Late in March, after suffering a sudden and debilitating illness followed by a devastating diagnosis, Rosie the Wonder Dog, our 12-year-old Boston terrier, did not pass away.
And now it’s bizarre — in a way that’s part “She’s a spunky little miracle!” and part “We’ve gotten crazy about pets!”
Rosie is just like most dogs in that she is the greatest dog in the world. My friend Ellen’s Chihuahua, Louie, who recently died, also was the greatest dog in the world, and so is Douglas, the black lab-German pointer mix who accompanies my pal, Dennis, on his brisk, endless seaside marches.
That so many dogs are the greatest dog is one of nature’s sweeter laws.
We brought Rosie home in 2007 when she was 8 weeks old. My wife’s family has had Bostons for generations, so Rosie carried an echo of other bat-eared, smoosh-faced pets and their people, long gone, sorely missed.
Rosie accompanied me on long walks as I made my first shambling attempts to get in shape after 20 years holding down a bar stool, and we progressed to 20-mile runs. If I put on exercise apparel and left her behind, Rosie would camp by the door until I returned, burrowed into a deep funk. She nursed a furious hatred of cars and squirrels. She loved all people food, and she could hear a cheese wrapper crackle from three states over, and smell pork ribs smoking from an alternate universe. She slept in the bed, under the covers, against my wife’s hip. She lay with my daughter through childhood illnesses. And on New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July, she’d sprint from window to window, terrified of each pop and bang, barking warnings of the attack.
Until March, she also never generated a veterinary bill for anything beyond annual shots and checkups. We joked that, like my 2008 Hyundai, she did not owe us a penny.
Rosie aged, of course. Teeth lost to a lifetime of compulsively gnawing plastic bones meant softer dog food. Stomach upsets and hazmat-level flatulence meant no more people food. (I swear, honey!) Fireworks no longer scared her, because she could not hear them. She was good after 10 tosses of the tennis ball, when a million had once been too few. But she was mostly still fine.
Then, suddenly, her health plummeted. No appetite, dazed, vomiting and stumbling. Heart trouble, said the ancient and kindly vet who also loves Rosie, and kidney failure.
“There’s a treatment we can try, and it might help a little for a little while, but you have to prepare yourselves,” he told us.
So we tried the treatment, knowing we were not ready to let go, but also that we did not want her to live in pain. The bill was $850, which was fine once, but for us would not be fine monthly or weekly. We paid and took her home and shared our heartbreak with all the people who’ve loved her and love us, and they felt it, too, for themselves and for us.
And then she got better. Like really better, with a gleam in the eye and dreams of tennis balls tossed and steaks left unattended. Still old, still thin, but joyful and enjoyable, and for how long we do not know.
Our vet says he’s never seen such a remarkable recovery. Our friends and co-workers are glad for us, but we’ll have to downplay it the next time Rosie falters, because there’s a strict once-per-pet limit on the “My dog is dying” thing.
And we’re ecstatic about her resurgence, and wondering whether there’s going to be another $850 involved. And if so, when, and how many times?
It is an awful lot of money, true. But we're talking about the greatest dog in the world.
Lane Filler is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.