Maggie’s story began around 14 years ago in or around San Luis Obispo, CA. The details are a little fuzzy, as they are for most adopted dogs, but by the time I met her, she had already had a long, hard life. Maggie’ story intersected mine in December of 1999, when I moved into the house on Branch Street in SLO. She was the quieter of two dogs living in the back yard. The other, Bacchus, belonged to the couple living in the back house and he and Lilly (my other dog) made quick work of the fence separating the yards so they could play. The couple also cared for Maggie, but she belonged to the house. She was old, she had rough skin and thinning fur, she spent a lot of time sleeping, but she would occasionally bring you a tennis ball to throw. When the couple in back would go out of town, I would feed Bacchus and Maggie, and give Maggie her medication in some peanut butter.
Some time in 2000 or 2001, the couple in back moved out to Cayucos, but they only took Bacchus. Maggie was left in my care. My dogs have always been allowed in the house, so I decided to let Maggie in too. It took the better part of a week before she felt comfortable enough to come through the door, she had been outside her whole life, but she finally came into my house, and my family. After a while, her skin softened and her fur filled in, and her energy level rose, and she started bringing the ball more often. I still gave her medication in peanut butter, but I was able to lower the dose. After a while, I got tired of saying the landlords last name when I called the vet, so when her license was due, I switched all her records to my name.
After this point, I began to take her with me whenever I travelled, as I had always done with Lilly. She was always ready to get in the truck and go, and always happy to get home. In addition to bringing another dog with me, I always had to remember to bring one more thing…the ball. She travelled with me whenever I went to visit my parents, and when I started driving to Hayfork to visit Molly’s parents, she came too. The first time I drove to Hayfork, it was straight from Christmas at my parents with all my stuff and two dogs crammed in Molly’s Geo, then home to SLO with Molly, all our stuff, all our presents, and two dogs sitting on top of everything crammed in Molly’s Geo. I think we were all happy to get home.
It was around that time that Maggie’s age started to show. Since I had started taking care of her, she had become full of life and energy, like she was having a second puppyhood, but age catches up to everything. Her eyesight and hearing started to fail. She could no longer see well enough to find the ball, so we bought her one that flashed, and she was happy again. As her eyes and ears continued to fail, she began to rely more and more on her favorite sense, her sense of smell. We had to keep a closer eye on her when we let her out, she would pick up a scent, lock on to it, and follow it wherever it led her. She couldn’t hear us calling her back (or she used her hearing as a convenient excuse to ignore us) and we had to walk over and touch her to bring her out of her scent trance. The biggest blow was in the fall of 2005, when she tore a tendon in her back leg. It wouldn’t heal on it’s own, and she developed a painful limp. Worst of all, it was seriously aggravated by the thing she loved doing the most, chasing the ball. This was most distressing to all of us, so I got everything set up with the vet to surgically repair her hind leg, but when she went in for pre-surgery blood work, it came back with problems. She wasn’t healthy enough to have surgery. That holiday season, she went with us to visit our families for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but she wasn’t herself. I started to fear she wasn’t going to be around much longer.
After all the holiday stress and travelling, she rebounded. She got her energy back, and was able to compensate for her leg, though we still kept an eye on it and stopped throwing the ball when she started limping. I was worried she would have problems when we moved to Hayfork in the fall of 2006, but she had spent enough time on the ranch during holiday visits and the wedding that she didn’t seem to mind. Shortly after that, we moved over the hill to Weaverville, were we both work, and she moved right in with us. Maggie seemed to take all the stress and changes 2006 presented in stride, and I think she welcomed the move, since she would finally have a nice lawn to chase the ball across, instead of concrete.
As the four of us (Me, Molly, Maggie, and Lilly) entered 2007, we looked forward to the new year, but as we relaxed on the couch watching a late night movie, things took a turn for the worse. We heard a thump in the bedroom that didn’t sound right. When I went to investigate, I found Maggie lying on the floor having a seizure. After a while, it passed, and a few minutes later she was up and around again, if only a little wobbly. We snuggled with her on the couch for a while, and it wasn’t long before she found her ball and brought it to us to throw. We though the worst had passed. About half an hour later, we realized the worst had yet to come when we found her on the bathroom floor seizing again. This one was worse. When it was over, it took her a long time to regain control of her body, and even longer to stand up. Once she was walking again, it was clear that something wasn’t right. She was walking, but she couldn’t see. I put the leash on her and acted as her seeing-eye-human as we walked around the house. Molly and I decided to take her to the emergency vet in Redding, so we loaded her up (and Lilly) and drove 45 minutes through the fog. On the way, I drove, Lilly sat up front, and Molly sat in back with Maggie, who continued have siezures. By the time we got to the vet, she was seizing most of the time. We loaded her onto a stretcher and carried her in. When she wasn’t having a seizure, it was clear that she wasn’t healthy. She was unresponsive and her eyes were vacant. The vet sedated her to stop the seizures, and we talked about what to do next. We decided to try some anti-seizure medications and left her with the vet to see if there was any improvement. That evening, we called, but the news wasn’t any better. The vet was keeping here comfortable, and wanted to try one more drug. The next day we went back out to Redding to see her and talk to the vet. The seizures had mostly stopped, but Maggie wasn’t happy. After several hours without sedation, she still didn’t have much control over her muscles, and she was still unresponsive. It was clear that she was scared and confused because she didn’t know what was going on and her muscles weren’t doing what she told them to do. It was then that we made the hardest decision we have had to make. Maggies story ended the evening of January 4th, 2007, but she will always be remembered by those who threw the ball.
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