1) Life with whoever abandoned him along the Osage River when he was about 2 years old.
2) Life on four legs with the elderly brother/sister couple that took him in.
3) Life after being partially run over by a UPS delivery truck.
When Cliff went into assisted living, Bozo came next door to our house, a house owned by two certifiable cat people who had never had a dog. We could have taken in Cliff's two young cats but no, because we thought "nobody will adopt a three-legged dog", we took the plunge.
You've Got To Be Cruel To Be Kind
We estimate Bozo was about 8 years old when Cliff moved out and that he'd been on three legs for about 5 of those years. Mobility wasn't an issue, safety was. Thus, the first thing we did with Boze was put him on a leash for his walks. Adapting him to a leash wasn't a big deal. Yes, he could haul ass when he wanted (he once got out of my grip and chased a truck with a dog in the bed about an 1/8 of a mile running faster than you could believe) but he didn't strain at the leash. In fact, it was the exact opposite: most of the time you couldn't get him to move. Being part hound dog, part Sher Pei meant that he'd stop to sniff, snuffle and dig at everything that came within range of that amazing nose. A "short" walk took at least 20 minutes and most took 40 minutes or longer.
The second thing we did was start working on his skin. It was still a mess. The hyper pigmentation and hair loss is fairly visible in these photos taken the first night we brought him home with us:
What you can't see are the angry red patches on his chest and back around the crotch area. Also note one bald spot on the front leg. For years, that would flare up into an open wound which required constant treatment and bandaging.
We spent a year on frequent baths and some medicine to stop acute attacks but eventually took him to the veterinary college at Univ of Missouri (50 minutes up the road) for a battery of allergy tests. That resulted in a regimen of allergy shots that remained a fixture in his life.
Then their was the diet: no more hotdogs and ice cream for ole Bozo! We cast about for a variety of approaches ranging from fish oil pills to certain kinds of hard food. We eventually settled on a grain-free kibble that again, didn't solve our problems but was part of our multifaceted approach to give the guy some relief.
After a year, most people in town who knew him would always say "wow, he really looks better." It's ironic in that my neighbors were at one level insulting poor old Cliff's treatment of Bozo and yet, most of them treat their dogs far worse. We never did ever "fix" the skin problems, we simply managed them. It took over a year to find a shampoo that would work but even then, he needed a bath at least twice a month in order to keep the itching and chewing under control.
At some point during the first couple of years with us, our vet determined that Boze was blind in one eye, the left eye, same side as his amputated leg. As I semi-documented Life With Bozo over at Cheers and Jeers, his name then became Bozo The Blind In One Eye, Three-Legged Dog With A Chronic Skin Condition. She theorized that whatever nerve damage the UPS truck did to Bozo extended to the eye. Funny thing is that Bozo had very expressive eye brows that moved constantly, sight capable eye or not.
With a strict diet and long walks, Bozo lost 15 pounds within six months. He weighed 80 pounds when we took him in and the subsequent lighter weight was much better for his remaining front leg. As such, we took him places since that's what you're supposed to do with dogs. Because he wasn't a typical "follow me around on a leash" dog, taking him to someplace like Lowes meant standing around in the garden section and having people come up and go "awwwwwwwwww" a lot. That's when I learned that yes, there are plenty of people out there who would have adopted a three-legged dog.
Mrs grog drove him down to New Orleans when she went back in Jan 2007 to do some follow-up work from her animal rescue stint just after Hurricane Katrina. There, Bozo got to meet another three-legged animal, Molly The Pony. Mrs grog had worked with Molly's owner after Katrina, thus it seemed obvious to take Bozo down for a photo op:
After being chased by other ponies, helping sort supplies and being loved to death by all the volunteers, this is how you'd find Bozo after such a trip:
That first year we had him, we would take him on the occasional car trip, mostly to St Louis but once to Champaign IL. He always loved car rides even tho he could be rather unsteady with just that one front leg supporting him as we drove down our curvy, country roads. We took him every year to Woof Fest and several fund raising events for the Central Missouri Humane Society:
We were well know cat fosterers so Bozo the Three-Legged Dog with the certified "cat people" was always funny. And it was during these events that we began to understand that bond dogs exert over us and particularly the affect a so-called "disabled" dog had on others.
We also made sure that every several weeks we'd drive Bozo into town to see Cliff. Bozo would follow us into the apartment and then try to jump up and knock down the 80 year old guy. Tail wagging like crazy. I'm not sure who was happier, Cliff or the dog. And after about two years when Cliff's health failed and he went into a nursing home, we'd take Boze to see him there. It was during one of these early visits when we would explain what we'd been doing to "clean up" the dog (Cliff always marveled at that and loved what we did) and then say that his skin was still a struggle when Cliff looked down at the dog and said
"Life is itchy, Bozo."
It wasn't quite a Forrest Gump "box of chocolates" moment but it put our efforts into perspective.
Three-Legged Dogs Ain't Always Cheap
During the Champaign trip, he had a skin cyst burst during a recording session. I'm downstairs and the bass player calls down "Bozo's bleeding pretty badly". Found a vet who examined him but we delayed surgery until I got home 2 days later. We bought a red tshirt at the dollar store since it was impossible to put a bandage on the thing (the vet suggested we do that as an interim measure). It worked, kinda, but took a lot of safety pins to get it snug. I deliberately bought a red tshirt so the blood wouldn't show.
That kind of medical "event" was just the tip of the iceberg but he was one tough dog who dealt with all the medical issues with aplomb. We had a growth inside his mouth removed. Cliff never trimmed his nails so by the time we got him, they were long and impossible to trim back without cutting the quick. Therefore, about once a year we'd put him under so the vets could saw back his nails, probably the most painful thing we ever did to the dog. One time he developed a growth on his neck, benign, but very goiter-esque so we combined nail grinding with removing that which produced yet more stitches and scar lines:
You can see the stitches on the left about halfway between his leg and his head. "Growths" would become a feature later on and I'll save that for another installment.
Between these kinds of "events", the allergy shots, prednizone to relieve his itching, shots for his arthritis and special arthritis chewy treats, we're confident our vet will be able to send her daughters to college.
A Cat's Kind Of Dog
The cats rule in our house and Bozo figured that out pretty quick. He deferred to them...always. "His" bed on the living room floor was frequently commandeered by a kitteh and almost always, he'd plop down on the floor instead:
And never got up if one of of them decided they'd use it even with him on it:
In terms of his interaction with cats, however, the most amazing thing we discovered is that he loved kittens. We started fostering for the animal shelter and typically we'd get a momma cat with kittens not yet ready for adoption, or in need of some socialization. After quarantining them for a couple of weeks, we'd eventually turn em loose in the house and oh man did Bozo ever come alive. He'd go to the base of the stairs and wag his tail, looking upward waiting for the door to open. Heh heh, okay, it usually took the kittens a week or two to realize that this big beast wasn't gonna gobble em up. Then he'd be able to nuzzle em with his snout and lurch around the room "chasing" them. One foster in particular would climb on his back and attack away:
Everybody won in that we could send fosters back saying that they'd been around dogs (helps with adoptions). Bozo won because he just loved the experience and we won because the visuals were so often hysterically funny.
So, Bozo's "fourth life" was not without incident but after 4 years, he'd become a fixture and how that manifested itself will be the focus of the next installment.