My friend Sharon’s dog Louie died this past weekend. I have met her lovely family many times—her kind husband David and adorable twins, Sophie and Will—but had never met Louie. I felt I knew him though, because he was such an important part of her life. He was old, and unwell, and a few weeks ago Sharon and I talked about that horrible decision pet owners have to make. It was just so with Maggie. So vital in her younger life—when we lived at the lake house she would run at top speed across the dock and then launch herself into the air, sailing several yards before landing in the water after a ball or stick. But by the end she could barely support her back legs. To go outside was an ordeal she dreaded.
Her body was giving out, but her mind—and face—was so alert. Almost entirely deaf she could still understand “biscuit” and perk up. So we kept looking for a sign that it was time and could never seem to find it. To have to determine what is kindest for your animal is one of the hardest decisions…near impossible because of the love and history you have shared.
As Maggie got older, and frailer, we decided to get a puppy so that Koa wouldn’t be suddenly the only dog. Finding one that would fit in with our complicated animal hierarchy was a worry—we didn’t want Maggie stressed in any way, and the puppy had to get along with Koa and Rebecca. A local labrador breeder (we only seem to get black labs!) picked the pup they felt had the best temperament for our household…and so Oliver came and settled right into all of our lives. Maggie, who never liked to share, seemed surprised when Oliver curled up next to her on her bed. But to the astonishment of all of us, she didn’t mind. Koa, whose role was shifting, didn’t feel threatened. And Rebecca has never shown such tolerance to any creature, myself included. So Oliver, with his easy-going personality, gave a balance to the household.
When the day finally came, we put Maggie on a bed in the back of the Subaru. Our vet came out to the car, so that Maggie didn’t have to endure getting out. It was a quick, peaceful end to a colorful life. I think we have more stories about Maggie than any of our other animals combined. She really was larger than life. But the wonderful thing about stories is you keep them forever. So while Maggie might now be buried in our orchard, she lives in our hearts and memories, and in that way seems still to have an active place in our daily lives. Louie will have just such a place in his family’s life, I am sure.