I was talking to my dad last week and I hadn’t realized until he asked about Maggie that I hadn’t written about her here. I guess I don’t write here very often anymore, and it wasn’t the sort of thing I was really looking forward to. As Harry had lived longer and also had a longer, slower decline, I had sort of mentally prepared for some time for his death. Maggie, on the other hand, had been the picture of health up until June, when she started showing signs of what we thought was arthritis. A visit to the vet and some x-rays revealed that it was actually osteosarcoma (bone cancer) on her right, front wrist joint. There’s no treatment for that in dogs, short of amputation. However, for a thirteen year old dog that had already lived past her life expectancy by nearly two years, that seemed like a cruel way to make her live out her days.
So, we gave her medication and tried to spoil her. She continued to manage ok but the last couple of weeks of her life she had extreme difficulty moving about. Her tumor had then grown to softball size and she could bear no weight at all on her left front leg. She did get to enjoy several pounds of deli turkey in order to get her to take her medicine along with canned chicken in her dog food. That dog was always crazy for poultry.
Once we had admitted to ourselves that Harry couldn’t go on and put him to rest, we of course had to then acknowledge the level of pain Maggie had to be in. Could she last a couple of more weeks? We went back-and-forth but after just a couple of days after Harry was gone, she seemed to grow very depressed. Though Maggie and Harry were never quite what you’d call close buddies (they never laid next to one another or showed much dog-sibling affection), I truly thing it upset her when he didn’t come back after a couple of days. They’d never been separated in over 13 years for more than a day (when Harry had a surgery and stayed at the vet overnight). She had just become used to him in the pack, I guess.
She wouldn’t eat much, if anything (not even chicken). She moved about very little. The skin over her tumor began to rupture, either like a bed sore or from the ever-growing tissue destroying her bone. The question very quickly became, can she stay another day?
We decided that though she would hang on as long as we insisted, it would only be making her miserable to do so. So, only four days after Harry died, we took Maggie to the vet to have her put to rest as well. I wish I could tell you it was easier the second time, but I was completely unprepared for how difficult that was. I’d been mentally readying myself for a couple of years to accept Harry’s death but had never really given myself the time to consider losing Maggie so soon, too. You can know something as a fact (such as, “my dog won’t live forever”) but having to face that fact in reality is something entirely different. She passed with us petting her and telling her that she’d been a good dog.
Of course, Maggie maybe wasn’t the best dog when she first came to live with us. She was big and crazy. Imagine a hyper little terrier dog that runs around barking. Now imagine that becoming over 50 lbs. She’d attach the mail and the only reason she passed obedience training is because Pet Smart really won’t fail a dog. She outweighed Harry by two times, so playing tug of war was really more dragging him around until his neck got too tired to play.
But Maggie grew into being a great dog. She got a lot calmer, which comes later to terriers but it does eventually happen. She enjoyed going for walks and became my evening walking buddy. She’d let Angela pet her and would paw at Angela should the petting cease for even a few seconds. And on her last day, despite all the pain of her cancer and bones, she hobbled out our front door and followed the kids to the bus stop to give them a goodbye. She’d never done that before, but was determined to get into one last piece of mischief, I guess. They gave her a big hug each before they got on the bus.
So, now, a few weeks later, we’re still learning how to deal with a house that is a bit quieter than we’ve really ever known it. The boxes containing their ashes sit beside one another, by their collars, on a low shelf. Not really touching one another, but close enough they’d know they weren’t alone. Just like our two dogs spent most every day.