Because I wrote a book with that last ‘Slane Girl Debacle’ post, it may seem like it’s something I gave a lot of thought to and have been consumed with today and yesterday since it broke, but I have not. Yesterday when I was at work my father told me that our family dog Maggie was going to be put down. She was euthanized earlier today. She had multiple inoperable tumors, the largest of which began to bleed. She had been distant, shying away from everybody and laying behind a chair all the time. According to my parents she was weak and in a very bad way. They decided to end her suffering. I’m pretty upset that there wasn’t a chance to see her one last time, I was warned by my mother when I visited at X-mas, that Maggie may not be there the next time I visit because she already had a large tumor which could not be operated on. For some reason I just assumed she would live on. I was very homesick a week ago, now 4,500 miles seems much further. I know plenty of guys and even some ladies who would mock me for posting about a dog but I just feel sorry for those people, they do not get to experience the undying loyalty, caring, love and affection that a dog brings. Dogs can get beaten, lose limbs, be close to death and if there’s a person around they will focus their attention on you. The majority of dogs live to make people happy. They are the only selfless creatures on the entire planet, including people.
We had a dog named Kelly, who was a beautiful old English Sheepdog. She was very mellow, loving and affectionate. She was just like one of us kids, she was a member of the family. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, she was my first exposure to death. It was more painful than anything I had ever experienced. I knew of death and was old enough to understand it. Kelly got cancer, she had a long and full life, she lived beyond her life expectancy. My dad drove her into the vets in the city and was with her as she was put down, he watched as the needle was stuck into her, she was completely unaware of what was about to happen, shortly after the vet completed the injection, she slowly closed her eyes and was gone. I remember going to my grandparents house that morning. All of us kids were crying and my grandfather or Pop Pop as we call him, said something along the lines of “a dog? get outta here with that crying” He wasn’t trying to be mean, some people just can’t relate to loving an ‘inferior’ being. Although I remember him saying it, I don’t hold it against him in any way.
After a few months had passed my dad looked up dogs for adoption. He found one for a dog who was about 4 years old. Her name was Rusty, she was a springer spaniel. A beautiful dog, she was the runt of her litter so was a bit smaller than your typical springer spaniel but she was as smart as her breed suggests. She was a hunting dog but had become gun shy, I guess the owner did not keep her for her worthiness as a pet…which kind of irks me but whatever, his loss in this case was our gain. Her instincts and smarts became apparent within 2 minutes of her walking in the back door of our house. She quickly ran to a desk which sat in our hallway. She went behind the desk, we didn’t know what she was doing. Then all of a sudden, the drawer on the desk flies out and falls on the ground and a tennis ball rolls along the floor before Rusty snatches it up and eagerly awaits a game of fetch. This was not the mellow dog we were use to!
Rusty was an amazing dog. She was smart and crazy agile! She could climb ladders, climb trees, swim for ages, play fetch for ages, catch mice, catch flies etc. She had been kept in a shed her whole life, yet she was house trained from the minute we had her. She would hold in her ‘business’ and wait to be let out. Not only was she an amazing animal, she was also an amazing companion. She was loyal, loving and affectionate. She seemed to hone in on your emotions and comfort you when she thought you needed it. She would sleep in my bed with me until my mother woke up at 3am, then she would go outside to do her ‘business’ and go into my parents room to sleep at the foot of my father as he was usually the first to get up. Well, Rusty got herself some strange around 15 years ago and a few months later she had a litter of pups, from this litter we kept one of the pups. That puppy was Maggie. It was strange to grow up and see the dynamic between a mother dog and her daughter. It seemed for the most part after Maggie was an adult herself, there was no nurturing. I guess maybe the nurturing may have been the fact Rusty would allow Maggie to get away with shit that she would snap at other dogs for…but nothing obvious.
Rusty lead a very long life. She died 3 years ago. Her ending was sad also but seemed fitting for the dog that she was. She was a dog of instinct. She had the characteristics of her breed, she was a worker dog, a hunter, a mother and a great addition to our family. She went blind when was around 12 years old, a lot of dogs turn vicious when they go blind. Rusty never did, she wagged her tail and at least acted like she was happy to the very end. She was becoming more and more noticeably timid and weak. She would not move very much. Her coat was starting to discolour and she was chewing at her own legs to the point of making them raw. We could all tell the end was near, maybe we should have put her down to help her with the obvious discomfort but she didn’t have any obvious disease or ailments outside of being blind and possibly arthritis. She still seemed happy. Well, she ended it the way an instinctive dog would. She had never rambled or wandered off from home. But one day she did. My mother couldn’t find her. Keep in mind she is blind. She managed to get away from the house and walked about a quarter of a mile up the road and was struck by a car. As some might know, a lot of dogs will instinctively wander off and find a place to lay down and die.
Maggie as a puppy was a complete pain in the ass. She didn’t have any of the instinctive traits of her mother. She couldn’t master the most basic of commands. She once actually did eat a copy book of mine that I used for school, so dogs can eat homework. A long with this she attempted to eat a fish hook, she ate some sleeping pills, she ate the chord part of my laptop and phone charger, she was a nightmare. She wasn’t even particularly affectionate to begin with. As she got older and ironically, I think, when my parents got another dog she mellowed. She was such a big girl! I saw her being born, she would fit in your hand. The last time I saw her she had the girth of Richie Kavanagh. She was a ‘mutt’, but she had a springers face and color but wild fur like a sheep dog. Her face was adorable. It was always fun giving her shit, calling her fat or something, not to be mean because obviously she wouldn’t know what it meant but if you said something which confused her, she would tilt her head to the side and curl her lip upwards. It was hilarious! I moved into a place in Castlebar when I was 18 and spent the majority of my time since then living away from home, so I didn’t spend as much of my life with Maggie as I did with Rusty or Kelly but I can remember being excited as a kid to get home and see her shaking her ass with excitement as we came through the door. She was a wonderful dog and we will all miss her.
Jesus…with all the heartache, I have briefly questioned whether I could ever get a dog of my own. Well, not despite the heartache but rather because of it, I feel like it’s the right thing to do. I want to have a dog in my life for as long as I possibly can. Right now, I live alone and recognize it would be unfair to leave a dog home alone for 9-10 hours a day but once I settle down, before I pick out a couch, a bed etc. I will be picking out a dog. I’m sure my parents who have made that trip twice now and witnessed two family members fading into death feel the same as I do. It sucks that they died and we are heartbroken over it but it’s amazing that they were given such a great and long life. Every dog we have had, has lived past their life expectancy and not one of them has been anything but loving. There’s been no malice or mean streak, just love. Everybody deserves the love a dog can bring into their life.