Monday, August 28, 2006

Eight weeks

Our hearts are breaking.

Maggie, our old-lady, un-Labrador mutt, is dying.

She's been slowing down more noticeably in recent weeks. A nagging cough that's come and gone for a year or more turns out not to be the result of Lyme disease, for which she was treated last month and which left us hoping that her old self would return. And for a while it seemed as if she would bounce back. On vacation with us in Maine she had more energy, but the cough got worse. We assumed (with hope) it was just the heat and excitement.

She was romping into the sea just the same way she's done since she was a little one, yet her eating had all but stopped. Once we returned I noticed that she was refusing to eat solid food. Her bowls of kibble went untouched whereas in Maine they'd gone unfinished. When she snubbed biscuits, I knew something was really wrong.

It didn't take long for her to look like skin and bone. She was, at 78 pounds last year, already only a shadow of her 100-pound youthful self.

The veterinarian performed an x-ray Saturday morning and found the tumor: a mass taking up all the space in her left lung. He said it was pressing on her esophogus and that was causing her inability to eat. He prescribed adult uncoated aspirin, canned foods and mashed potatoes. He said currently she wasn't in pain, and we could take her home and try to keep her comfortable. He guessed she may hang on for eight weeks.

Eight. Weeks. The same amount of time Jed waited in anticipation to take home a little black-lab/suspected-Newfoundland-that-got-over-the-fence and name her Maggie.

I didn't meet them until nearly two years later, but I was smitten with his enormous, amber-eyed pooch.

She was a different dog back then. Fiercely loyal to him, she seemed to loathe women (though not me) but love other dogs.
In the year we lived together in a tiny apartment, she went from she-man-woman-hater to pack dog (with my Madeline) and people lover. Walks were still interesting. No dog escaped the lunging, loud sniffs. Her deep chested, throaty barks even frightened me from time to time. But slowly she began to change. Even her eyes mellowed into a warm brown.

By the time Annabel came along, I was more than a little worried how our now geriatric dogs would react to being placed in yet a new pecking order.

As one would expect, every infant cry sent Maggie lurching out of the room to a quiet corner. When Ittybit began to toddle, Maggie would move out of her way immediately. Relocating herself to a safe room, where no ears were threatened to be pulled or paws mashed under tiny shoes. Until one marvelous day when Ittybit just sat on the poor old gal just as she was trying to nap. Maggie bravely sat there, continuing her fruitless quest for sleep. Since that day, Maggie has seemed to enjoy the gentle attentions of our little girl.

Maggie has migrated from sleeping at Jed's side to the hallway where she can listen for Ittybit sounds, and now, often, I find her in Annabel's room, curled up in a corner where she can watch our little girl sleep.

Such love this girl has given us. And though I still can't believe we are losing her, and likely well before the time predicted, I can only hope the end is a peaceful one and without intervention.

For now, we'll feed her mashed beef and raw bacon, and dote on her with the force of all the love she's given us for nearly 12 years.


Be Still said...

Oh Siobhan... my heart is breaking for you and your family.

Maggie sounds like a part of the family, so I can only imagine how you feel right now.

My thoughts and prayers go out to you and Maggie today.

kimmyk said...

Aw. It breaks my heart to hear stories such as this. I hope that the following days to come are as peaceful and enjoyable for all of you.

My heart goes out to your family...

Anonymous said...

Hugs to you and your family, Siobhan. It's never easy to lose a beloved pet. It's hard to watch and wait for them to go, but I'm glad you're doting on her and giving her special treats. Take care. ~Jamie

wordgirl said...

I am so, SO sorry. I never knew what it meant to love a dog until we got the two we have. That affection took me quite by surprise and, if we have them as long as you've had Maggie, I know the loss will be devastating. I'm grateful for the unconditional love your dog has given you and your family, and I hope the end is peaceful. Thinking of you.

Andrea said...

I'm very sorry such a trusted friend is leaving soon. It's so obvious she is loved.

Gail said...

This news is really heartbreaking, Siobhan. Especially because it hits so close to home, for me. Please know that I am thinking about you and how precious this remaining time is with Maggie.