Thursday, October 18, 2012


When we first found Maggie at PetSmart, she was visiting with a local shelter hoping to be adopted. They guessed she was about 9 months old, but they had picked her up as a stray, so we decided her birthday was early September. Maggie was 8 years old when she passed away on Tuesday, October 16.

I had always had a dog growing up, so in my eyes, it's a bit difficult to survive life without one. My husband, even though he didn't have pets growing up, realized this and decided it was time for me to get a dog after we bought a house together. He found Maggie and took me to PetSmart to meet her. The local shelter told us how we could adopt her and we didn't hesitate. It was obvious she was a sweet girl and all we had to do was make sure she was happy in our home.

It took quite a few months for Maggie to stop cowering when someone would raise their hands above their head, but she soon came to realize that yelling and flailing arms meant fun in our house, not beatings. She greeted everyone at the door and barked at anyone she didn't know. She was a fierce watchdog and a loving family dog. She never once complained when our kids were too rough...and sometimes they were!

Two weeks ago, I noticed she acted funny after I had let her out in the morning. The next day, she wobbled when she came in. And the next day, she wobbled, then fell on her face like she had no control at all. I knew right then we were in serious trouble. After her first tests, the vet said she was anemic. The trick was finding what was causing the anemia. A week later, tests came back negative for lyme and other tick related illnesses. On Monday, her red blood cell count was terribly low and she could barely catch her breath for lack of oxygen. An ultrasound revealed the final verdict. A large tumor on her spleen was bleeding into her belly. Surgery was an option, but not a useful one. There was no guarantee she would even make it through the surgery to recover from it.

Growing up, we had to put two of our family dogs down, but it was always my mom that did it. This was the first time that I had to take a dog myself. And with my husband by my side, we apologized and we told her we loved her repeatedly until she was gone. It was, by far, the hardest thing I have had to do in my life to this date.

Maggie didn't chew our shoes. She didn't pee on the rug. She never ate things she shouldn't eat. She loved cheese and pretzels and her bedtime Milkbone snack. While I was unemployed and at home, she spent every minute underfoot. When someone would knock on the door, she had a protective bark that made any solicitor stand ten feet back from the front door. She loved to play in the snow. She was everything you would want in a dog.

Monday night, my husband and I slept downstairs in the living room with her, stealing every moment we could. In the morning, we told the kids what had to be done and let them stay home from school to spend some time with her to say goodbye. My daughter, at 5 years old, understood but didn't quite grasp the situation. Yet she cried and hugged her before she left. My son, at 12 years old, was more emotional, and like us, not ready to let go. 

As for me, my tears aren't finished yet. I've cried every night in the shower, so the kids wouldn't see. I've stifled them during work, so I could make it through the day. But, I keep forgetting...if only for a split second. When I come home, I think she'll be there to greet me. I drop some food on the kitchen floor and expect her to come running. Someone knocks at the door and I expect her to bark. I get ready for bed and think I need to let her out one last time. It's going to be a long while before I can accept that she's gone. Right now, I'm sad. I'm angry. I'm needing her here with me. And even when the day comes that we are ready for a new dog, I'm pretty sure I'll still be missing her as much as I do today.

Goodbye, sweet Maggie. You are one in a million, baby. I will miss you every day.