Our dog passed a week ago today. Her name was Maggie and I she meant the world to our family and I’ve been unable to post any of the piles of projects I’ve finished or have in the works because this post needs to be written. So today I present you with a very long, very personal post that has nothing to do with crafting or creating and everything to do with some written therapy for me with pictures.
My husband and I were married in May of 2005 and lived in my tiny one bedroom condo in Chicago with my two cats. Now to say my husband is a dog person is a misleading understatement. He is actually the Dog Whisperer. He loves dogs and dogs love him. Well, in August of that year we went to the Cook County pound on the south side of the city looking for a dog that might be able to fit into our lives.
I remember so clearly walking down the rows of cages that day and remember exactly the moment I first saw her. My husband and I had the very same reaction, “What is that?!”
The tag on the cage said something like “Agatha: Female, 1 ½ years, American Staffordshire Terrier/Pekinese mix.” She looked like no other dog I had ever seen and she was licking the bars out of neediness and trying to entice us to pet her. We petted her for a few minutes and then tried to look at other dogs, but it was pretty much already over. They let us take her out back to get to know her and she just licked and licked us and had the sweetest disposition. She went belly up to my husband right away – total submission.
We adopted her that day and as we drove home we decided to rename her because “Agatha” just didn’t sound right for her, but we wanted something sort of close to it. We assumed her former owners had maybe called her “Aggie” for short and so she became “Maggie.” As she sat between us in the front seat I realized how little I knew about dogs, having always been a cat person. When we got her home and introduced her to the cats I thought, “Oh my God, what have we done?”
The first few weeks were totally nuts. Maggie was really good with the cats from the beginning, but the cats were very threatened by this 40 pound creature with the huge jaws that I just brought into our home. Really she just wanted to play with them and for many months they wanted none of it.
Eventually, they got over it. And the more social of my two cats basically adopted Maggie as her own.
I remember holding my breath when I took this picture and thinking, “Don’t move, don’t move, don’t move!” because I so desperately wanted to capture the moment on film. After all the fur settled, the five of us enjoyed some pretty happy times in that apartment.
Maggie. Magatha. Pooh. Pooh-boo. Pooh-boo-tootie. Pooh-boo-tootiest-bootiest. Pooh-boo-tashi.
I remember how often I used to get stopped when we were walking her by people just wanting to know what kind of dog she was. She loved people. I remember one lady that stopped to pet her remarked, “Such a happy dog! She has such a beautiful soul.”
She loved to roll in the grass.
She liked to play fetch with her kong. And under that white fur she had brown freckles. Except her “fur” wasn’t really fur, but hair. And it would also get all curly when it was wet.
She liked to mess up couches…
She liked to be snuggled up under a pile of blankets.
The first quilt I ever made was for her. It’s the pink and purple confection she is sitting on in the pic below and I made it out of baby flannels because she was kind of our first baby.
Maggie was my first dog. Having been raised as a cat person and having lost cats, I can tell you that the experience is quite different. In our case, the cats always stayed home and Maggie always came with on trips. That means that while I’d occasionally take a group of cat pics in the house, Maggie is in most of our family photos and has been with us on almost every single trip we have taken anywhere since 2005. She’s been to Shawnee National Forest in downstate Illinois…
She came with us on a romantic trip to Door County, Wisconsin, and hung out by the fire place with us…
She came with us on our first big family trip out to Colorado when my son was about 9 months old.
She came with us on a trip to Canada…
But probably one of her favorite places in the world was our family cabin in Wisconsin.
She loved the pontoon boat. Every time she got on it she would immediately claim her sunning spot on the back end of the boat above the seat.
Can you tell just how loved this dog was? How completely she was part of our family?
So what happened?
Last week on Tuesday I went to Starbucks for the morning to work on job stuff and to post about the flannel quilt I made. Found a great job opportunity to apply for and spent some time reworking my resume for it. I came home all pumped up. My husband had a class downtown and then was heading to work so he wasn’t home, but my parents said that something was wrong with Maggie and that she had a vet appointment at 4:30. It was maybe 2pm. It was then that I realized that she hadn’t attacked/greeted me when I came in the house. I went back in and found her sleeping on the couch and she didn’t even wag her tail for me – she was super lethargic. Mayday, something is wrong with her. My mom told me that she ate her breakfast in slow motion that day – this for a dog who usually all but inhales her food.
My anxiety level was up and it felt like time was going in slow motion waiting for that 4:30 appointment. I knew we needed to get her in quick. When we did get her in, I realized when we got out of the car that her tongue and lips were pale, almost white, and knew that meant that she was anemic for some reason. Our vet looked at her and then asked us about 20 questions trying to pinpoint what might be up. Then he did an x-ray and ran some tests.
When he came back he basically explained that he thought she night have something called Auto Immune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA). Basically it’s a genetic disease that means her body started rejecting its own red blood cells. He said that it was treatable with steroids, but that it would get worse before it got better because it would take a few days for the steroids to work and that she would need all her strength to make new red blood cells. He also said that vomiting was a side effect and that we would need to make sure she ate and that we’d need to bring her in every few days for more blood tests. And that if she survived the first 30 days it would probably go into remission. He also said she might need a transfusion in the meantime and that it would come from his own dog if she did. He said it was a tough disease, but he had dealt with this successfully with several dogs. He seemed pretty confident and it sounded like we had caught it early.
He gave her a steroid injection and sent us home with an antibiotic and steroids. When I got her home I made her dinner for her and I was floored by how slow and disinterested she was in it. I broke up some cookies in there for her and she kind of ate one. Then I put a dollop of cottage cheese in with the food (vet recommended) and that seemed to help. It kind of stuck to the food and she slowly, slowly finished her plate. Then she drank a ton of water because of the steroid and laid down.
I went and gave my son a bath and put him down and came back down to her maybe an hour and a half later. I knew she needed to go out because she drank all that water and she really hadn’t gone out when we got back from the vet. So I put her harness on and coaxed her to the door and then turned around to find my shoes.
I heard a thump and turned around to find she had fallen completely over. I knew that things were getting bad then. I carried her outside and put her down in the grass. She peed and then just wanted to go back in. I carried her back in and upstairs and put her down on her bed in our room and brought up some water for her. A little while later she stood up and “asked” to come up on the bed. I picked her up and put her on the bed and she settled in where my husband’s feet usually go.
I spent the next couple hours reading everything I could find on the internet on AIHA in dogs. It was all bad news and the more I read the more I started to worry. I consoled myself that she was still eating, that she was strong as heck, and that we seemed to have caught it early. I fell asleep around 10 or 10:30.
At about 12:30 I woke up because Maggie threw up. It wasn’t a ton of food, but she looked like she was feeling pretty poorly. I cleaned it up and lay back down. She was really restless for the next couple hours. I couldn’t sleep – I was totally attuned to listening to her, like when my son is sick and I’m just listening to him. Same thing. My husband came home from work about 2:30am. He was making himself something to eat downstairs and I came down and asked him to come up to see her. He did and she wagged her tail for him a little. I tried my best to explain what was going on with her and what I had learned. He soothed her a little too and we settled back into bed with her between his feet.
But she was still pretty restless and I kept getting up to soothe her and check on her.
At 4:00 she threw up again. I turned on the light so I could clean it up and found that she had thrown up a ton of food and had also lost her bladder. I woke up my husband so we could clean it up and change all the sheets and blankets. When I went to move her from our bed to hers I realized she had either no strength or no function in her back legs. I made her as comfortable as I could on her bed and then cleaned everything up. We lay back down and at this point I was just listening to her every move and kept turning the lights back on to check on her.
She was still restless. A little while later I realized that the stiffness that had just been in her back legs had now progressed to her front legs as well. It was roughly at that point that I knew she wouldn’t make it through the rest of the day. I went downstairs and emailed work that I wouldn’t be coming in and at the same time knew she needed me upstairs to help her through this part of her life.
I soothed her on and off for maybe another half hour or hour. Eventually she seemed more calm and, overcome by exhaustion, I passed out for a little while until my son woke up. I checked on Maggie first. She still seemed more calm, but I realized she had thrown up again. I cleaned that up, soothed her, and then went and laid with my son for a little while trying not to sob. It was probably 6:30 I think.
I had breakfast and took a shower and called the vet when they opened and they told us to bring her in. I woke my husband up and determined that I’d drive and he’d carry her to the car. He knew she was in bad shape, but I don’t think he realized how bad until he picked her up at which point he cried out, “She’s like a dead dog!” When we got her out in the sunlight we could see that her skin was yellow – she had jaundice, another bad sign.
At this point she was near comatose if not already so, but she came around twice in the car in my husband’s arms in the back seat. When we got her there we brought her straight in and laid her down on the table. It was the same vet as the night before, one that we trust and has taken care of lots of our family pets. He seemed almost as shocked as we were by how quickly she had deteriorated. We talked with him for a while and I explained everything that had happened since we had seen him the afternoon before. It seemed pretty clear that she wouldn’t survive long enough for a transfusion to make much of a difference. There was nothing left to do, but to ease her suffering.
He took her back to get an IV started, but came back after a few minutes because he couldn’t raise a vein and she was going into shock. We said goodbye to her, gave her some final kisses, in their back room. Then we left and started living life without her.
I spent the rest of the day catching myself starring at nothing with my mouth hanging open and crying intermittently. She was such a big, joyful personality and she has left an equally large vacuum in our house.
But we are consoled by how much we enjoyed her while we had her. Frankly, she was spoiled rotten.
And she had a great life.
And she was loved.