Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sugar Magnolia: 2000-2012

The past few days have been sad ones on the farm.

Since Maggie was diagnosed with a fast growing tumor in her leg last fall, we knew that our time with her was nearing its end.  Maggie, a purebred Akita, was the watchdog of our home, a constant companion to Jonathan when he was in law school and living by himself on the farm. I was never a fan of big dogs (thus, my six pound maltese pomeranian poodle, Viper).  But if there was ever a dog to change my heart, Maggie was the one.

She had giant paws.  Giant as in enormously huge to the point that the FedEx and UPS guys always thought she was a puppy and hadn't grown into them yet.  She would have been a 200 lb dog if she had!  When Thomas was just a few weeks old and Maggie was transitioning into a "Mama Bear" dog to protect her new Wee Ski cub, she took on two boxers whom she thought were threatening Thomas.

Akitas have two thick coats.  They love the cold and aren't fans of heat.  We would often find her sprawled on the tile in the kitchen, where it was chilly and perfect for summer lounging.  When it snowed, she was in heaven.  She'd run and play and bounce around outside for hours on end. We would find her sleeping in the snow.  Sleeping. 

We spent an obscene amount of money diagnosing an autoimmune disease in her skin -- finally ending up at a canine dermatologist in north Seattle. The diagnosis gave her comfort in her last years because we finally knew how to treat it. 

One of the best lessons I learned from her was a calm perseverance. She detested doctors, the vet, and taking pills.  Never once did she snap at me or growl. She paced when she was nervous.  And in her last weeks, as the tumor in her leg continued to bend her bone, she never lost composure. Even on my best days, I am not that patient or willing to 'offer it up'.  But she always was. And she always loved us.  All the time.

Little Eddie Ross (just 7 years old) gave us the best gift when he told me he needed to rearrange our deck last summer.  He moved her bed right in front of our bedroom door on the deck. She loved her new spot and we decided to keep her bed right there.  We could see her easily at night (especially helpful when the coyotes were close) but great peace of mind when I was by myself with the boys. We were able to celebrate Christmas one last time with her (check out her size next to John Paul!). We were snowed in together for a week and she kept watch over us when the whole farm was dark.

On Monday, she pushed away her bowl of food.  I found her dog bones untouched next to her bed.  And in my heart, I knew it was time.  I called the vet to see if there was anything else we could do for her.  At 11 years old, having lived with an autoimmune disease and surviving cancer, she was a medical miracle for a giant breed.

Yesterday, Thomas and I sat on the deck with Maggie.  He was frustrated that she didn't want the bones he was offering.

"Hey, buddy.  Papa and I talked to Jesus."
"You did?"
"Yup. He said that Maggie did a really good job watching over us here.  He said we should be very proud of her. He asked if it would be okay if she came and watched over him in heaven, as His dog.  He needs a good dog up there."
"What do you think?  Do you think Jesus would like having Maggie as a dog?"
"She's a good dog. [patting her on the nose]  You're a good dog, Mag-dy.."
"We should share her with Jesus and not be selfish, shouldn't we?"
"Yes, Mommy.  Jesus would like her.  It's ok, Mag-dy, your owie will feel better too."

A little while later, I was in the kitchen, cleaning up breakfast.  I heard Thomas start yelling.

"Mommy!  It's SNOWING!"

I thought he was kidding as I glanced over to the thermometer.  39 degrees outside. And I kid you not, snow was falling.  Heavy snow was falling.  

I started sobbing, because that was a message from God to this sad Mama Ski. It would be okay. It was the "Maggie version of a Noah's rainbow".  I ran outside and shot a few last photos of her as she watched the snow softly falling. 

It lasted about fifteen minutes before it slowed, but gave Maggie one last chance to walk through it.

And it gave me peace on a day that was filled with sadness.  

Saying goodbye at the vet was unbelievably difficult for me.  Jonathan, my steadfast rock, took her for one last walk outside. And on our fifth Valentine's day together, we said goodbye to our sweet Sugar Magnolia. 

Dogs are an incredible gift from God...loving and kind, trusting and strong.  And often times, the epitome of how we should love.  Pure, unconditional love.

My favorite images of her are from the very first day I shot her on the farm, back in March 2007.  Nearly five years ago. 

I pray that she's found Viper and they are running together again.

We love you, Mags.  You were a sweet, sweet gift to us. 


Unknown said...

The conversation you had with Thomas was beautiful Shelley. I'm glad she got her "rainbow" before passing on. Thinking of you all.

Jennifer said...

I can't think of anything wonderful to say, but I think you are an awesome Mama Ski and your love for your entire family, pups included. Thinking of you :)

KCina said...

Oh Shelley...I'm so sorry for all you guys have been going through, it's been a rough couple of months, plus the weather in January didn't help matters....I can just see Maggie & Viper running around in the big meadow in the sky together...Hugs to you all! :)

Elizabeth Ann said...

The snow part got me the most. :( love you all.

Unknown said...

Shelley, that was truly the most beautiful tribute I have ever read. Maggie was so blessed to have you and your family as her own.

Godspeed sweet Maggie.

Kim Wombles said...

We had to say goodbye to my beloved Frankie, a giant orange tabby, five weeks ago today. It's so very hard to say goodbye. My girls and I stop and imagine him in heaven with our cat Ibit, who we lost in May, and their grandparents' two dogs, Cookie and Scooter, who we also said goodbye to this summer. Believing them together, healthy and happy and together is a tremendous comfort. I'm sorry for your loss--she was a gorgeous dog!

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