Warning: Long and mushy post about my dog. Read at your own risk.
My dog Maggie came into my life in that strange gap between college and realizing I was an adult. I was buying my first house and knew that I wanted a black lab mix and wanted to name her Maggie. Looking back I don’t even know why Maggie, I just knew that was going to be her name. Everything was in process to buy my house but we hadn’t closed yet. And then I responded to an add for a 9 month old lab mix. She came with a crate and toys and was reportedly “too energetic” for their toddler. I would realize in later months and years that she was
indeed too energetic and was probably kicked for her enthusiasm by the man of the house (poor pooch).
When I met her, she was happy and energetic and something clicked. She was going home with me. I had borrowed a family minivan to make sure I could fit the crate. We got to my parents house, introduced her to everyone, and then I put my very own dog in my very own Ford Escort station wagon and headed for home. Maggie promptly ate a cough drop wrapper and barfed all over the back seat. And that was the humble beginning of a great adventure.
A few weeks later, I remember the first night in the Nichols Homestead. I had closed on the house earlier that day — yikes!! I borrowed a big van and brought a few things to the house and Maggie and I moved in (a few days ahead of the roommates). That first night I was sleeping in a sleeping bag on the living room carpet, Maggie all snuggled up next to me and I remember saying to God, “Lord, if this is what you have for me, I am content.” Little did I realize the next decade would be learning what those words mean in my life.
Maggie was delightful, energetic, and totally insane. She was potty trained and nothing else, with a fear of men, toddlers, strangers, and feet. And she was all mine. I look back on those early years and laugh at the shenanigans. The first spring in my house, I bought a climbing rose bush and planted in the back yard. Maggie dug up that same rose bush a dozen times. Every time she began feeling neglected or was left in the yard for too long, she’d dig it back up. It used to make me nuts. MAGGIE!!! I finally got the hint and planted the rose bush next to the front door where it became one of my favorite parts of the house and was one of the hardest things to leave behind when I moved. Ah Maggie.
When I had my first serious boyfriend, shortly after getting this crazed pup, he came to my house for our second date. We were watching a movie on this round couch together and he had his legs spread apart as he slouched on the couch. Maggie appeared out of nowhere, jumped up and crushed his nuts. In one fell swoop, he was on his hands and knees, crawling around the floor moaning. And of course I got a serious case of the “this is so awkward I can’t stop laughing.” I should have known then and just ended it. Thanks Maggie.
Maggie helped me become the person I am today. She needed extra understanding. She needed training, management, understanding, and love. I failed so many times, and yet she always forgave me. Maggie and I weathered many years of roommates in the Nichols Homestead, threw many bridal showers, baby showers, saw many boyfriends, fiances, and husbands come and go as roommates got married and moved out. Maggie was my companion through it all. Sometimes when a roommate was having a particularly hard time or being overly dramatic, Maggie and I would just look at each other. She understood.
A few months after getting Maggie, Lisa moved in, and shortly thereafter she brought home a dog, Rita. Maggie and Rita were fast friends. Maggie LOVED to chase Rita around and around and around the yard. Those two became inseparable. We went on walks, bike rides, parades, and more.
And then Lisa met a guy and moved out of state with Rita. Maggie cried for six weeks straight. I started sleeping on the couch to keep the poor dog company at night because she missed her friend so much. And then I broke down and got her a new friend: Suzie.
After the minor annoyance of getting used to her spastic puppy self, Maggie fell in love. It was always funny to me that though Maggie was wary of people, she couldn’t live without Suzie.
If I took Suzie somewhere without Maggie, Maggie was out of her mind about it. Whining, crying, a complete mess. When you met Maggie, you’d think she didn’t need anyone, but in reality, she was mush on the inside and desperately needed a buddy.
Maggie would always punish me when I was gone too long (stealing things, chewing up important things like my hair brush, etc). And if I was gone for at least a week, she’d stand up and give me a hug before the punishing began- so I knew it was all just a cover for her true feelings. Maggie loved my dad and threw herself into his arms for a stand up hug every time she saw him. He always asked “She’s the one that doesn’t like people???” When our roommate Leslie would come home late at night, Suzie would just continue sleeping, and night after night Maggie would get up, give Leslie a hug, and then go back to sleep. She loved her people fiercely and when Maggie tried to crawl onto your lap for a toenail ridden snuggle, you knew you’d reached the inner circle.
Moving from the Nichols house where Maggie kept me company for a good 11 years was nearly as traumatic for Mags as it was for me. She spent the weeks leading up to moving crying as I packed boxes. Our last day in the Nichols Homestead was a sad day for me. Maggie and Suzie napped on their pillows as though they never wanted to leave. Me neither, pups, me neither. We weathered a couple months at my parents house, where Maggie scared away many of the barn cats, loved on my dad, and was generally a needy mess (me too, Mags, me too).
On the day we moved to the Little House on the Hill, Maggie spent the entire day in and out of the moving truck. She did not want to be left behind under any circumstances. She was gleeful riding in the cab of the truck with me over to the new house. And boy did we love our new spot. The yard, a house of our own, restoration of our normal at home rituals, mmm hmm. Life was good.
Life was mostly good anyway, except for the fact that there wasn’t a fence so Maggie
had to be tied up when she was outside. She was not a fan. That first spring in the house, I thought she might be declining (12 is pretty old for a lab) since she was peeing on the floor every night. Maybe she’s just too old, I thought, although she was otherwise quite healthy. Maybe she isn’t going to be around much longer. Miraculously, the day I finished the fence and let her out into a two acre heaven without a leash, the peeing on the floor ended. That’s my girl Mags. Never miss an opportunity to express your opinion.
Actually, Maggie was one of the most expressive dogs I’ve ever met. She had something to say about everything! Anytime she was at my parents, my mom would remark that she was constantly talking. I guess I just got used to it. The growl when she wanted to go outside, the growly/howly act when we launched on a bike ride, the excited singing when we went for walks, and mouthy responses to everything. She really did have something to say about everything.
One time my niece Jane was over and we were getting ready to take Maggie and Suzie for a walk. I asked their favorite question “Do you wanna go for a walk?” Suzie immediately began jumping 3 feet into the air, up and down like a pogo stick, and Maggie started howling. Jane said, “Oh I see. Maggie’s the singer and Suzie’s the dancer.” So true.
This past year I’ve seen her slowing down, aging, and very, very happy. She would spend hours outside patrolling her fenceline, making sure everything in her kingdom was in order. There was considerably less carnage than I expected, but it is probably just because of her advanced age and declining eye sight.
I knew her time was coming, but hoped against hope Maggie would just pass quietly in her sleep (something that would be completely uncharacteristic for this dog). Alas, I had a tough decision to make. Though she’d been slowing down and dropping weight for awhile now, she was getting frantic on a regular basis. She’d freak out if I didn’t let her inside immediately. Daisy would “sneak” up on her and freak her out (I think she couldn’t hear her coming). Maggie was running into the deck regularly, I think she couldn’t see the stairs anymore. And that last few days, she began falling down the deck stairs, unable to make it up the two stairs to get inside. Her hips were going. It was time.
Maggie is the first dog I’ve ever had to put to sleep and it was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I’ve seen this coming, particularly in the past month, and thought I was prepared to handle it. Just making the call to schedule that appointment had me bawling at my desk, even though it was abundantly clear that it was time.
We had one last weekend together. I worked on the kitchen while Maggie napped on the comfortable pillow nearby. We slowly walked the yard together a few times (she was limping so badly she couldn’t get far but wanted to be out there). I slept on the couch so she could sleep on the cushion beside me. And it was abundantly clear I couldn’t put it off any longer.
Our appointment was at the end of the day. I took a few last pictures of my old girl. Everyone went outside for a few minutes (Maggie needed help getting back in). And then I asked “Do you want to go for a ride?” One of Maggie’s favorite things. I felt like a complete traitor, knowing this was the final ride. She was super excited and even let me lift her into the car. Tail wagging, head out the door, this pooch was happy! And of course, I cried my way to the vet. I tried to sing her the Maggie song, but couldn’t choke it out. We arrived a couple minutes before our appointment, so I thought I’d make the car ride worthwhile and take her for a walk (another favorite activity). We barely even made it past the building before she was limping so much she could barely walk. Right. This is why I have to do this.
I was a bawling mess at the vet, petting her ear and telling her what a good girl she was to the very end. I thought I was prepared. I knew this was coming for awhile. And she was just a dog, right? Well yes, she is a dog, not a person, but no. I actually don’t think there’s a good way to prepare to say good bye to a critter who has been the face you come home to for over a dozen years. A companion through thick and thin. Sure, she was a pain in the butt sometimes, but she was a faithful friend to the end.
Maggie changed my life. And I’m so incredibly grateful God saw fit to send her into my life and to give us so many long years of adventures together.