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

By Jason Coleman

Structural engineer and technical content manager Bentley Systems by day. Geeky father and husband all the rest of time.

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