— The sun was setting on the day after Christmas, and the tawny-colored dog that rescued Karl Muehter seized the moment. Bosco leaped atop a big, wide tree stump and stood still above the other dogs, much to the delight of all the people in the Gloucester Township dog park, particularly Muehter.
“You’re the king, Bosco,” Muehter, 57, said. “You’re the mayor of this place.”
Minutes later, Muehter put a North Face vest on Bosco, then a blanket normally used to warm horses. Bosco stepped into the back of a small trailer connected to a recumbent bike Muehter pedals to tow his beloved dog around. Unlike most dogs and owners, Muehter and Bosco had a 5-mile bicycle trip back home in near-freezing temps.
Muehter and Bosco make this 10-mile round-trip together, every day, because they have a relationship unlike most others. Even a hit-and-run driver that plowed into them last year couldn’t stop the two. Muehter credits Bosco with helping him lose 60 pounds, for being a reinforcement in the lifelong battle to be sober.
“We both came along for each other at the right time,” Muehter said.
Muehter, a Clementon, Camden County resident, didn’t adopt Bosco at the worst time in his life, but it was a lonely period. He had been separated from his second wife, and a dog he owned for many years, another rescue, had been put to sleep. Unable to drive after multiple license suspensions, Muehter had always used bicycles to get to a train station so he could get to Camden, where he works as a behavioral health counselor. In 2016, he started volunteering at the Animal Adoption Center in Lindenwold, near the station.
“I was just so sad,” he said.
Bosco, whose real name is Bosque, is a terrier mix who came to New Jersey via Georgia. He was malnourished and, according to Muehter, had “ringworm, roundworm, and heartworms.” Medication for heartworms is hard on dogs, and Bosco needed a quiet place to recover. Muehter, who lived alone, said “yes.”
It wasn’t a fairy-tale introduction. Bosco defecated on the kitchen floor, then started gnawing on the door frames and eating furniture. Bosco settled down and soon Muehter ignored the adoption center’s calls to return him.
“I told them I wanted to keep him and went down there and adopted him,” he said.
Vanessa Leidy, the kennel manager, said she and other workers there saw Muehter perk up around Bosco, immediately. They had a good feeling the dog wouldn’t be back.
“He was definitely a lot happier, a lot more talkative and outgoing,” Leidy said. “He seemed to see the world through different eyes.”
Muehter grew up in Ocean County and said he started self-medicating depression with alcohol when he was 12. As he grew older, Muehter continued to use alcohol and narcotics as a salve, but it made life worse. He spent time in jail and mental health facilities and lost his driver’s license for nearly four decades. He’ll be able to drive again when he’s 62, and he’s saving for a car.
After quitting drugs, Muehter earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Atlantic County in 1994. He said he couldn’t get into law school, so he decided to go into peer and mental health counseling. Muehter gave up alcohol for good in 2011.
“Alcohol is what got me in the most trouble,” he said.
Last year, Muehter took Bosco on a flight to Oregon to visit the oldest of his two sons. They’ve also taken trains to the Poconos. He said a bus to the Timber Creek Dog Park would take two hours, but the bicycle cuts that time in half.
“I really need him with me. I’m not right when I’m not with him,” Muehter said. “He saved me from the depression. I was grasping when I volunteered at the shelter.”
On Super Bowl weekend, in February, a motorist hit Muehter and Bosco in Gloucester Township during their commute to the dog park. Muehter said there was no warning, no screeching brakes. When Muehter pulled himself up from the asphalt, the bike and the trailer were mangled. The driver fled. Bosco was gone.
“I was running around crying and yelling ‘Bosco,’” Muehter recalled. “It was awful.”
A motorist who witnessed the accident found Bosco, unscathed. Muehter believes the force of the accident launched him out of the trailer and terrified him.
“He didn’t have a scratch on him,” Muehter said. “It must have been a miracle because that thing was crushed.”
Muehter said he bruised his back, but said he refused medical treatment because he didn’t have automobile insurance. No arrests have been made.
Neighbors in Clementon and residents along Muehter’s route in Gloucester Township had grown accustomed to the unusual site of Bosco in the trailer and the smile it brought them. When news spread through Facebook groups that the two had been hit by a car, locals raised money to get them back on the road.
“It was so sad. This guy obviously loves his dog,” Gloucester Township resident Samantha Flynn said. “We always seem to use social media for drama and negative things, so I figured why not do something useful. I posted a status and we raised like $1,200 in 48 hours.”
Muehter said he was shocked by all the attention he received after the accident. He’s since upgraded his bicycle, rebuilt a cart for Bosco with blinking lights on it. It’s hard to miss, day or night. Muehter said Bosco was nervous to get back in his cart, after the crash, but his jitters have gone away.
“I’m here in rain, sleet, snow, you name it,” Muehter said as he unlocked his bicycle outside Timber Creek Dog Park. “It’s the least I can do for him.”