Read this and other wonderful Golden Retriever rescue stories in Lost Souls: FOUND! Inspiring Stories About Golden Retrievers, Vol. II.
Featured Rescue: Golden Retriever Rescue of Southern Maryland
The first thing that struck me about Bo was the oddness of his name: one syllable that sounded too much like “no.” I took to calling him Bo Willikins or Bo Diddly. Then it struck me that “Bo” was probably short for “Bodacious.” According to Merriam-Webster, the word can mean remarkable or noteworthy, and its origin might be from a mixture of the words “bold” and “audacious.” Bo was all of these things in so many ways.
Even the way Bo came to us was noteworthy. He became my foster by default: I agreed to dog-sit him while his original foster family went on vacation, but then I learned that they didn’t want him back because he was aggressive toward their dog. I agreed to keep him as a foster, which I “forgot” to tell my husband until several weeks later, after he asked if Bo’s foster family was ever going to return from their vacation.
Bo had arrived at Golden Retriever Rescue of Southern Maryland after a bold escape. He had been confined to a garage and back yard, where he had lived for three years, since the arrival of a baby in the household. One day he managed to get loose and run into the house next door, terrifying a young child who was playing with a rabbit on the living room floor. The neighbor just so happened to be the president of the homeowners’ association. Needless to say, the family was forced to give him up.
Bo’s recovery from a number of neglect-related medical issues was amazing. A large, cream-colored Retriever, he had obviously once been a handsome boy, but his chest and belly were completely bald, and his skin was black and malodorous. He tested positive for the tick-borne illness, Lyme disease, which required a course of antibiotics. The medications he was given for his skin condition and for Lyme after he was rescued caused him to develop liver problems.
Bo needed to gain weight, so the first order of business was to get him to eat. The veterinarian had said that his skin condition was probably due to allergies, so we should avoid feeding Bo beef, chicken, or turkey. We finally discovered a lamb and rice food that he liked. Gradually, he gained weight and his skin cleared, though he still had spots and warts on his belly. We put him on a regimen of vitamin E and fish oil for his skin and fur, milk thistle for his liver, and vitamin C for his immune system. In time, his liver function returned to normal, and his skin and coat greatly improved.
Bo’s behavior was indeed bodacious. At first, he paced around a lot at night and wouldn’t settle down in the morning after getting up early with my husband to go out. Eventually, he started going to bed when the last person turned in for the night and getting up at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. Sometimes he’d pick up a rag or rope toy and insist on playing tug-of-war. When he won, he would shake the rope around, growl, and then roll on his back with the toy in his mouth, showing his teeth.
By far, the most challenging two moments of the day were Bo’s morning and evening walks; he was aggressive toward other dogs when on leash, as was my own dog, but Bo was also hostile toward people. I timed our walks so that we went out in the morning after working people had left and put their dogs in the house but before stay-at-home people took their dogs out and school-aged children went to the bus stop. In the evenings, we went out after dark, when all of the good doggies were already in for the night. On both dogs, I used a Gentle Leader, a muzzle harness that put pressure on their snouts when they pulled. I became familiar with all the houses with dogs in the yard, and we zigzagged from one side of the street to the other to avoid them. As we passed those houses, I would tell my two dogs, “We don’t care about that doggie, no. That’s his house, so it’s okay.” Or, I’d say, “That’s just a little doggie. We don’t care about him.”
Once we had passed, I’d say, “Good Sami; good Bo. Yes! That’s how the doggies walk! Good boy and girl!”
It worked pretty well for fenced yards, but for yards with invisible fences, where the dogs could come right up to the street, it did not work at all. And when we saw other dogs on leashes, these words definitely did not work. Sami and Bo would growl and bark and jump and snap and get into such a frenzy that they sometimes even bit each other! With the Gentle Leaders on, they reeled around snapping on the end of the leash, so at times, I felt like I was walking a couple of crocodiles!
One of Bo’s worst days was when a potential adopter came to meet him with her Golden Retriever. She suggested having them meet on leash in the street on neutral territory, but I thought they would be fine in our yard. I left her outside with her dog while I went to get Bo, and when I opened the door, Bo barreled down the deck stairs, burst through the breezeway door, and lunged at her dog, knocking the woman down in the process. She skinned her knee, cut her leg, and felt extremely shaken and upset. After we all calmed down, we did as the woman had first suggested, walking the dogs side by side in neutral territory and gradually letting them sniff each other. After that, we put them in the back yard, and they were fine with each other, but I knew that the deal had fallen through.
After more than four months, a different potential adoptive family came through. I had a dentist appointment that day, so I offered to drop Bo off before my appointment and pick him up after a few hours. I warned the family that maybe he should meet them and their dog outside, but Bo boldly marched right into their kitchen, kissed their resident Retriever hello, and settled right down. When I got back from my appointment, they asked if they could adopt him right then and there.
In the end, I realized that Bo’s name was really not that odd at all. His adoption story turned out to be truly remarkable, noteworthy, and, ahem, bodacious…and now he’s perfectly settled in to his new home, complete with a swimming pool. -Susan Casarez