Thursday, April 14, 2011


My terrier Maggie is almost fourteen, quite deaf, and becoming incontinent. My rugs bear witness.

Maggie arrived when she was just nine weeks old, all needle-teeth and skunk-breath, and I dutifully crate-trained her. She took to it well. As she got older, I weaned her from the crate, so she could snooze unrestrained. The time has now come to reinstate the crate.

I set it up in my office and lined it with a foam pad, her favorite bed, and plenty of stuffies. Maggie looked on with deep suspicion. Next, I filled her plush fish with treats and put it in the crate. She sniffed, reluctantly entered, eviscerated the fish,and hopped out. I repeated the fish experiment the next day. She dragged the fish out and ate the contents.

I hate that we have reached this stage. Or rather, that she has. Fourteen years ago, she arrived, and I stared into those wild-dog-from-Borneo eyes, wondering what I was going to do with the little dervish that had taken over my house and life, disrupting routines, chewing furniture and shoes. And I knew that, more than likely, she would die before me and thus, someday, break my heart. Years passed, she grew up, we both aged a bit, and then, suddenly, it seemed, she was old.

Today she came into the office, gave the crate a doleful sideward glance and curled up on her old bed. (Yes, I've left the legacy system in place.) Why does she view the wire crate, once a safe haven, with such disdain?

Maybe Maggie views the resurrection of the crate as an unwelcome symbol (like those ugly safety handles that we are compelled to install in the bathrooms of our elders) of this sunset phase of her life, a phase that she would like to ignore or deny as much as I would.

Then again, maybe, like most of us, she is simply resisting a change that is being externally imposed. Had she been able to order the crate herself, choose the timing of its arrival, she might have warmly welcomed it. When she's ready, the crate will be there.

Meanwhile, I have taken up all the rugs.


  1. I really enjoy your quite distinctive prose style.

    Having just lost my two aging hounds over the past 5 months, and my beloved Golden Retriever Buddy only a few weeks ago, I appreciate the emotions brought to the fore when our animal family members approach that concluding chapter of their lives.

    Buddy was a wonderful dog who came to us when my youngest son Elliott was about 8...he just turned 20. Buddy was a loyal watch dog, a lover of chasing lizards (though he never quite caught one), and the Master of No. 1 Estate Canaan.

    His decline in health was quite precipitous, and after spending a shocking amount of money unsuccessfully trying to find out what was ailing him, the kindly old Vet offered to put him on steroids simply as a way of giving us some more time with him. The steroids had an amazing effect as his health appeared to rebound and his appetite returned. Their effects lasted only several weeks though. Eventually, even doubling up the dose didn't slow his return to spiraling downward again.

    Finally, he clearly signaled to me that the line separating life being worth living and not had been crossed. I had to make the call (which in all our years of having pets, I'd never before had to make)and help him to slip the surly bonds of earth.

    Always determined to follow me around the property no matter what I was doing, Buddy kept vigil as I dug his grave next to my orchid house, and then he followed me to the car where he allowed me to pick him up and make the sad journey back to old Doctor Jack. He was still able and followed me into the hospital, but balked at the last moment when he say I was leading him into the examining room. But he let me pick him up and gingerly settle him on the examining table (he never liked that thing). Moments later (I think Doc planned it this way, Doctor Jack suddenly appeared, inserted the needle and, as I tearfully held his big head and stared into his eyes, Buddy was gone.

    It is weeks later now and I still get misty when, as now, I think of him. I know I should consider getting another dog to watch the house, but it seems like a sacrilege to even consider it yet.

    I came across a quote attributed to Lord Byron that was the perfect epitaph for Bud, "He was beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity. He brought love, joy and meaning to amazing grace."

    I shall forever strive to be the man that Buddy always thought I was.

    Thanks for the opportunity to give expression to that which I feel so strongly within. Bless you and Maggie. I'll keep you both in my prayers.

    I am so proud of you and your accomplishments.

  2. Wow 14, Maggie is quite the special old gal! It's always difficult to reach this stage, but it sounds like you are helping Maggie age with grace and dignity.