Maggie Forever in My Heart……That is what my new bracelet says. When I bought my first home on Ponce de Leon Avenue, it was the first time I had lived alone. I was not sure I was ready for a dog, with my chaotic work/life schedule, but Maggie found me, and I would never be the same. I was listing a pre-foreclosure home, and its occupants were having to get rid of her when they moved, and take her to the Humane Society.
Maggie had endless energy whenever I would visit this home, barking, jumping, wagging, smiling, showing me her toys, and her owners said she was already a good runner. I decided to take her home for a weekend to see how it was…….well, we all know how that goes….I now had a young, energetic dog. I was determined to “train” her, and not be one of “those people” who let their dogs rule the house……but within a day or two she was sleeping in my arms, having dinner with me on the couch, and basically being catered to in every way.
She was instantly my shadow, my best friend, and she was there for every up and down of life. Our running was awesome, even though she pulled for the first few miles. I was so amazed she would learn our routes through San Jose by heart. Maggie loved to play tag, hide and seek, keep away, catch (although she had horrible eye mouth coordination like her mom).
Also like her mom, she was hyper active, anxious at times, and expressive. I always knew what was on her mind…..if she was really sad or sick, or just “playing” me to get something she wanted. She was a born networker, and quickly got to know all the neighborhood dogs, as well as my friends and running partners.
We often went on dates out to dinner, running errands, or play days at the dog park. Maggie consoled me with kisses and loving eyes when I had bad days. She was perfect in every way, and I never had a lonely day with her at my side. She patiently wore all the silly costumes I brought home for various holidays, posed next to real estate signs, and faithfully perched next to me while I worked.
Bella came into our lives much in the same way, and they became best friends. They squabbled over toys, treats, best spot on the bed, but they had each other’s back and mine. I learned to run with both of them, and I drove them like a sleigh on our favorite San Jose routes.
Both dogs started to age, and I knew that neither of them would live forever. They still displayed unparalleled enthusiasm when I arrived home, or before a car trip or walk. The runs and walks gradually became shorter and slower, but still so much fun. Bella has an endless stream of ailments, but Maggie was always perfectly healthy, smart, talented and above all, loving.
Maggie’s eye started to get worse, but so did mine. One of my favorite parts of every day, was settling down for sleep every night, with snuggles from both of them. Maggie was always at my feet, and Bella would wriggle up right between Bill and I.
Last Saturday, Maggie did not eat breakfast, but that was not unusual, as she had always been a little finicky about food. We settled down with a movie, and Maggie stayed on the floor. I brought her a treat, and she would not get off the floor. I tried to lift her up, but she just collapsed back down. The look in her eyes said it all…….something was very wrong.
We scooped her up in a blanket and rushed to the ER vet. Talk about sad places…..death and sickness were everywhere. Maggie could not stand up, so they took her back immediately. After waiting for what seemed like forever, I saw the vet. I could not believe his words………..Maggie was bleeding internally from a mass on her spleen. We went over options, none of which sounded great. I visited with her, and she was so weak, barely showing any emotion other than tired.
I knew where we were headed, but I could not bear to make that decision just yet. I left her there to see if some miracle happened during the night, or for some clear direction of the best plan for my precious child. Was she in pain? Was she scared? Why didn’t I notice this sooner? Was I too focused on Bella’s health, so I neglected Maggie?
I slept fitfully and the vets called me twice during the night. They had to give Maggie blood, because she was still bleeding and very anemic. Then, they wanted to give her plasma, because she was not clotting. We rushed to the vet to see her, and I was about to make one of the toughest decisions of my life.
I knew countless friends who had lost dogs, and I always expressed my sympathies, but I never understood just how much it hurt, and how hard it was to go through that. After all, it was only a pet, not a human being, so how could it compare with the loss of a friend or relative. Boy, was I wrong.
We were in a room with Maggie. She lay on the floor on a blanket, and I sat close, petting and talking to her. She acknowledged my presence, but barely showed any emotion or excitement. The look in her eyes was mostly tired, but also understanding, as if she was telling me it was ok to let her go. There was no fight there, no agenda to race ahead on a run, or steal Bella’s toys…..just acceptance.
I continued to caress her, telling her how much I loved her, and how she’s always be my first dog. I told her that Bella would miss her, and that we’d think of her every single day. The doctor came in to the room to ask us what we wanted to do. I could barely get the words out, that I was ready to put her down, because it was a lie………I was not ready at all……..but I knew this was the best option for Maggie.
There were other tests and probes, and procedures we could do, on some outside chance, but really I would just be keeping her alive and causing her unnecessary pain and suffering…..just so I could take my time saying goodbye. It was time. I held Maggie in my arms, and the tears started to come. I started saying, “I love you Maggie, I will run with you again one day,” as I sobbed uncontrollably.
I was so scared when the vet came back in. I held her as he administered the two syringes of fluid. I thought it would be gruesome, but it was so peaceful. Maggie took a few more breaths, and smiled as she looked up at me in love. I repeated “I love you Maggie,” over and over again, as she went to sleep for the last time. I continued to hold her for what seemed to be forever, because I didn’t want to leave her. I finally gave her a final kiss on her sweet head, and told her I’d see her again one day.
I spent the rest of the next few days crying and reliving the weekend. I could not believe my grief, which is undoubtedly the most I have cried over any death ever, and more than I have cried in a long time. My mind flooded with memories of Maggie, and our wonderful 11 years together. Every time I arrive home I expect to see Maggie in her familiar places.
We cannot control or avoid death. However, we can choose to make the most of every day with the people we love the most. My San Jose house is special to me, but my pets, husband, parents and friends who shared time with me there truly made it a home.