Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Missing Maddy

Our dog has been sick for a while, but the time finally came for us to put her to sleep.  She had what was most likely oral melanoma, and on Friday, she began refusing to use one of her hind legs.  We gave it some time, because she occasionally will sleep on her leg wrong, or injure herself somehow, and limp for a day or two and then be fine.  But she was still refusing to put weight on her leg on Monday, so we made an appointment to put her to sleep Tuesday morning.

Monday night, we had a special cuddle with Maddy.  We heated up her favorite (hot dogs) and fed them to her while sitting around her on the floor, then we read a bunch of our favorite dog-centric picture books.  When it came time to put the littles to bed and sing our goodnight songs, she followed us (hobbling) into Niall's room, so we laid down with her on the floor and sang to her.

The kids didn't want to come, but we don't have a babysitter down here, nor do we really know anyone.  I posted a message describing our situation to our homeschool group on Facebook and immediately got offers of support and sympathy.  I was really touched.  Another homeschooling mom came over to be with the kids while we took Maddy to the vet down the street.

The vet and his staff were all very nice, and Maddy was as comfortable as could be.  I wish we'd been able to do it at our house, but for various reasons, it didn't work out that way.  Poor Doug had to go to work after pulling himself together, and I got to come home and put away Maddy's things.

The kids have had a hard time, but they express grief differently, so it's been a little bit of a challenge for me to deal with, especially when I'm already upset myself.  Their grief is manifesting more as increased irritability and tendency to get into fights with each other.  Fiona has been really weepy about minor things, but when I ask her if she wants to talk about Maddy (after dealing with the issue that made her cry at first), she refuses.  If they were crying and saying they were sad about Maddy, I think it'd be easier for me to be sympathetic, but it's hard to be understanding when they're just fighting and snapping at each other.

Maddy was 14 years old when she died.  We got her when she was about 12 weeks old, from the Sterling Animal Shelter.  The SPCA and other rescue organizations have done such a good job with their spay and neuter programs in Massachusetts that it's hard to find puppies in shelters; often shelters will bring puppies up from southern or rural areas, and even from Puerto Rico.  Maddy and her littermates were found in a dumpster in Nutbush, West Virginia.  I'll never forget going to the animal shelter to pick out our dog - they had just gotten a couple dozen puppies in and it was mobbed.  How do you pick a puppy in a setting like that?  We went into a few kennels, playing with the puppies and doing the 'puppy tests' we had read about online.  Maddy was the perfect balance:  friendly and playful without being dominant or aggressive, submissive enough to let us do the tests easily, without being fearful or timid.

Bringing her home was a little unpleasant, though - she rode on my lap while Doug drove, and she threw up many, many times.  And the shelter was about an hour away from home.  She was an interesting puppy.  I remember feeling really guilty for taking her away from her littermates when she got really excited about her reflection in the dishwasher and stove.  She also did not like her kibble, and we almost put her on a homemade diet until we found a food she liked okay (Bil-jac, if I remember correctly).  We set up a big X-Pen in our room so she would have enough room to play a bit while I was at work - but we soon learned that Maddy was a climber - she could escape from that X-Pen in seconds.  We had to fashion a roof for it out of plywood and zip-ties.

When we moved out of Beverly to Haverhill, we started bringing her to doggie daycare.  Joe at Bone-anza became one of her favorite people, and he definitely had a soft spot for her.  He had a partition to separate the little dogs from the big boisterous dogs - it was about chest height on me, so maybe four feet tall.  Maddy would scale the partition whenever Joe moved from one area into the other, always wanting to be with him.  Sometimes she would perch on the 2"x4" that topped the partition.

We got our second dog, Lola, and Maddy was incredibly happy to have a sister.  I loved watching them play, and Lola was truly adorable.  Unfortunately, soon after we started having children, Lola began picking fights with Maddy, so we had to find her a new home.  I always felt bad for Maddy that she lost her friend, but rehoming Lola made it so that we didn't have to play musical gates, keeping the dogs gated away from each other, and Maddy could have more time with her family.

Maddy really was a wonderful dog.  We took her to several sessions of obedience classes, working our way into agility classes.  Our trainer frequently used her to demonstrate things in class because she always caught on quickest and was the most reliable off lead.  He praised her highly, telling us he could tell how hard we worked with her.  Truthfully, it was not us at all, but just Maddy.  She would have been a wonderful dog even without training.

My favorite story about Maddy is the Incident Involving the Strawberry Plants.  It was late spring and after a long day of planting in the yard, we ordered pizza for dinner.  It was a pleasant evening, the kids played, Maddy got pizza crusts (and more), and we went to bed happy and tired.  The next day when we went outside I was highly annoyed to see that one of my brand new strawberry plants had been dug up.  I assumed a squirrel or rabbit had done it, but since I had a few plants left over, it wasn't a big deal.  I crouched down and began re-digging the hole, only to hit a strange, firm, brown, coarse object in the spot where the plant had been.  I carefully removed the dirt from on top of it, completely bewildered and having no idea what it was.  It sort of resembled a big mushroom, but it was underground, not above.  After finding the edges, I carefully slid my trowel underneath it and gently flipped it over - it was a slice of pepperoni pizza!  My first thought was, "Is one of our neighbors playing some weird prank on us?"  But soon realized the more likely scenario - Maddy had not been hungry when given a slice of pizza the night before and buried in the freshly dug earth!

Maddy loved catching balls (she wasn't great at returning them, but she loved jumping in the air and doing backflips), she loved picking up food the kids dropped for her, she even loved the cats when they came along.  Above all, though, she loved her family.  Even when she was older and arthritic, she would follow us around the house, wanting nothing more than to be near her family.  She was so tolerant with the kids, so gentle, and always happy to see them.  

One of the gifts of her old age, of the 'forgetfulness' (which is so much kinder sounding than dementia, isn't it?) was an increased interest in playing.  For some reason, she especially liked to prance - in her old-lady way - around Lachlann, and when he sat down, try to climb into his lap.  It was absolutely adorable.

We were so lucky to have Maddy in our lives.  I know many people say that their dogs are the best (forgetting the jumping, the digging, the begging, etc), but Maddy truly was exceptional.  She was so well-mannered, so playful, and so affectionate.  She was smart and gentle and loving, and we miss her so, so much.

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