Saturday, May 25, 2013

Rosco Johnsen 1998-2013

We found out a couple months ago that our dog Rosco had cysts in his kidneys. He soldiered on as well as any 15-year-old dog could be expected, but a few days ago he lost interest in eating. Last night his breathing became labored and his condition deteriorated rapidly. We couldn't bear to see him suffer, so early this morning we took Rosco to be put to sleep.

Fifteen years is a long life for a dog, and Rosco spanned several eras of pets in our household. He was 18 months old when my wife brought him home in October 1999, days after I ran the Chicago Marathon. Teddy, our other dog, liked him right away. We named him Rosco after Dukes of Hazzard character Rosco P. Coltrane (from the TV series; this was years before the movie), and it suited him well, especially since it sounded like "rascal". He was still a little wild, and we had to separate him from the cats with a pet gate. Teddy helped guide him into adulthood, and they were a great pair. The "Teddy & Rosco" era—we called them "Big Guy & Little Guy"—will probably turn out to be the best years of our lives. Rosco was pretty sturdy until he injured his left hind leg in spring of 2005. Just weeks after his surgery, he almost attacked Governor Rod Blagojevich. A few months later Teddy died, and Rosco became our only dog.

Rosco had the house to himself for almost three years. He got a little chubby because we didn't walk him as much (we got fat, too—we were depressed after Teddy's death). In 2008 we adopted 11-month-old Gracie. We had hoped Rosco might help train her like Teddy trained him, but he wasn't interested. She hassled him sometimes, but she begrudgingly accepted him as the boss. In 2010 Rosco's other hind leg needed the same surgery he'd had in 2005. I told him he would have to live to be 18 for us to get our money's worth. Later that year we got an older lab named Ginger. Last January Ginger died, followed too quickly by young Gracie. Rosco became our only dog again. Then in June we adopted Moose with Rosco's approval. Moose is pretty submissive and never bothered Rosco. Neither did 12-year-old Rexy when she joined the pack in November.

Rosco outlived three of our dogs and two cats, as well as just about every dog that lived in our neighborhood when he arrived in 1999. Last spring when I put together a collage of dog photos, I made sure he was in more than any other since we had him the longest.

I may never again have a dog as devoted to me as Rosco. He didn't always listen to me (he had a stubborn streak), but he obeyed me more than he obeyed anyone else. His favorite place to sleep was on the floor by my side of the bed. His second favorite place was on my side of the couch. When I used to get mad about something and start yelling, he'd come running from the other room and sit at attention before me, as if to offer his assistance. I remember how he'd sit upright in the passenger seat when I drove him somewhere, looking out the window. It was like we were two dudes out cruising.

There are so many more stories I could tell about Rosco. Heck, we had him for 13-1/2 years. It's hard to imagine that he won't be here when I wake up in the morning. We love you, Little Guy.

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