Monday, February 22, 2016

Saying Goodbye to Our Girl

Sweet Maggie puppy died yesterday.

She wasn’t old, decrepit and at the end of her life. She didn’t have a long-term illness or an unfortunate accident. She had what we thought was a normal upset stomach and when it wouldn’t go away after several days like it usually does, Pat took her into the vet Tuesday. She plunged into barely moving and not eating Thursday night, back to the vet Friday, slipped even more by the next day, carried her in to be hospitalized on Saturday morning and she was gone by Sunday morning.

This beautiful girl was healthy...THRIVING…and was gone in matter of a couple days. As the daughter of a veterinarian I’ve heard these stories before and have witnessed the frustration first hand, but I still can’t get over this shock. Human medicine is far from perfect and animal medicine is even further from it. Dogs can’t tell you what hurts and most are so stoic and tough nobody would even know something was wrong. Everything is a just a guess; a 50/50 shot if you’re lucky and we weren’t lucky this time.

I’m sad and I’m angry. I’m confused and disoriented. I feel half dead and everything hurts. She’s been at the center of my everyday life and routine for so long, I don’t know how to function properly without her.

Margaret Elizabeth Rebecca Stamos Laschen a.k.a. Maggie a.k.a. Marge a.k.a. Black Dog a.k.a. Margene a.k.a. Mar Mar Binks, etc. and Pat were a packaged deal when I started dating Pat more than five years ago. Being the dog person that I am – like that crazy person who spends all her time rolling around on the floor with the dogs at a party kind of a dog person – I loved her immediately. But, at first, Maggie couldn’t have given two shits about me. She liked to be petted, but cuddling was out of the question for anybody, and while she acknowledged me with a sniff and a tail wag the first time I visited Pat’s apartment, her focus was constantly on Pat. He didn’t leave her sight and she followed him everywhere looking to him for cues for every move she made.

During one of those early visits, Pat was trying to impress me with his culinary skills when I heard this loud, “PFFEEERRRRT!” I looked at him sideways and a bit disgusted. Did he seriously just fart right in front of me? We certainly weren’t in THAT stage of our relationship yet. He looked down at Maggie and she looked up at him, butt on the floor, tail wagging, “Could you at least crack a smile?” He asked her, laughing. I’m pretty sure she was the only instance in which blaming the dog was actually true for both smell AND sound. Time after time, she would sit down and that distinct sound I thought only a human could make would reverberate off the wood or tile floor. For a sophomoric humor appreciative gal like me, it was funny every damn time.

With Pat traveling every week for work, my apartment replaced Maggie’s regular stays at the doggie daycare and we quickly developed our own special relationship. When dad was away, it was all me. She’d weave in and out of my legs like a cat – a sure way to tell she loved and trusted you. She had a special way of playing that she only did with me. I’d get on the floor and she’d immediately lay her head on the ground with her butt in the air and rub her face across the carpet growling and talking in her best Chewbacca voice. I’d tug on her armpit and feet and she’d nip at my hands. Eventually she’d roll on her back and wiggle and growl while I scratched and shook her belly. I’d usually end up in a pile of laugher on the floor while she licked and poked my face with her nose. Face kisses were reserved solely for me. Not even Pat got any of those.

She was guarded about exposing her vulnerabilities to just anybody, but not her many, MANY quirks. Her nervous or excited tick was to drink water. If she heard a loud noise, she’d go drink water. If she got in trouble, she’d drink water. If somebody came home, she’d go drink water. Although most of it ended up rushing out of her floppy jowls and onto the floor forcing us to always keep a towel on hand to mop up the flood. Even so, wherever we lived our kitchen floor and beyond was always treacherous. You never walked around in just socks unless you really liked soaking wet feet and slipping and nearly busting ass in a drool laced water puddle was almost a daily occurrence.

I never successfully taught her that pooping right outside the backdoor on the patio was not appropriate, nor was it OK to run inside as soon as the door opened while in mid-poop and finish the job inside. We’re guessing that was some sort of separation anxiety thing. One of my favorite memories was when I was living in the Uptown neighborhood of Denver and while on a walk she decided to take a dump right smack in the middle of 19th Avenue. I was lucky it was late at night on a weekday and there wasn’t any traffic.

She was smart, obedient, loyal and the most lovable doofus. She was the last pup in the litter and when Pat approached her, she ran and hid under a chair. She was always skittish and anxious and soon she proved to be a bit high maintenance as well. Her violent seizures started when she was pretty young and just as Pat got those under control the incontinence set in. Children wet the bed and apparently so do dogs. Daily medication and some accidents mixed in with her many quirks made her quite a trip. It really never occurred to me until a few days ago that a lot of people would have given up on her and dumped her back into a shelter or the pound, but Pat never did…and neither did I. It never even crossed our minds. She was our baby girl…she was his Maggie puppy. No wonder I gravitated towards this man.

That’s the thing. Even though her and I had a special relationship, I was a distant second at best to Pat. Absolutely everything she did was for Pat. Every step, every move and every breath she took was for him. She followed him everywhere. She’d sit outside the bathroom door, lay under his desk all day while he worked, watched him while he brushed his teeth and stared at him from across the room like the delightful little weirdo that she was while he watched TV. He would throw a stick or ball or her favorite duck toy and she’d retrieve it until she collapsed. Even in the deep woods or snow, she’d track the smell and bring back the exact stick he’d thrown like a needle in a haystack. Her purposes in life were very clear to her:  Love Pat and retrieve. Me, food, water and maybe a little bit of Andy were thrown in there somewhere, but we all knew and were content with each of our places in her life. I’ve never seen a dog more loyal to their owner or a relationship between dog and master more lovingly admirable. She worshipped him and she was his girl.

Pat can’t even speak without choking up right now. Yesterday was one of the worst days of his life and I’m really not doing much better. I’m doing my best to support him, but it has proven difficult since I’ve been fighting my own battle with depression long before any of this happened. A layoff from a toxic work environment followed by a difficult move, the fake, unwelcoming culture of Dallas and the fact that nobody will hire me mixed in with some strange and unnecessary events has done me in. Seeing my career, this thing I’ve always wanted and fought so hard to have, floating in the shitter with skid marks and a cigarette butt without a way to explain it has sent me into a tailspin of epic proportions. Everything else is good – marriage, home, family, friends, even the wonderful new friends I’ve made here despite the difficulties in doing so. As a logical, rational person, it doesn’t make sense for me to feel this way with all of these good things present. But, the illness is not logical or rational. I had no idea or could even fathom what it did to the human body and soul until it happened to me. Even if you think you know, you don’t. It’s serious shit. I’m glad I got help for it even though the upward swing has been slow and the fake it until I make it approach makes me feel like I’m just bedazzling a turd.

The things at the center of my life — my husband and my dogs; my family — have been holding my pieces together. Now one of them is gone and all of the shitty shit I was feeling before combined with this is piling up on top of me and crushing me. This is stupid and scary and fucked up and I don’t know how to deal with it.

There are a lot of people that say, “It’s just a damn dog!”

To them I calmly and unapologetically say, “Go fuck yourself.”

In fact, there are very few people that will really get it. Love is love. Loss is loss. Grief is grief. There is none of this grandma trumps aunt, mother trumps friend, human trumps dog in death bullshit in my world. I’ve come to find that none of that matters. What matters is the relationship you had and the life that you lead. To us, Maggie was a person. She was our family and we’re feeling her loss just as deeply as any close human we’ve ever lost…maybe even more. A piece of our lives and our hearts is gone forever.

When it comes down to it, dogs are infinitely better than humans. Especially Maggie. She was genuine, never spiteful, always enthusiastic and never fake or materialistic. She never boasted, gave all of herself and expected absolutely nothing in return. She lived to love unconditionally and be loyal to her people. Most of all, she always listened and stood by you in silent support instead of filling the air with empty words. We could all learn a lot from dogs.

Our sweet girl didn’t deserve what happened to her. She just turned nine and she was robbed of her golden years — the chance to get fat, lumpy and gray like Labs tend to do…a last walk…a last game of fetch…a last feast of Milkbones and steak. We thought we had several more years left with her. It seems unbearable that we’ll never feel that familiar head butt on our thighs or hear her chortling whine at chow time again. We can’t get over the fact that she’s not there to greet us at the door when we come home or laying right under our feet while we lounge on the couch. I’m sure I’ll forever see the flash of a black dog out of the corner of my eye and think it’s her.

She was a beautiful, shiny, happy ray of sunshine; just truly a wonderful, cool, one-of-a-kind companion that will stick with us for the rest of our lives. You are such a good girl, Margie. We miss you and love you and we don’t know what we’re going to do without you.



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