But the truth is, Boscoe, in his dotage, has become difficult. Difficult, hell. He's almost impossible. He's manipulative. He's demanding. He's mercurial. He's a diva. He is the master, and I am his slave.
He has spent 15 years as a cuddly, adorable, people-loving, tail-wagging, snuggling, farting, furry sweet potato pie, and now, in what might be his last year or two years or, if God really hates me, six or seven years, as a picky, stubborn, demanding tyrant.
The dog who once would eat anything--garbage, Kleenex, goose poop, Doug's shirtpocket--now won't eat anything. Except turkey. (So I buy and cook a bunch of turkey.) Oh, wait, did I say turkey? Hahahaha. No, I will only eat canned chicken, that really slimy, smelly stuff. So I stock up on cans of chicken, and Boscoe won't even sniff it. Just turns his head away in boredom and walks out of the room.
For a while he would eat boiled rice and ground turkey, but now he won't. He preferred chicken breast. Then he wouldn't eat chicken breast. He would, however, deign to eat spaghetti sauce, but only if it had been simmered for an hour, mixed with ground turkey and spices, and was intended for our dinner.
Every morning I sit on the floor and try to hand feed him. I have, at my side, a dozen tupperware containers with various delicacies, in hopes of tempting him to eat enough so that I can safely administer his insulin.
Every night I sit on the floor and try it all over again. It can take a half-hour to get enough food in him so that we can give him his shot. Oh, insulin, you have us over a barrel. He must eat.
Sometimes he takes his pain pill nicely, sometimes he spits it out. He has gotten incredibly adept at picking out the things he will eat and spitting out everything else, down to the last single grain of boiled rice or diabetic kibble. This dog does not need an opposable thumb; he appears to have an opposable tongue.
At the end of a feeding, the floor around us is littered with rice and kibble and shards of various rejected boiled meats. Riley sits three feet away, his eyes as big as saucers. Oh, God, he says. I would eat that. And that. And that.
Last night, when Boscoe turned his nose up at everything--everything!--I did, I screamed. Eat! Eat your dinner, goddamn it, you goddamn dog!
Doug poked his head in the room in alarm. But Boscoe ate his dinner. (Well, he ate all except for the parts that he spat out.)
And then there are the walks. Hahahahhahaaha oh the walks. They are not walks. They are drags. They are tugs. They are fights. They are carries.
His Majesty wants to be lured. He will put the brakes on in the front hallway and only come out onto the porch if I make it abundantly clear that I am packing treats. For a while, tiny liver training treats would suffice, but those were the days. Now he requires shredded boiled chicken.
Hold out the chicken, and he will think about it for a long time and then maybe trot down the porch steps. But then he freezes on the front sidewalk until I hold out more. Wait him out, you say? I can't. I have to get him walked so that I can go to work. And the walk is already late because it took him so long to eat his breakfast.
We walk a step or two, or, if he's feeling benevolent, ten or fifteen steps. He stays behind me, pretending to be old and feeble, and eventually I feel the leash tighten up and I turn and look and he has stopped. He looks at me. I look at him. I reach into my pocket.
The other day, I tried dropping the leash and walking on. I blinked before he did, after more than half a block.
But hold out the boiled chicken, and that boy can trot along at a fine clip. He can walk steadily and swiftly. So is he sick? Is he old? Is he feeble and infirm? Hell if I know. As far as I can tell, he has a robust appetite as long as we give him whatever he wants. And as far as I can tell, he can walk pretty well and fast and long, as long as I feed him chicken the whole time, like some sort of human Pez Dispenser.
Does he require your sympathy and pity? I have no idea.
When we get home, he stands in the yard and stares at the house. For the dog walker, he runs right up the stairs and into the house. For me? Hell no. I try to lure him, I try to pull him with the leash, I beg him. He does not move. I go in the house and shut the door, and he sits down pathetically in the snow and does not move.
Apparently, he wants to be carried. Sometimes. Other times Doug will pull on his boots and mittens and go out into the yard to get him and Boscoe will give him a look of sweeping scorn and trot past him and dash up the stairs and saunter into the house. And then he has the nerve to stop and look meaningfully at the treat jar.
This dog knows that for once in his life he holds all the cards, and he is loving it.
Me, I am on my last nerve. And yet .... and yet .... when all the tussling is over, and he has been walked and fed and injected and indulged, he totters over to where I sit in the living room and he makes it clear he wants to be near me. Doug lifts him into the dog bed, which is next to me on the couch, and Boscoe curls up sweetly, rests his head on my knee, and all is forgiven.
I would do anything for that damned dog. And he makes sure that I do.