My friend Christi is having a party for her dog. She asked me if she should order balloons, what the color scheme should be, and she has worked around my schedule because she wants me there. Truth is that while I want to be there, and I have to be there, I'm dreading this get together. It's not a birthday party or a "gotcha" party. Christi is throwing a party to celebrate her beloved dogs' life because she will soon be easing his pain and letting him go....
When Christi first told me about this, of course I sobbed. I love Roscoe. Other than my beloved dogs, Roscoe is my favorite dog in the whole world that does not live with me. When Christi was suffering with pain and had a hard time walking, my boys and I would drive to Atlanta to walk this majestic dog. He walked as a king would, slowly gliding through his neighborhood, stopping to stand and look far off into his kingdom, reveling in the sunlight, perhaps remembering his earlier days when he was younger and walked more frequently.
Roscoe has always been the calmest dog to greet me at Christi's house. Roscoe is just "chill." When the newcomer strays would bark at me and make an embarrassment of themselves, Roscoe would glance over at the newbie. Roscoe's single glance at the new dog would be enough to shush the newcomer. The glance seemed to say, "This is my other human. She is Jo. She is lovely and you should behave." The newcomer would settle into Christi's front porch and look up at me wagging its tail, waiting for Roscoe's next directive. Simply put, Roscoe reminds me of a sultry jazz tune playing while sipping lemonade on a front porch... he's just chill like that.
When Christi told me that she would be inviting Roscoe's closest friends, I cried. When she asked me to be at the doctors' office the day she sends him off, I cried. When she told me that she had to keep it together and needed me to as well, I cried. I lay in bed some nights since then, thinking about my own Lyla lying at the foot of my bed, and I listened to her inhale and exhale. I thought about the dreadful day that I would need to bid farewell to my loyal companion as well, and cried. I decided then to write this for Roscoe, but mostly for my friend Christi for being so damn strong and brave. I asked her to tell her story about Roscoe. I hope that I did both of them justice.....Following is Christi's story:
I found Roscoe in the notorious "Bluff", the English Avenue section of Atlanta, on a very hot day in July. I went there to look after a family property and a dog walked up to my car. Dogs have almost always found me so I didn't think much of it. This dog had patches of white hair, but it wasn't a full coat. He was a boney puppy, and his hip bones were sticking out. His eyes...oh...his eyes were just terrible; they were literally a caked up mess, scabby, and almost swollen shut. In my former life I was a chef and I worked for a caterer. There was always left over food that I would take home and cook for whoever needed it in our neighborhood - person and pet included - so I had a big bag of sausage and chicken in the back seat. I was talking to this dog and had his attention, so I tossed him a piece of sausage and he took it. The sausage must not have been too impressive because he started to walk off. Desperate to keep his attention and focused on me, I tried a piece of chicken and that did the trick.
I asked several people who were sitting around if the dog belonged to anyone. They all said that he did not and that he had been abandoned for some time. I told him to get in the car and he obliged. I couldn't leave that dog knowing that he was almost blind. I took him to the local shelter and the folks took a look at him and said that he looked like a "pit bull" which is pretty ridiculous to me today. The shelter was about to close at the time and wouldn't take him in. We searched for an owner, but there wasn't one, so I decided to take him home with me and continue to find him a home once he was well.I did not intend to keep Roscoe. During those years there were few resources to help network a dog so I took him in, fed him, cleaned his eyes and then left him alone to decompress. He slept like he was the most exhausted little soul in world. In hindsight, I now know that he knew that he was home. He has always been this smart.
Later on, I found out from a homeless man that Roscoe belonged to a man who "sat" at an abandoned house. This man later also abandoned the house and the dog. The dog had been chained to the porch to keep the house from being broken into which is not unusual in this part of Atlanta. The dog had been allowed to eat whenever he was let off of the chain. He took care of himself by eating bones and scraps and trash. The feedback I received about "the dog" (my Roscoe) made sense to me because it took me a long time to get the dog to stop eating garbage... a long time...
This was approximately 14 years ago. He appeared to be at least a year old when I rescued him. Today I know that this dog that was called a "pit bull" by the local shelter is actually an American Akita. This breed is often on insurance carrier lists as a banned breed, meaning they won't offer you insurance coverage if you have this dog. This is simply the worst offense to Roscoe and other dogs like him as he is simply put, the best dog that has ever come into my life to save me.
I don't know how to put this relationship into words because it makes no sense. I love the dog. He is my life. He is more important to me than anything that I can think of ...He's better than my best friend. He has my whole entire heart and now I have to let him go. He has been diagnosed with Mast Cell Carcinoma and lately I have noticed that he is slowing down slightly. He is in a small amount of pain and he is being seen by his Veterinarian now more than he has had his entire life. He still life, but he now sleeps more. Overall, other than the fact that he has cancer, he is generally in good shape for a senior dog...but I am planning for his leaving me.
Roscoe is so funny; he's comedic, really. My friend is solid and strong, and yes, infuriating for his cat killing ways. He is worldly in his coolness. He has celebrity qualities. My friends and neighbors will call and ask how Roscoe is before they ask about me. He has Godparents in case something happened to me. He has various girlfriends, canine and human. He never forgets people who like him. Actually, he adores the people that simply like him. I'm lying. There is no way to just like this dog. It's impossible. To know him is to love him.
I began calling him Daddy Dog many years ago because he would take interest in any lost pup that came my way. He seemed to teach them how to do things, like use the doggy door. They watched him "Dog". He was very caring towards them and the other dogs would calm down just being around him. Thinking about Roscoe and dogs and how he would train them, it makes me think about the puppies he'd train as well. He fathered them. A simple nudge would get them moving, a slow growl would make them stop their nonsense. There are times when I think that I can almost understand why people give up old dogs for puppies...almost. When you get a puppy everything is so cute, and sweet and funny. It seems easy dealing with puppies, mostly. You can forget about time. The day to day routine takes over and time flies. And then one day you are forced to slow down, to recognize that your dog is not that happy, bouncy, puppy anymore. They need you in a different way. There's a kind of panic that sets in and you just want to run away, but you can't. You have to hang in there and go back to the beginning only to remember and relive their lives with you, when they were bouncy and happy and healthy, so that it can give you strength. But overall, you must see this through. You must accept that your dog is older and their life is nearing its end and you have to find ways to be calm enough so that your sadness does not take over the last few days and hours you have with your best friend in the whole world. It takes courage to see it all the way through.
So, Roscoe is teaching me courage. I'm pushing myself to be realistic. It is my job...my responsibility to help him to transition in the easiest way possible, and I have to be strong while doing it. If I'm being completely honest, Roscoe is also teaching me grace and gratitude. He is making me slow down and watch and listen and mentally document more. Finally, Roscoe is teaching me the art of letting go.
A friend told me several months ago that Roscoe is a gift from God and that it is now my turn to give the gift back....I know that Roscoe will find broken dogs in Heaven. I know that he will help to transition them from this world, to the heavens. I know that my best friend will be just as gentle and slow and quiet and regal there, as he has been here. I know that he will be just as much a best friend to those needing to be saved and comforted there, as he has been for me. Roscoe...he is Gods' perfect, beautiful gift to me and I will forever appreciate this time with him and use what he taught me to be a better person, and continue his work in his name. I love you, Daddy Dog. Dog is God spelled backwards for a reason. I know God intended it this way.
Roscoe has his own Facebook page. Christi is going to share Roscoe's last days, she will upload photos from his celebration, and she will let us know when she has sent him off. She asks that we not cry. She wants to use this page to help other dogs like Roscoe - those chained alone, those roaming the streets and roads looking for food and love. She wants his page, Everybody Loves Roscoe, to become a platform to celebrate dogs like Roscoe and save them. Every one of them deserves their own Christi, and their own balloons. https://www.facebook.com/everybodylovesroscoe/