd have nothing to do with the little chap, however innocent he might look.’
I thought, going indoors.
Over the next few days, I could see a flurry of activities going on around my home. Bosco wouldn't be allowed indoors so they built a kennel for him. It was pretty good to look at, I must confess. It was very roomy as well for a puppy of his size. My family had long term plans.
I smiled but I wouldn't let them see that I was happy with whatever they were doing.
Next, the little puppy got a brand new leash and adorable chew toys. Pedigree food appeared on my kitchen rack, next.
The little chap was being taken care of in an appropriate way.
I was happy for my younger son, who had begun developing a sense of responsibility since Bosco's arrival in the house.
Bosco loved to jump and hug and I actually hated it.
Every time that I stepped out of the car on my way back from the hospital, he would be there, waiting to take a closer look and jump into my lap. I tried my best to keep him away. His playful ways, slowly gained entry into my heart but little did I know that it was going to get harder?
“We'll have to take him to the vet for his scheduled vaccination,” said my husband as I entered the bedroom after a long day in the ICU where I worked.
“Let's do it over the weekend. I have two-night shifts this week.” I told him. “Besides, you'll be busy as well.”
“Fine then,” he replied.
Bosco became sick the very next day. My husband suspected viral infection.
We rushed him to the vet who confirmed our worst fears.
“It is Parvovirus that he has been infected with. You should have got him vaccinated earlier,” said the vet, as he listened to the symptoms.
Bosco had been passing blood in his stools and very soon he would begin losing appetite and vomit blood since that was how the virus manifested itself.
“Unfortunately, we do not have the facilities for your pet here, all I can do is give him some symptomatic treatment and hope he improves.”
Bosco received an injection and we took him home.
The drive home was a quiet one as a little puppy whined quietly in the back seat. He wasn't his usual playful self.
Oh, how I blamed myself for having brought him home and how I wished that his vaccination hadn’t been delayed even for a day.
I uttered a silent prayer.
Bosco did improve with the meds and was back to his normal self for a few hours after which he began vomiting blood. He would come out of his kennel and go to his designated corner to relieve himself and then return back. My heart cried at his agony. Even in this fragile condition, he managed to keep his kennel clean, though a peculiar smell had started coming from him.
If he didn't stop vomiting, or if his bowel movements didn't improve, it would be a sure sign of his impending death.
My little son became restless. I couldn't do a thing about it. Our neighbour came to visit us and told us that two of his puppies had become sick with Parvovirus as well. The vet had told him that only the serum from a dog who had recovered from Parvovirus could save the pups. We lived in a place with little facility for pets. I knew Bosco didn't have a chance.
Bosco kept vomiting blood for the next few hours. We decided to take him to the vet once again, who would give him a shot of an injection to stop his vomiting.
It would work for a few hours and then Bosco would be back to his sick self once again.
He avoided all water and even if he took a few sips it would give him intolerable retching. We tried to feed him but he refused. His chew toys lay piled up in a corner. The Frisbee lay hidden between the shrubs as we slowly watched little Boshki deteriorate.
“Why don't you just put an I.V line,” I asked the vet. “He needs to be rehydrated.”
“I am sorry but we don't have the facilities for that here. It's a small locality.”
I saw him pushing an injection into the little pup’s thigh. Bosco couldn't even wince. Maybe he had accepted the inevitable.
We took him home once again. My husband left him in the kennel on a soft blanket.
We left him to die.
It was that unexplained helplessness that comes over you when you are faced with a situation that you can't do anything about.
The next morning, I woke up very early with a heavy heart. I wanted to check on him one last time. It was hard to believe that Bosco had ceased to exist. I tiptoed downstairs and peeked inside the kennel. He stirred and pushed a paw towards me.
I rushed upstairs and woke up my husband.
“What is it?” he asked me.
“He's alive, he's still alive!”
My husband threw away the quilt in a hurry and followed me downstairs.
He gently took out the little puppy and put him on the veranda adjoining the house. The strange pungent smell surrounding him had increased in intensity.
Bosco looked emaciated but very much alive.
Hubby looked at me with a queer expression in his eyes..
“What?” I asked.
“Can't you secure an IV line for Bosco? He's been given a second chance,” he said.
“I treat humans. I haven't ever treated a furry animal.” I replied in a tone that didn't sound convincing enough.
“But what if you tried,” he said.
“The site where he received the last injection is already shaven. Just try, we might be able to save him after all.”
“Okay,” I told him as we donned gowns, surgical gloves and obtained a size 24 Angiocath.
He held the little puppy at the thigh as I worked to find a vein good enough for cannulation.
I located one exactly where Bosco's leg had been shaven. I took a deep breath and pushed in the Angiocath, my hands shivering all this while.
It failed to go past the skin. His skin was unimaginably hard. My angiocath lay twisted and broken in my hands.
“I'll get a bigger one.” Hubby told me.
“Yes, I guess so. We should be able to get it through.”
I tried at the same spot. It worked. Dark blood poured out at the hub. We had secured the IV line.
A smile crossed our faces. I mentally calculated the fluid requirements of the little pup and we started him on IV fluids.
I had to fix his Angiocath very firmly in rolls of adhesive tape.
“It must not come out. This is our only chance to help him out.”
Next followed the various intravenous injections based upon my experience with humans in the ICU. There was no comparison but as long as the meds worked we weren't complaining.
We spent hours in turns, holding his feeble paw in our gloved hands as fluid and drugs rushed into his blood.
We just hoped he would make it. At this stage, he required intensive care treatment but this was the best that we could have done.
Two days later, he still didn't show any signs of improvement and that's when we decided to add some antibiotics.
Bosco still refused all food. He would take sips of water when forced by thirst but then vomit out blood.
It was my night shift at the ICU.
“Take care of the IV line,” I told my husband, “and please make sure that he receives the IV meds in time.”
“Don't worry about it. Just come back a bit early tomorrow because I have to leave for work.”
“I’ll try to but you know it won't be possible. Just take care.” I wished them luck as I climbed into the car.
“How's Bosco doing?” I asked hubby over the telephone.
“He's improving. The antibiotics seem to have helped him. He was really active today and wouldn't keep still when I pushed the fluids and meds.”
“Just take extra care of the IV line, you know,”
“Yeah, don't worry. How's your shift?”
“Hectic as usual,” I replied, “we have eight intubated patients and two of them are really very sick.”
“I was wondering, what if we added some vitamins to his IV fluid over the next few days. I'm sure it would benefit him.” Hubby suggested.
“Yes, we could try that.”
“I'll see you tomorrow. Good night.” He hung up.
I reached home past the hour of lunch the next day after a sleepless night at work. One of our patients had succumbed. With a heavy heart, I went to check on Bosco who definitely looked better today.
“The diarrhoea is gone,” said my husband who had followed me there. He had taken the day off. A brand new Angiocath was fixed with the utmost care on the other leg.
“He pushed out that one,” hubby grinned pointing to the leg where the first angiocath had been.
“You didn't tell me about it,” I said.
“Never mind, I secured it on the other leg.”
“You’ve done a great job.” I smiled at him.
In the next 24 hours, Bosco stopped vomiting and would try to push out the IV cannula. We rushed some vitamins and his appetite improved over the next few days. It was with a very light heart and immense satisfaction that we removed the IV cannula after almost a week.
Bosco was ready to eat, drink, jump and play…
We took him to the vet for a routine examination after a week.
The vet had no words.
Out of the 16 puppies that came down with Parvo this month, yours is the only one that has survived.
We smiled with tears visible in the corner of our eyes. It was a lot of happiness that suddenly surged through my heart.
“His serum is a lifesaver for all pups who are down with Parvo. Isn't that some great news?”
“Yes, of course, it is.” I simply replied.
After this incident, Bosco healed rapidly and became even more attached to the family. He would jump at the honk of my car and pounce on me, wanting to get cuddled. I would pat him on his head and back all the while wondering if I would ever be able to forget what he had put us through.
The very next day, I decided to return him to his original owner. No amount of coaxing could change my decision.
It's a love that's poorly understood. The moment you realize that you could lose everything that you hold dear, you choose to give up.
I gave him up.
Last week, exactly two years after this episode, Bosco came to visit us. I knew he could smell me. He rushed around the whole house looking for me, banging his paws on the front door, while I sat behind that closed door, unable to look at him once again.
Maybe that's how life works.
I have made a promise to myself.
I'll never keep another pet in my entire life. It was the closest that I ever came to heartache.
‘So long Boshki..!’