Monday, November 16, 2015

Maggie's Story

Maggie "Mags" came to me on a crisp but sunny Fall day, her frail frame tenuously held together by her slight brindle skin.  She walked with her back end curled nearly underside her body, her long lanky tail tucked between her front and rear legs. She was terrified. I was terrified too.

Emaciated and unable to retain food or water

My sweater. She liked the color!

Exhausted from stress

I was going to help her, try to save her, from the horrors that other humans had foisted on her. For 14 days, day and night, I cleared my calendar and stayed with her, caring for her - taxiing her back and forth to emergency clinics after hours and to the vet at more civilized hours- more times that I can count. Cleaning up vomit. Staying up to comfort her fears all through many nights. Cooking five different meals for her until she would accept a mere bite or two of nourishment. Mags even had her own fort, though it took some convincing...

Doggie fort and coercion!


We endured test after test after test. Finally, a barium study would reveal that Mags had been so starved by her previous owners that she ate a corn cob which lodged in her small intestines.  It would have to be removed in order to save her life. She was so incredibly fragile. But... well, Mags was clearly a very special girl and she was so worth saving. No matter what uncomfortableness she endured, she would sit next to me, trusted me, and already loved me. Oh, to earn the trust and the love of an animal...what a gift.

Mako very interested in Mags... maybe he saw his pain in hers

I took her on four short walks every day. She and Chemakoh liked each other. Very much. She even trotted, ever so slightly, at their first glimpse of each other, mesmerized. "Big dog," Mags likely thought. "Little horse," Mako may have surmised. Mags, a brindle English Mastiff, should have weighed 160-180 lbs. She weighed in at only 65 or so. 

Mags endured surgery on the same kind of crisp sunny day on which she arrived in my care. The vet removed a large corn cob from her small intestines. 

IV fluids for a dehydrated girl

Purple for our royal queen, post surgery

The evil cob

Our poor baby

We took Mags home the day following surgery. She was doing great. She came in and immediately began to eat and drink. We were so happy! She loved her red velvet KONG bed and she wore her princess tiger striped blanket beautifully!

Sweet beauty

In her queen bed

Visits from aunties 

Mags was obsessed with the reflection of herself in the mirror and spent hours that day and the next barking at herself. She was truly the sweetest dog I've ever known. 

And I thought she'd be mine. It looked like we'd been able to save her.

But on the third day after the surgery, she became very sick. Her breathing, labored and rattled, concerned me. I was on a writing deadline but could not focus on anything but Maggie.  We would return her to the vet that day where an X-ray would confirm that her lung had collapsed. She would likely not survive. I wept. Mags sat on the X-ray table draped in her queen's blanket. We would continue to try- oxygen, fluids, IV antibiotics... but her veins would not sustain the IV. We brought her home and tried all we could to get her through to the next morning. 

Mags died early Wednesday morning at home, in her bed, her frail bones held together only by skin.  My heart was shattered. It was her death and more that unhinged me... both my parents died in November. Too many new families. My own grief over the death of my daughter, Cheyenne. It was all mixed up in that single decisive moment of losing Mags. I was wrecked.

I spent most of Wednesday and Thursday weeping. That sweet dog worked her way into our hearts in a very big way. And I was saddened and angry at the humans who failed her. And the humans who, every day all around the world, fail the children and animals and elderly and other vulnerable who are in need of compassion and kindness but who do not receive such love.

Friday morning began much like the preceding two days. But I had an appointment so I very reluctantly put on my 'big girl' face and drove there, down the same road that took me to her vet, I'd driven many times with Mags. I cried. I had feelings of panic and distress. I cried more. I asked, in my head, the usual existential questions: What happens when we die? Does animal energy survive this realm? Did Mags feel my love? Did I do enough?  Is Mags with Cheyenne? 

Is Mags with Cheyenne?  "I don't know what I believe!" I protested!

Then, a car pulled in front of me as I was driving. It was a white Lexus but I hadn't really noticed as I was unperturbed by anything at this point.  Then, a very large object was moving back and forth in the back seat. Suddenly, a head popped out the back seat window. I squinted my eyes to see more clearly. I thought I was seeing Mags. "Crazy," I thought. "I've gone mad."  Then, the head popped further out the other window. "What in the heck?" I said to myself through my tears.

Now first, the English Mastiff is not a commonly owned breed. A brindle Mastiff even more rare.

I pulled closer to the car with skeptical curiosity. 

I began to photograph the car. I was pretty sure my eyes were deceiving me.

Snapped five pictures of the car

"Could this dog be a brindle Mastiff? No way. Not here, not now," I shook my head in disbelief a few times, but kept snapping photos.

So, when the car ahead of me turned into a nearby neighborhood, I followed it. Yes, I'm officially an impulsive pup-stalker. But I had to see this dog. I had to...

Turns and curves led us to a driveway. I parked on the street and waited. The driver exited his vehicle as I stood on the street in front of his house.

"I'm so sorry to follow you, and I'm not crazy, but, but... is that an English Mastiff?" I stuttered trying to mute the weirdness of that moment.

"Yes," he said rather carefully.

"Brindle?" I furthered.

"Yes, she's a brindle," he replied.

"Oh my gosh, a girl too?!" I exclaimed.

I think at this point he was getting frightened, or at least considered the possibility that I was, um, not okay.

"Um, well, you see, my dog just died. I tried to save her. And she just died, and I'm so sad, and I was just asking about heaven or the afterlife or souls and dogs," I babbled and stumbled. "Please, can I just see your dog?"

"Of course," he said.

A serendipitous meeting


She jumped out of the car playfully. She looked just like Mags, her face, coloring and even her disposition. But she was, obviously, healthy and hadn't been abused.  I bent over and stroked her. My heart hurt and I was so overjoyed to meet his dog, Cleopatra. 

I explained more of the story to the kind and generous gentleman.  I showed him Mags' photos and he was shocked by her condition. I told him how much I wanted Mags and how much she and Cleopatra resembled each other. I told him about the sleepless nights and vomit and medications and force feedings and cuddles. I told him how very happy I was that I got to meet his Cleopatra in this moment, how very much I needed this, how very much I needed to know that Mags was mine after all. 

He listened sympathetically and then said, "I really admire you for trying to save her. Not everyone would have done what you did for her. Thank you."

Then he reached out his hand and said, "What's your name?"

"I'm Joanne, but my friends call me Jojo," I answered with grateful tears in my eyes.

"Jojo, its nice to meet you," he replied. "My name is Cheyenne."

And I just stood in the driveway, stunned, and grateful.


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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