Her name is Maggie and she is my oldest. She got her name from the street of her first home in Atlanta; Margaret Mitchell Drive. She is as independent and cantankerous as can be and has been accused of being just like me which all in all is OK with me. She was an only child for a very long time and so got used to getting all the attention. Another reason we are similarly situated.
She was my first and she was pretty much unplanned. But once she came home with me I couldn’t imagine life without her. I took her everywhere and she came with me even though it wasn’t socially acceptable to include her. She went to the movies and restaurants and shopping. She even went to a few law school classes with me one semester.
I carry her baby picture around with my credit cards and drivers license. It isn’t that I don’t love the other kids, it is just that she was my first. Maggie is 17 going on 18 and for an Italian Greyhound or any dog, these would surely be considered her twilight years.
When she was puppy, I told myself that I would do all the right things that the breeder told me to do. First and foremost, he cautioned, when she cries don’t give in. Well, that lasted about 15 minutes. On the first night, I put her to bed in a small room with her toys and water and a nice warm bed. After the first five minutes, I knew I was a goner, it was just a matter of when not if. I went in to “her” room, picked her up, put her in bed with me and until recently she has been there ever since. I have watched her through her baby years, her teenage years, her mature years and now her dotage. I have watched her with all the attributes of the alpha bitch rule the house and have her way. I have watched her as she has fallen prey to time.
She used to be able to do pretty much whatever she wanted, but she has become vulnerable recently and like much of the world, those with whom she interacts tend to take advantage of her vulnerability. Maggie has doled out the discipline and control and now that she has only bark and no bite left she is baffled that what used to work no longer does. Protecting her ability to eat her food has now become my responsibility.
She has been the source of an ever present warmth and occasional frustration and sadness. She has frightened me as I watched helplessly while she suffered with back pain from a compressed disc. She has had eye surgeries, neck surgeries and toe surgeries. My vet file on her is thicker than my personal medical file and I have surely spent more on her health than I have on mine. The wonderful people at Dr. Anthony’s office have seen us through much and have dubbed her a “tough ole bird” and that she is.
I have watched her as she slowed down over the years and became less agile and more fragile. It is similar to watching your parents age, it just happens on an accelerated scale. After her second fall from the bed I had to concede that it was time for her to sleep elsewhere. I have a crate that has a pad and blankets inside and when I put it down for her I expected to hear her raising hell about being relegated to the crate for the night. It was as if she knew that it was time for the change and that was a good safe place for her. I am sure that I miss her absence at night far more than she misses mine.
When I come home for lunch there are times when she is sleeping so hard that I am compelled to check to make sure that she is still with me. She can’t hear and has limited sight now but still she manages to make do. I watch her as she heads off in one direction and stops as though she forgot where she was going and why. After a few seconds it is as though she remembers and starts up again. Who am I to find fault; I am likely watching my own future.
One of my tenets is that pets make us better people. Maggie has been my friend and companion and now she is my mentor. She is teaching me patience with her infirmities and how to smile through it all. Those lessons don’t come easy and I don’t expect to do too well when I have to quit learning them from her.