It was February 2012 when we gave him a name, a home, a full tummy, veterinary care and all our love.
He’d lived ten years on this earth without a name, a kind hand, a brush to untangle painful mats or to have medical needs met.
He arrived in the back of a truck with a heavy tow chain used as a collar and twelve foot lead. His owners said he kept wandering after the sheep went to slaughter, so they chained him to a wagon and left him.
“What does he eat?” I asked as the big dog wandered to my side.
“Eat? I guess whatever we have around.” said the man.
The dog smelled of infection and rot. The collar was imbedded into his fur and we needed scissor and heavy duty bolt cutters to remove the chain.
He came to us broken and ready to die. He lay still as we palpated his infected face, the solid mats along his back and the ears full of black poision.
We fed him and watched while he ate to put some flesh on his emaciated body. We fed him twice a day and everyday we came with a bowl full of food he seemed surprise.
We watched hope flicker back into his beautiful soft tawny eyes. It was a week before he wagged his tail and a month before he licked our hands.
We cut out the mats, treated his infected face and gunky ears. We gave him a bath and judging by the way he stood stock still, it was his first ever.
Our first vet trip revealed testicular cancer and a positive heartworm test. They are both death sentances and both are preventable. With a heavy heart we went home to consider our options.
Our vet at the time said surgery to remove the testicular cancer would likely lead to death because of the heatworm. He suggested we make Gus comfortable and watch for the tell tale signs of laboured breathing that would indicate the heartworm would take his life. A few months… maybe.
Everyday we watched and every day he flourished. As summer turned to fall and fall into winter Gus put on weight and turned a beautiful white to match the snow.
As we came to the one year anniversary of naming Gus we saw no quick end in sight. Another vet visit and the same prognosis. He probably won’t make the year.
We took Gus to see three different vets and all said the same thing: surgery would most likely be fatal. Keep him comfortable. He only has a few months left.
We had an intruder of the human variety one night who thought it would be fun to open up all the gates on the farm. When he came to the horse paddock and began to push the gate open, we can only imagine his surprise when he encounter our night security. The horse paddock was locked tightly when we checked in the morning and Gus seemed quite proud.
Year one turned into year two and it didn’t look like heartworm was going to be the demise of our giant, but his testicle was growing.
We had switched vets the beginning of January 2014 and we took Gus to Dr. Racheal. The testicle was so big that it was going to rupture and that would lead to a horrible and painful death, so it was time to risk the odds and try and remove the testicle. If it was impossible to remove or if the surgery was taking a fatal turn Dr. Racheal agreed she would euthanize Gus and give him a good end of days.
The night before the surgery I brought Gus into the house and gave him a bath. I brushed and cuddled and kisses his furry head. As I tucked him into bed that night I watched him with hope.
I thought of the community that had watched Gus transform into a beautiful happy dog. I thought of the donations given for his food and his comfortable bed. I gave thanks for the love and support that would carry us through to whatever end may be.
My anger at his neglectful owners had ebbed years ago. It was time to educate. It was time to turn pets into companions. It was time to honour Gus.
The morning of the surgery felt like any other morning. We fed animals and took dogs out. When it came time to load Gus into the truck we felt the tears burning.
It was a long drive to the veterinary hospital and I kept watching Gus who was laying comfortalby watching the world through the window. He had light in his eyes and he had hope. He knew love.
April 29, 2014 Gus went for surgery.