A Time to Say Goodbye

He was found wandering the streets of Hannibal, Missouri. He had no collar, no chip, and almost no lower front teeth...apparently from having chewed his way out of something strong like a chain link fence. The vet for the wonderful Guardian Angel Basset Rescue (GABR), who said he was probably between 5 and 7 years old, pronounced him healthy, if perhaps about 20 pounds underweight, and after a period with a foster mom in Western Illinois, ready for his forever home.

We were newly-arrived in our new-to-us home in O'Fallon...the first one we'd had with a fenced yard since we'd left Ohio. Duchess, just turned 2 the previous December, was still more-or-less a pup, with lots of energy to burn. Her principal playmate, Missy M had a job that kept her away from home during the week. Solution? Let's get her a playmate! The sun, moon, and stars aligned...and we were approved for adoption by GABR by the end of the week.

I remember the day we drove to the outskirts of Granite City, Illinois, for a meet-and-greet "visit" with a potential match. We were piled into the red Ford Explorer...Missy M, Duchess, and I...following the directions from the foster mom over the so-called New Chain of Rocks bridge and onto unfamiliar roads. When we arrived at the small, neat brick house, we were greeted...not by a Basset Hound as expected, but by a couple of Doberman Pinchers, along with several other eager canine faces. Then, a different kind of bark...and there he was. Red and white and ears and nose and beautiful. And I knew we weren't leaving without him.

Duchess, with her best I-am-Queen-of-the-Universe look, didn't have quite the same enthusiastic response. Not that there was any open animosity displayed...no, it was more along the lines of "Seriously? Why do you want another dog when you have me?"

We had all intentions of changing his name to Duke...for a certain symmetry, of course. The name he came with had been given to him during the adoption process. And "Gus" just sounded so, well, plain...and almost harsh when you shouted it out the back door: "Gus! Come get your supper!"

On the way home, I suddenly had a terrifying thought: "what if he doesn't like men?!" That's an issue with adopted dogs...you never know if they have suffered abuse, and when they have, it typically has come at the hands of males...and I had neglected to ask. So Missy M called the foster mom to find out...and she could offer no assistance. She was single, and she hadn't seen any interaction between Gus and a human male. So I began to worry about the first meeting between our newest family member and the Leader of our Pack, Mr. T.

No worries. No worries at all. They took to each other from the first like they had known each other all of their lives.

The only cause for pause in the day's activities came that first night. We all piled into the King-size bed ("just this once"...:-), and when play time was over, Mr. T tried to move Gus out of his spot. "Woo woo woo woo woo!" Nasty, snarling, downright scary. Nothing like a big, ol' sweet-natured Basset. Think Cujo.

We looked at each other in horror. What have we welcomed into our home and hearts? A monster? Duchess looked at us from her spot on the end of the bed as if to say, "I told you not to get him. When are you taking him back?"

Before we could spend too much more time in fear of our lives, Gus curled up into HIS spot and went off to sleep...with a smile on his face, if I recall correctly. Crisis ended.

Of course, the same thing, or some version of it, happened each and every time anyone tried to move G from HIS spot...wherever he decided that was for the moment. Just a part of his personality that we came to know and love. Well, with Duchess, "tolerate" would probably be a better word.

About the name change? Nah. I believe to this day that someone in the adoptive process observed one of his "Woo woo" tantrums and said, "my goodness. Isn't he a Fussy Gus?!" So Gus he was, and Gus he stayed.

Well. For the most part. He was also known as Gussie, Gussie-man, Mr. G, The G-man, Gussifer (like Lucifer...:-), Big Boy (once Elmo came into the Drool Gang as Little Boy), and several other names of endearment.

He loved BilJac Liver treats, probably because they were small and he could eat them easily, even with those filed-down front teeth. He enjoyed getting his hair dried, and would race down the hall when he heard the blow-dryer. He loved long, skinny soft stuffed toys...and I do believe he took inventory of what was in the Toy Basket on occasion. His favorite toy, however, was a red cherry tomato, which he would pick off the vine in containers on the deck...toss high in the air...and then catch like a rubber ball. He rarely broke the skin, but he would leave the "used" ones in the dirt where they would sprout the next year. Gus' Garden.

He was an Alpha dog and considered himself Pack Lead...yielding only to Mr. T, with whom he loved to spend nap-time on "their" lounge luge (as we call the Big Recliner). He was loud, large and in charge...and didn't miss an opportunity to tell the world. Woo woo!

Interestingly enough, he and Duchess never did learn how to be playmates. Ah well, no matter.

We celebrated nine wonderful years together in June, although that was subdued because he was not well. His big ol' heart had begun to give out on him, making breathing and walking difficult, and the steps nearly impossible. We knew it was his time last night when he suffered a seizure right before supper.

Thomas was with his buddy when Gus crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. He knew he was loved by his forever family. He will be missed...and never forgotten.

Rest in peace, Gussie-man. Woo woo.


Estelle's said…
And now my heart breaks....
SissySees said…
What a sweet, sweet story. Thank you for sharing it, and thank you for loving Gus!
Roggey said…
I'm so sorry for your loss. What a loving home he had for his remaining years :)

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