We once lived with a big orange tabby cat named Bubba. I can’t remember how long we lived with Bubba but I know he was kind of the bully of our block, came and went as he pleased and every time I thought it was time for Bubba to go to pet heaven he would deposit a dead bird or mouse on our back porch as if to say, “Kiss my ass you fool, I’m not done.”
I don’t remember when Bubba was euthanized; I just know that Marty, bless her soul, was the one who had the courage and heart to take Bubba to the vet the last time. She relieved me of that burden, she was good like that, she was my partner, she was strong where I was weak.
Today we have a 17 year old doxie named Maggie. She was the runt of her litter and has outlasted her sister Phoebe by several years. Marty took care of that dog too. To my knowledge Maggie is the last of her litter. She is very gray, very slow and surprised when poop happens.
Maggie has lived a pretty glorious life, she’s traveled the state, been on youth trips, worshiped in more than one church (much to the chagrin of some members, so sorry), chased squirrels, been sprayed by a skunk, sniffed an armadillo, eaten cobwebs, ridden on the back of our boat, stolen a lot of people food and snatched a stick of butter from the family Thanksgiving table.
Maggie is a legend with family and care givers alike because she has stolen food from every one of them.
On the way to the lake this last trip Maggie had a pretty bad seizure while riding at Marty’s feet on the floor board of our car. I stopped the car, cleaned her up, made her comfortable and finished our drive to our house at the lake, a place Maggie really loves.
When we got there she couldn’t walk and was clearly out of it so I made her comfortable, watched over her, got her up a couple of times to go outside and tried to get her to eat and drink. She got better the next day but still had no appetite, wouldn’t drink and was clearly very confused.
I think it’s time and I miss Marty and her ability to see the truth with our animals.
In a marriage you share. You share the joy, you share the love, you share the happiness but you also get to share the burdens and the sorrows, that’s just part of the gig. Marty was born to a meat packer and cattleman so she has a different, probably better relationship with animals, than I do. She is not hard, but with our dogs she was the alpha, I was just a member of the pack. Marty accepted the burden of loving enough to do the right thing.
After Marty’s stroke I became the lead dog with Maggie. She looked to me for food, water, a place to sleep and an occasional rub of the neck. Maggie was still Marty’s dog. When Marty had one of her seizures and we laid her on the floor to recover Maggie curled up beside Marty and would not leave her side. I finally had to put her outside so I could care for Marty. Maggie was loud and insistent that she come back and be with Marty.
That has been their relationship, Maggie, in her own way, watched out for her former pack leader. She knew Marty wasn’t in charge of her anymore but she wasn’t going to abandon her alpha, she never has.
It falls to me to take Maggie on her last ride; it falls to me to pick up the burden of loving our dog one last time and helping her find relief from a long life well lived. I’ve always said I would know what the right thing to do was but I don’t know if I will have the courage to do it.
I suspect I will because it’s ultimately what Marty wants, it’s best for Maggie and it’s my turn to take up the burden of loving enough to do the right thing. Its part of the covenant we have with those to whom we provide care. Covenants can be hard.
May she always have soft grass, sunshine, clear water, good food and excellent companionship.