Remembering Maggie

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.

How Maggie Plays Fetch

My First Stomp Box Project

For my birth­day, I decid­ed to work a com­plete­ly new project: build a gui­tar effects ped­al. I pur­chased the “Con­fi­dence Boost” project kit from (as in clones of pop­u­lar gui­tar stomp box­es). It’s a great project for about $15 which comes with detailed instruc­tions and makes a pret­ty decent lit­tle boost effect. The kit itself only comes with the print­ed cir­cuit board, elec­tron­ic com­po­nents, and off-board wiring such as jacks and potentiometer.

PCB com­po­nents and ini­tial off-board wiring

I sol­dered up the com­po­nents and off-board wiring and plugged-it up. And noth­ing. It did­n’t make any sound! I post­ed a cou­ple of pho­tos to the dis­cus­sion board and quick­ly got a response: the input jack was wired back­ward. In oth­er words, the sig­nal from my gui­tar was just going to ground and noth­ing was going on to the effect (or amp). I quick­ly re-worked the input jack and it worked. The tiny poten­tiome­ter (blue screw dri­ver knob in the pho­to above) was a bit tough to use.

I decid­ed it would be fun to go ahead and wire this up as an actu­al stomp box, so I ordered a few more com­po­nents and an enclo­sure. I spent some time paint­ing and fin­ish­ing the enclo­sure. I just used a white pen to draw out the label­ing, but it turned out just fine for this project. I read up on how to wire a footswitch for true bypass (when it’s off, it does­n’t affect the sig­nal at all) and with an LED indi­ca­tor light.

Enclo­sure design
Ful­ly wired effect in the enclosure
Wired up and turned on

But of course, it only real­ly mat­ters how it sounds. I’m far from a capa­ble gui­tar play­er and even worse when try­ing to film my play­ing, but here’s a small sample.