My (then fiance), Dr. J woke up one day and said, “Let’s go to the pound…just to see.” He had been pressuring me to get a dog since we had been dating and I always felt like I had a legitimate excuse to say no. “No, we can’t – we don’t live together.” “No, we can’t, we’re not engaged.” “No, we can’t – my family already has a dog.” “No, we can’t – I ate Mexican for dinner.” I finally gave in because I really had run out of legitimate excuses and I really liked the idea of having a heartbeat to come home to that was ours and not shared amongst 3-4 households as my family pet was.
It was a beautiful September Sunday in Columbus, Ohio (9.17.06 if you’re curious) when we went to the Franklin County Animal Shelter’s “Mingle with our Mutts” open house event. It was a pretty big event for the pound and they invited several dozen rescue groups to set up on their front lawn for good measure. It was sunny with piercing blue skies (a rarity in the Midwest) and the green grass of the shelter lawn beckoned us to come closer. Walking across that lawn I immediately eyed a Beagle Rescue and a *big* Beagle inside of a pop-up “jail”. It was love at first site. She was quiet. She was calm. She was super interested in her surroundings. She had a “pink eye” where one of her eyelids is pink instead of the typical black/brown. She was house trained and knew a whole slew of tricks. She had short hair. She had ridiculously soulful eyes that said, “Love me, please!”. She was a “she”. She was Maggie. She was perfect! I wanted her. Dr. J said to me, “Wait a minute – shouldn’t we look at a few more dogs before deciding on the first one we see?!” I didn’t care. I was sold. We signed the paperwork, paid the $100 adoption fee ($50 from him, $50 from me), gathered her up and brought her home.
The information we got from the Rescue filled us in on Maggie’s already eventful life. She was born sometime in August of 2005 and was immediately adopted by somebody who probably didn’t realize how much work a Beagle-Boxer mix was going to be. She was energetic and quite a handful so that person eventually gave her up to a Vet’s office around 6 months of age. The Vet took one look at her and said, “Beagle!” So they called up a Beagle Rescue nearby in Ohio, Beagles Rrrrrr Us, and they took her in. But she kept growing and growing and growing…Eventually, she was too much for even the Beagle handlers to handle and they sent her to the klink - no, really! She spent about two months in Madison County Correctional Facility living with the inmates, learning tricks, being cared for and rehabilitated by the inmates and, in turn, she rehabilitated them. They kept a daily journal for her and it is still one of our most treasured items to flip through about her time as a puppy. After her freedom from jail, she went back to the Beagle Rescue where she was passed over for a few months simply because she was “too big” by Beagle standards. But she was absolutely perfect for us! Home she came!
Whoever said two months in prison would teach you nothing?:
Adjusting to life with a “puppy”, even a 1 year, 1 month old house trained mutt, is always a big adjustment. Maggie had all of the usual puppy things to get over that used to drive us (mostly me) crazy. She jumped up on people all of the time when they came in the door, including us! She chewed on our furniture (but never our shoes). She barked at random things and would wake us up in the middle of the night with her “big girl bark”. She also had a tendency to “jailbreak” and try to run free – boy, did she like to run! She also loved to tug on her leash and was a powerful little fireplug – she could take down a whole city block if she wanted to! We took her to a dog park very soon after we adopted her and she clotheslined several 5 year olds. She also had a tendency to chow down her meals. I timed it once – 5 seconds flat. It took a lot of creativity to break her in and in some cases she never really grew out of everything, but she eventually grew up and out of most of those habits and became the absolute best Mascot Mutt and Co-Pilot we could ask for.
Maggie’s travels after adoption mirror that of her parents. She lived in three states: Ohio, Oregon and California. She traveled with us through 14, the final list being Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and California. She also got to see some incredible sights along the way like Yellowstone National Park, Devil’s Tower and the Badlands. She experienced cities like Columbus, Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, Salt Lake City and Reno. She also got to kick back in smaller towns like Bend, Kennewick, Sioux Falls, Cody and the farm fields of Iowa. She went up to peaks of about 7,000 feet like those in Lake Tahoe and Bighorn National Park and down to around sea level. She got to see the Pacific Ocean on many occasions, both in the frigid waters off of Oregon and in beautiful sunny California. She never really liked frolicking in the water, though a Sea Lion did intrigue her one time at the docks in Astoria, Oregon. In California, she got to witness some amazing sunsets on the beaches of Cambria, great hikes, amazing weather and her long sought after sunbeams. She saw snow, rain, sleet, hail, heat waves, cold snaps, blizzards and everything in between, though sunshine and warmth were her favorites. She got to experience the highs and lows of her parents’ life as we took her everywhere we could with us that was possible.
As much as her parents loved to travel and drag her along she really was a home body. She enjoyed hanging out on whatever back porch/deck/patio/veranda we had just to catch some rays and work on her tan. She lived in four different houses over the years as her parents flitted from state to state. She loved chasing the Canada Geese at our Condo in Columbus and curling up by the fire in both of her Oregon houses. Her California house gave her three floors to roam and she loved it when we let her out on the front porch to watch the crazy people walk by – her “big girl bark” came in handy in those instances. Her favorite spot in all of those houses was either in a sunbeam or, in a pinch, in front of a fireplace. She liked to stay active like her folks and she helped us with all kinds of remodeling projects around the house, big and small. She suffered through demolition, renovation, painting (including accidentally, a few times on her – oops!), air compressors, power tools and all of the confusion it brought to her world. She didn’t seem to mind it, but I’m sure she would’ve much preferred a quiet place to sleep with a lot of heat.
She had many rich experiences but she was always, first and foremost, a simple dog. While we loved sitting on the beach with our dog, she just loved being close to us. She hated car rides, but loved going places. She wouldn’t let me touch my keys without promising to take her somewhere. She loved sunbeams and green grass. California was her favorite for that reason :-). She was an insanely good catch, but a terrible retriever. She loved to chase the laser pointer and would follow us around even if it was turned off waiting for us to turn the “dot” on. She loved bees and hummingbirds. She was confused by cats. She hated the UPS man but loved the FedEx guy. Bald people were apparently very scary. So were long skirts, umbrellas and briefcases. As such, her guard dog ways were both very helpful and insanely embarrassing. Cuddling was her favorite pastime, though she never got up on the couch without first asking or “Mrf-ing” as we came to know it. She had three doggy beds in our house so that no matter where we were she had a soft place to lie down. We didn’t allow her to sleep in the bed, but every morning she would jump up the last 30 minutes or so before the alarm would go off and cuddle with her Daddy. She must’ve known we were weak to her wiles at that time of day. She loved to lick the dishwasher’s dirty dishes for us and even stole a spatula from the dishwasher at Christmas and ate it. I couldn’t be angry. She was too cute.
Maggie was our dog, but she was my baby girl and she knew it. She and I would “go to work” every morning, which was just a short shuffle down the hallway. This was very important to her as her job was to sleep on my feet and provide me with hilarious instances over the years of her having “dog-mares” and snoring while I was in meetings on the phone. Occasionally she would let one rip while I was on the phone for work and I had to quickly mute the phone so I wouldn’t laugh too hard while trying to remain professional. She knew the sun schedule, too, and would often whine for me to open the blinds at the appropriate time so she could get her suntan and look out for the UPS man – God, she hated him and I don’t know why. When I was having a rough day, I would walk away from my desk to give her a cuddle, rub her soft dog ears and calm my blood pressure. Best medicine ever.
Maggie was a talkative soul and we talked a LOT. Her eyes and head tilts always seemed to say, “But I really DO want to understand you!” Her earnestness to understand was something I had never experienced in a dog before. She had the most soulful eyes and expressive eyebrows. It wasn’t unusual to see her tilt her head so far that it was almost upside down like a bird. She mastered the art of cute. She always asked to go outside by running to a door (or a window if we were in a 30 story hotel), sit, MRF. No response. Sit, MRF! She would communicate this to us as opposed to the door, which I always thought was pretty incredible. Even if she was really sick, she would rather die than make a mess indoors so she would wake us up in the middle of the night if it was an emergency…even for vomit!
It goes without saying that she was an incredible dog as all dogs are to their owners. So it was a great shock to us when she passed away a few weeks back due to a short illness that took us completely by surprise and took her from us far too soon. She was 8.5 years old and far too young to die when she did. There really was nothing that could’ve been done that we didn’t do. Had a kidney been needed, I would’ve gladly donated it. Her last days were confusing and her final moments terrifically chaotic and traumatizing for me personally. As difficult as it was for me to watch our beloved and adored Maggie die in our house by myself, I’m glad she felt “comfortable” enough to die in front of me. She knew I was “there” even if I was running around like a crazy person behind her screaming to the vet on the phone begging for help. Although her last day was not very easy for us, I’m glad she died in a place where she felt comfortable. Familiar. Safe. With her Mommy by her side. Definitely not alone…
As we try to move on and grieve, every day is a small memory of Maggie and how she would react to the simple things in our house. Loading the dishwasher. Watching the UPS man make a delivery. Cooking a meal. Watching TV with her on my feet. “Going to work”. Picking up my keys. Listening to hummingbirds. Chasing bees. Hearing a doorbell on the radio or TV. Picking up the laser pointer (which also happens to be our TV remote). Seeing the leftover remnants of nose art on our windows and doors. They all bring back so many memories and each time it hits me my breath catches and I think, “Oh, Maggie…” I’ll be having those thoughts for years to come, I’m sure. And someday we will get another dog and love the poop out of that creature too. And we’ll mourn that pooch and cry as well just as we have our previous family pets and critters. But for today, she’s the one I want to think about and mourn and remember. She was our first dog as a couple. She was our baby girl. She was our Maggie…and she was very loved…