The Dog That Saw Too Much

Augusta County, VA –

Over the years, we’ve written many stories about canine abuse and neglect. Every single one of those stories was heartbreaking, and we all ask ourselves, “How could that happen?”

But then there’s the other side of life, and that’s Beau’s story, a story of deep love and profound tragedy.

Beau was adopted by John when he was just a puppy. A German Shepherd/Lab mix, the two bonded almost instantly. John adored his dog and took excellent care of him. But at the age of 60, John developed Organic Brain Syndrome (OBS), a neurodegenerative disease causing the brain and nerves to deteriorate over time.

beau-harmon2-swoope-vaJohn’s particular form of OBS was most likely the result of his drug use, with some hereditary influences. His father died of dementia when he was just 50.

Because of John’s deteriorating condition, both he and Beau came to live with his elderly mother, Helen. Just like John, she too fell in love with Beau. For his part, Beau was a calming and steady influence on John, always patient, always ready for whatever John needed or wanted.

But John’s demons were growing. His illness coupled with depression caused him to make a very serious attempt at suicide. Sadly, John placed a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Watching it all was his best friend, Beau.

With a great deal of medical care, John miraculously survived. Following medical treatment, he was sent to the psych unit for evaluation. The determination was, that besides needing an oxygen tank to breathe, emotionally, John was “stable”. Astonishingly, a mere 36 hours later, he was released.

John was then admitted to a nursing facility which provided structure for him, and he did fairly well. While he was there, all he talked about was his dog. Judy,

John’s sister, brought Beau to see him, but the dog barked so much that they began taking John to Helen’s home for a few hours so that the two could visit.

Beau’s sad eyes would perk up as he greeted John at Helen’s door, and John was equally glad to see him. But just two weeks later, John lit a cigarette in his mother’s home while using his oxygen tank. The tank exploded and he burned to death.

beau2Again, Beau was there to watch it all.

When Helen found her son, it was too late. Beau stood by as he watched the ambulance carry John’s body away, and the sadness in his eyes deepened.

Now Beau turned to Helen, who was 88 at the time. Without John, Beau became more quiet, staying close to Helen’s side.

Helen loved Beau and he was very good for her. The two made a steadfast pair, easing into as much of a normal life as possible.

That included when Helen fell and lay on the floor until the following morning. Judy found her with Beau waiting patiently by his mother’s side. Fortunately, Helen suffered no serious injuries and was able to recover.

However, with growing health concerns, Helen had decided to go into an assisted living facility. She and Judy began transitioning Beau by taking him to Judy’s house for short visits. But on a night in mid-February, Judy came by her mother’s house to help her get ready for bed.

When Helen stood up, she had a heart attack and died immediately. Again, Beau was there to witness it all. He watched for the second time as the ambulance took away someone he loved.

Judy took Beau home with her that day, but he was anxious and pacing. With her  own grief still fresh, it took awhile for her to see that Beau too was grieving. “You don’t think about animals getting depressed, but they do,” she said.

Judy started thinking about Beau’s life and the two significant people he loved.

What did he hear on the day her brother died? What did he see and smell? How did he interpret what he saw? What was it like to suddenly lose Helen? Witnessing his guardian’s self-destruction may not have caused physical scars, but it had definitely caused an emotional one.

Judy looked into Beau’s soft brown eyes. How much they had endured! Judy and her husband were very attentive to Beau, giving him more attention than their other dogs because he needed it so much! “You see sadness in his eyes,” Judy said. “It breaks my heart.”

As if watching tragedy occur to the people he loved wasn’t enough, Judy recently found two tumors on his left back knee in the elbow of his leg. All she could think of was, “Will this dog ever catch a break?”

Money was tight for the couple. They had recently declared bankruptcy, but Judy was determined to get Beau the help he needed. That’s when she turned to The Mosby Foundation.

When we read what Beau had been through, we immediately said yes. If any dog deserved a chance for a happy life, it was Beau.

Judy’s vet removed the tumors, but was not very hopeful. As she waited to get the biopsy results, Judy couldn’t help but reflect on Beau’s tragic life. This dog had experienced far too much sadness, she thought.

Then the phone rang. Beau’s test results were negative. Yes, the dog that had seen too much finally caught a break!

Judy lifted Beau’s face in her hands. “I promise you this. You’ll live out the rest of your days with as much love as we can give you,” she said.

Beau lifted his eyes to hers and wagged his tail.

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