Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Maddie and Me



I'll admit it. I am hideously attached to our dog, Maddie. This golden retriever/corgi mix came into our lives ten years ago. At the time we picked her out at the pound, the vet guessed her age at about four years. We got her because we wanted our boys to have a dog and they fell in love with her instantly. We all did. She became a part of our family and remained there.

She was the family dog, and even though there were promises to help walk her and feed her, you can guess to whom that responsibility fell. She and I walked miles and miles together—every morning and every evening, the same route, the same time.

When I worked in the yard, she came to sit beside me. In the house, she followed me from room to room, always settling down next to me. All those times I cooked for hungry boys in the kitchen, she was right there. When HOB traveled out of town on business, Maddie stayed with me, making me feel safe and keeping me company. Needless to say, we’ve had some good talks over the years.

One night I went to bed and she flopped on her bed in the darkened bedroom. I suddenly remembered something I needed in the living room and without turning on the lights, I went out to get it. On the way, I tripped over an ottoman and went down hard. I thought surely I had broken a rib or two and struggled to try and get up, but lay back down instead, trying hard not to cry. I called out to HOB but he was in his office with the door shut. Both boys were in their bedrooms asleep. A minute passed and then in the quiet dark of the night, I heard the steady sounds of Maddie’s toenails as she made her way across the hard living room floor. She stood beside me and waited for me the get up. When I did, she wagged her tail. Then she turned and I followed her back to the bedroom. She waited for me to climb into bed and then she went back to her own.

Maddie has slowed down considerably in the past year or so. Our regular walks are a thing of the past. She sleeps a lot more. She stays on her bed more. There are times she doesn’t make it completely out the door to do her business. Sometimes when I come home, she does not wake up when the garage door opens and yet, when she finally does awaken and sees me, her eyes light up and the tail begins to wag.

Her list of medications grows and recently she's had some severe skin issues. Last week we had her shaved so we could treat that condition. When she got back from the groomer, we found this marking on her neck freshly-shaven neck:



This, as anyone can plainly see, is her love note to us.


Two days ago I walked by her and saw her staring at me—her head strangely tilted. She was twitching; her eyes were racing back and forth. When she got up to walk, she stumbled and fell. She vomited on the floor. I called HOB who looked at her and then at me and shook his head. It appeared she had had a stroke. With great sadness, I called the veterinarian who does in-home euthanasia. He said he could be there by 3:30pm. We spent the day saying our goodbyes. It was heart-wrenching to watch Evan say farewell to his dog.

The doctor got there and recognized the symptoms immediately. It was not a stroke. It was geriatric vestibular syndrome—an inner ear problem that could possibly be treated. He said considering her age and other problems, he could put her down, but he needed us to know that this syndrome could be treated if we were willing to do so.

HOB and I looked at each other. We did not say much but I know we were thinking there had already been too much sorrow this year. We were going to rally around this dog. The vet assured us Maddie was not in pain and could have a good quality of life if the treatment was successful.

So our girl is still here, but this last scare made me realize my attachment for this dog goes deeper than the normal love I have for animals.

I realize now that Maddie is, for me, a link to the past. She is the survivor of all those years of growth and change in our boys. She and I have watched it all---first days of school, the skateboarding years, the soccer years, the driving lessons, the farewell to Sonny Boy as he set out for college. Maddie and I have stayed put and watched the parade as it passed by. And we've loved it all.

The parallels between us are scarily apparent. Her boys love her very much, but she is no longer the center of their lives. They have found their own ways, their own interests. They have made the normal transition to independence and now their contact with her is minimal. It’s natural. It’s good, but there is a part of her that misses it all.


When I see a woman my age in the park patiently walking slowly beside an old dog, I smile a knowing smile. I know the story: it was the family dog, but the family has grown up and moved on. She now takes all her maternal instincts—the ones she still longs to exercise—and she heaps them upon this old dog. She will be loyal and faithful to this creature until the very end, because she finishes that she starts and because she understands, at least a little, what it feels like on this end of the journey.



74 comments:

The Vegetable Assassin said...

This upset me and made me all happy at the same time. I'm so glad she's still there. :) I loved my dog. I miss her every single day. Their love is just so....PURE.

Mamma has spoken said...

My dogs are such an important part of our lives too. They are like my children and tend to act like one too.

Tracy said...

Oh Betty, I am in tears as I head off to work...isn't it sad that some people just do not ever realize the power of our pets, our family! There's a quote I use in my book that speaks to this and they truly make our life whole.
I will be saying my prayers for you and for her for healing, comfort and strength!
thinking of you!
Hugs...

Gaston Studio said...

Each of our pets are members of our family too. Just last week, Sandi put Loki down at age 14 because his condition had worsened and she felt quality of life was just no longer there. It's hard, but the kind thing to do, and I know Loki is in doggy heaven, watching over us as he did on earth.

Perfect little heart Maddie has conjured up for you. Just another way to prove her love.

Nicolasa said...

This brought me to tears Betty. I don't have children, but I think often of what it would be like to have a family dog and this is exactly the scenario that plays in my mind. Daisy and I have a very strong bond and I know that I would do what I could to help her live a long life, without pain. I wish you and HOB the best as you treat Maddie.
{hugs}

Peggy K said...

Once again, I'm reaching for the tissues.
Our little guy is 15, and we see him deteriorating a little more each day. Today's blizzard makes it all the more difficult for him to get out and enjoy the snow as he usually does.
Thanks for sharing Maddie with us. Amazing how our four-legged members of the family show us their love!!

Anne Gallagher said...

I miss my dog. I had to put her down last year on my birthday and it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. She'd crossed the country with me twice, saved me from intruders twice, and was there for me through all the good and all the bad. At the end she laid at my feet underneath my desk. I miss my toes digging into her furry belly.

Cool Gal said...

I am bawling like a baby.

This story of Maddie is exactly the same story I had with my 16 year old dog in 2006. The previous summer I had the same scare in which I thought I was going to have to put him to sleep. Turned out it was curable with meds, but the dog was old.

By the spring of 2006, he could no longer walk, was in diapers, and stopped eating.

It absolutely broke my heart to have to let him go. Quite honestly, it's the worse thing I have been through in my life. He was my best friend as I had brought him into my world the year before I got married. He was my constant companion.

I now have another dog (clone) who brings me just as much joy. But, I'll never forget the first one.

I feel for you and your family. There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog.

Hang in there.

Hugs to Maddie.

Madi and Mom said...

BB I'm completely speechless. This post is a beautiful tribute to a beloved family member. Oh my goodness. God bless Maddie and God bless her family...you are are blessed to have one another. Give her a hug from us. We love that little heart on her neck.

Madi and Mom

Seams Inspired said...

LOVE this! It's hard to type with the tears flooding my eyes. Thank you for sharing your heart (and Maddie's) today. Happy Wednesday, sweet bloggy friend! :o)

Green Monkey said...

I broke out in tears before finishing - raced over to hug Miss Lucy and apologized to Mylo for yelling at him (he didn't want to go out in the sleet, snow, rain - so he left me a gift by the front door). So glad Maddie is still with you. The heart is amazing!

Old Kitty said...

Awwww wonderful BB!!! May you and Maddie enjoy your time together!! I'm so glad you rallied around your beautiful dog. I'm so glad you are all giving her this chance to live out her very special connection with you all!!

Take care
x

Theresa Milstein said...

This is such a sweet story. It gave me chills.

I've always been a cat person, but thanks to my daughter's persistence I've been thinking about the nice parts of having a dog.

I hope you don't have to endure anymore losses this year.

Cake Betch said...

Aww, this made me all weepy eyed :-)

Liz said...

Oh, BB! I'm in tears! I understand the attachment and love to our furry kids, and I'm so very sorry for your loss.

And I feel so bad for your family. You have had too many rough spots as of late. I hope your pain and loss ease a little with each day.

Voices in My Head said...

What a great friend you have in Maddie!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I love dogs... we had one for 16 years and the day we lost her was pure hell. I enjoyed your post lovely to read.

If you go to my site there is an award for you.
Yvonne.

Baby Sister said...

Well I'm glad I'm not the only one who's crying. :) This was beautiful. It made me miss my dog oh so much. I'm glad that you get to keep Maddie around for awhile longer. :)

Jingle said...

what a homely dog story, she is cute.

Thanks for the fun.
Happy Wednesday.

mskanorado said...

I think anyone who has experienced the genuine love of a dog, and experience life with one - has a similar story to this. The thought of losing our two dogs is heart wrenching - just the thought and we have probably a good 10 or more years with ours. My dad had a Weim when we were growing up, she was always good with the kids, my mom never really liked her because she always got into the flowers - but when my parents divorced my dad had my uncle watch her for probably a good 6 months. My Uncle told him that she wouldn't remember her when he came back - well, the day my dad came to pick her up he called her name she came running hopped in his truck and never left his side again. She knew exactly who he was, she had been waiting patiently for him. She lived to be about 16 and he called her "Sadie Girlfriend", he would scratch her tummy and say "I love you - tell me you love me" and she would do this funny little crying bellow that sounded I an I love you back. The relationship with a dog is so powerful!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Having four dogs of my own and being totally committed to each, this brought a few tears to my eyes. I know exactly what you mean about that bond going deeper. It does.

It's not kind to let them suffer but it's hard to let them go. I hope she improves and gives you many more years of happiness.

CJ xx

Flartus said...

Oh dear.

The moment of dread of every dog lover. I know exactly where you are. My parents just had to put down Charlie, 15 years old, and a character 'til his dying day. Mom still has his collar on her bedpost, right next to her pillow.

There is no way out but through...now it's time to return all that love and faithfulness to Maddie. May her days continue in peace and comfort!

Brian said...

That is such a real life story, and Maddie is such a jewel. We had twin sister doggies (no longer with us) that were total joys too. My sisters and I are sending our best purrs to sweet Maddie. Thanks for sharing her with all of us.

Linda said...

Betty, this is so touching and well written. You have touched a cord with every reader who has ever been "hideously attached" to a pet. Thank you for sharing, and may you and Maddie have much more time together.

Dillypoo said...

It's too cold to be tearful this morning! We lost our beloved dog, Frida, last year soon after losing my father-in-law. It was a very tough time.

Cherish these days with Maddie! She'll let you know when it's time (hopefully, that's still a ways off).

Out on the prairie said...

My pets are an extension of my family. After I lost my wife and the kids moved away it was too quiet around here, so here I am with too many pets.

Gigi said...

Oh Betty - you brought tears to my eyes (again!). I'm so glad Maddie is still with you!

GreatGranny said...

This is a heartwarming and tearful post. I do hope y'all get to keep her a long time.

The Adorkable Ditz said...

I remember when our Rottweiler died. SHe was getting old, whenever we did let her in the house she couldn't hold in her buisness.

She didn't seem to get slower, but one time we went to Laughlin for a weekend, came back and we found out that she passed away at doggie day care.

I didn't even get to say goodbye.

I knew her since she was a puppy and I was 3.

http://theadorkableditzmissteps.blogspot.com/

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

This post nearly made me bawl the way Marley & Me did. Thank goodness Maddie is okay for the time being. I hope you have some more time to love each other. That heart on her neck is really something.

Pat Tillett said...

What a bittersweet story Betty. This is the kind of thing that tears me up. Our family pets, the ones that have been around through thick and thin, have a way of getting into a part of our heart that is not available for people. Because of this it hurts us deeply when we lose them. Our huge old tomcat died a year ago. He grew up with the kids and we all were a blubbering mess... As I am at this moment. I really miss that boy!

A Tale of Two Cities said...

What an eternal bond you two must have. I loved reading your story--how very sweet! Hope there are many great times ahead for you.

Debi

jenny_o said...

I'm glad that Maddie and your family got a reprieve. We've had pets in similar situations. It's hard to see them ill but you do the best you can until it's time, and you'll know when it's time. It's the last thing you can help them with, the moving to and through the end. Happy for all of you right now, though!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

We had several dogs growing up and they were family. I always hated making that decision because I didn't want to see them go.

floweringmama said...

Awww, Betty. I cried.

Cricket said...

A beautiful, touching post.

Been away for a while and have missed these. You have a way....

ds said...

Oh, beautiful. For everyone who has ever belonged to a dog, or a cat; for every dog (or cat) who is family, thank you.

LittleSilkDress said...

Oh, Betty. You made me cry. Those are the days I try not to think about when I look at my young dogs. I know it will come all too soon for me.

Such a beautiful post. I'll be thinking of you and your family as you rally around Maddie. The loyalty of a family dog is like nothing else.

Ann said...

I know exactly how you feel. My Molly (dog before Duke) was with me from the time she was 8 weeks old until she was 13. She did have a stroke and it was heartbreaking to say goodbye to her. Those who don't have pets can never understand how deep that connection goes, they are not an animal they are family.

My Big Secret Blog :) said...

This made me cry. Hurrah for Maddie still being around! God is good. :)

p.s. kisses to Maddie!

Leanne said...

Oh, betty ... you know, I have a hard time relating to things that are of the man/woman/child kind. But this post put a lump right in my throat, dear dear Betty. And her love heart on her fur - Oh, dear.

May each remaining day of Maddie bring you joy and love, my friend.

Miriam in KS said...

"Sniff"! I am glad you and Maggie have had a reprieve.

faye said...

I know exactly how you feel about
Maddie. I felt the same way for
Sweet Baby Alex ... my miniature
schnauzer that was so much a part of my life for many years. I cried for
three weeks after she was euthanized.
But it was the humane thing to do.
That was 12 years ago and I still
get teary eyed when I think of her.

Jules said...

Lord how did you know I needed to cry? From one devoted furry friend companion walker to another...I understand all too well.
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Shan said...

Phew! Thank goodness the vet isn't some wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am kinda guy.

Thank you for this beautiful story.

Marlene said...

I cried. What a beautiful tribute to Maddie. I'm glad she is still with you, and pray she has more quality time with you, her ever loving family. xoxox

Hilary said...

Oh this so tugs at the heart. I hope you and Maddie have some more quality time together. She is so clearly loved. Beautifully written, BB.

Lori said...

((((Betty))) I couldn't help but cry as I read this post...I had my own golden retriever for 17 1/2 years...like you, it started out as "their" dog but then she became mine...then after going through my divorce and my not being able to have her at the place I was renting, she had to live with my exhusband for almost 2 years. During this time she had a stroke and we didn't think she would make it. I did get to go see her every now and then but of course it was not the same. Then I moved into a place that I could have her and he was willing to let me have her although he said that he didn't think she would make it very long...she could barely walk up or down steps and from the stroke her head hung down on one side. So she came to live with me and within a month she was a completely different dog. I took her walking every day and she ran like she was a puppy again. Took her to a vet and she said it was very likely that all that time apart from me she might have been depressed for me which is why she had acted that way. She lasted another 4 years! She was the sweetest dog ever and the hardest day was having to put her down after many health issues. I swore I would never go through this again and now recently we have a flat coat retriever and he is now the love of my life...he is the sweetest dog and now he is following me around and lays at my feet.

I really hope all goes well...I am praying that Maddie comes out of this and is better than ever!

The Green Streak said...

I've had to say good by to four Beagles. Each time part of my heart went with them, even though another Beagle (or two) came along and replaced the missing part. I look at Sophie and Cooper and I remember Hund, Argos and Mekko. Something of the three previous Beagles has become part of the two who are essential to our lives now. May Maddie have many more happy days with you.

Rachel Murphy said...

I am so glad your girl is still ok. Makes me want to just cuddle with mine. My heart poors out with hope and blessing for you both.

Such a wonderful girl to help you through so much.

slommler said...

You have definitely brought a tear to my eye!! My heart goes out to you as Maddie goes through this health crisis. It is a scary time and I pray she comes out of this better than ever. A rally if you will!!
We lost our Eloise five years ago. We had to put her down...she had a severe stroke. We still miss her...she was my ever faithful companion. She knew all my secrets and plans. I still cannot bring myself to get another...it is just too hard to lose them! My heart is still broken.
Hugging you
SueAnn

Zuzana said...

What a beautiful post that touched me to tears. Everyone who had a pet will recognize the sentiments within. No matter what kind of pet it is.
We grow to love these as any family members and perhaps even more, as they love us back unconditionally. Not many people can love that way.
I am hoping Maddie will be around in your family for many years to come.
xoxoxo

Sarah said...

Out pets are blessings to our lives, and it's unbearable to see them age. I got the dog for me, so I don't even want to imaging how I will be taking it when that day comes. Thankfully Maddie is still here. The first picture of her is priceless.

HulaBuns said...

Wow Betty, this post touched my heart in so many ways. (Just so you know I cried huge crocodile tears while reading this.) So glad Maddie's condition is treatable. I hope she's doing better now.

Our dogs are also a part of our family. Hugs for Maddie and you! :)

ethelmaepotter! said...

Oh, what a beautiful, emotional story. I began crying when she didn't hear the garage door going up anymore, and by the time you called the vet, I couldn't even see to read more.
The image of the woman walking her dog is haunting me. Yes, it's true, when we have no children or they're off on their own, our pets become our babies.
It's amazing to me how much empathy a dog can have - when Maddie looked after you after you'd fallen was so sweet. When Fred makes me so angry I could scream, my dogs could take his head off. And right now, while I'm wiping away my tears, my dogs are all over my, licking my tears away, nuzzling me with their wet noses.

Thank goodness that vet knew what he was doing. I wish nothing but the best for the rest of Maddie's life.

Daisy said...

What a moving story, Betty. I love the little heart. How precious. How precious too is the love and devotion a dog can give its owner. I know that type of love very well. I'm so glad that the vet was able to recognize what was wrong with Maddie and to treat her. Hugs to you and to Maddie too.

Mary said...

Oh Betty, a very moving story of love. Best wishes to you and Maddie.

Nezzy said...

It's just so heart-wrenching to see our pets age for they are 'family'. I'm so happy she is still with ya and I hope she has years left.

I grew up with a dog I had for 14 years. {{{SIGH}}} I think of my Tiny often.

God bless ya and have a warm fuzzy kinda day sweetie!!!

roxy said...

I enjoyed this post so much, Betty. It's a wonderful tribute to Maddie, and I found myself tearing up as I read it. She sounds like a much-loved friend. I have a dog named Matilda and we call her Mattie. She's three now, and I hope I have many years ahead to share with her.

Kazzy said...

Who wouldn't be attached to that face? So sweet.

Pearl said...

Bossy, that was a well-written and heart-felt post. The part about the knowing smile when you see an older woman walking an older dog, that the family had grown and moved on but the dog remains, well that put a little hitch in my throat. I'd not thought of it that way before.

And that's what I love about blogging. All the points of view.

Excellent post.

Pearl

Velvet Over Steel said...

Beautiful tribute to a wonderful member of your Family!!! I too have 'custody' of my oldest son's dog. Even though he loves her and sees her whenever he can.. he is busy with school, work and life as it should be. He also knows that 'mom' (aka me) will always take good care of Ms. Pickles and I'm betting he also knows I need here just as much.. with all 3 of my boys grown now.
Thank you so much for sharing your own story!! I related and 'felt' it very deeply!!

HUGS,
Coreen xoxoxo

Susan said...

Just blogging around this evening and found your blog. You have done a great job with your page. I love the pictures. The dog in the sunglasses is adorale. We have a spoiled pug and he has his own wardrobe it seems. They are so much fun aren't they? Thanks for letting me visit.
Susan
http://amazingcouponanddiscountdeals.blogspot.com
http://susan-livinghealthywithchallenges.blogspot.com

Joanna Jenkins said...

Oh Betty. Big sigh.
xoxoxoxo jj

BECKY said...

Oh Betty, the first few words I typed here had the word "beautiful" so many times, I had to go back and delete them! I must say, though, that Maddie IS beautiful, both inside and out,as are you! I so related to all this. We had to say goodbye to our beloved Tiger Girl on 12/13/10. She was almost 14 yrs. old. I wrote about her on my blog, too. I wish you many more months-years of time with Maddie.

Brian Miller said...

breaking my heart and making me smile betty...love the little love note...and what a special friend...congrats on the potw...

Frank Baron said...

Dagnab it! You made me cry.

No, don't apologize. I'll blame Hilary.

Anvilcloud said...

I'm glad I came over from Hilary's to read this very moving post. It was almost a year ago that we made the fatal decision for our cat. Sadly.

The AC is On

Susan in the Boonies said...

Yer killin' me. I've loved and lost two really great dogs in my lifetime, and now, I have two not so great dogs that I'm just as crazy about.

Thank you, because this comment was actually MEANT to be about you. I don't want to turn it into something about me.

It was a lovely post.

Congratulations on your post of the week.

Barbara Shallue said...

Lucky Maddie and lucky you. I told this same story last year for our old lab Charly - he was almost 14. And now I'm on the last chapter of my 'puppy' Max's story. The joy outweighs the sadness for me, and I can tell it does for you, too. Beautiful story. Congratulations on POTW!

imbeingheldhostage said...

My first trip over and you have me sobbing like a baby! I'm so glad your sweet girl is still with you. Congrats on your POTW!

Life with Kaishon said...

Your Maggie is so beautiful! I love that she was able to be treated. That love is so beautiful.

Land of shimp said...

Hi there, I came here via Hilary's blog. What a lovely post. Our pets are our constants in life. I suppose to some it might appear that you are foolishly fond of your dog -- as I am of mine -- but truthfully, we're just the lucky ones who know the secret:

When you have long relationships -- children, friendships, spouses -- there will be challenges throughout. Times so frightening that you will truly wonder, "Is everything going to be all right? How is this going to work out?" an you worry and fret your way through but one of the things that helps, that makes that shorter? The constants in our lives. The reliably good things. The background stability that keeps telling us to hang in there and the most optimism and cheer comes from our pets who stand with us throughout.

I think that's part of why they are so very, very hard to lose because they are a big part of our support systems.

Maggie's a beautiful dog and a very fortunate one. I don't know what you believe -- heck, half the time I don't know what I believe -- but I do think that our pets go onto another life after this and that we will see them again.

Travel Nurse Extraordinaire said...

Lovely story and such a sweet dog! I'm glad you have more time with her to appreciate your connection and that's she's doing better. May you enjoy your time together every day until the end. Congrats on POTW.