Losing Maggie -The Story of Maggie’s Journey

by Paula Lindsey, Guest Blogger

Copyright 2018, THE Toad in My Road

(Originally hand written on 18-19 April 2017)

On Thursday, April 13, 2017 shortly before 10 PM CST, I had to say good bye to my Baby Angel, or Maggie, my 16.5 year old mini-Dachshund. She succumbed to congestive heart failure brought on by old age.  I adopted her from the Denver Dumb Friends League as a 10 month old puppy in October 2001. For the next 15.5 years she was my heart and the soul I hope to achieve.

Everyone she met was her friend and every day revolved around her – or so she believed. Her favorite spot was in someone’s lap or held on their shoulder. Mommy was preferred, but others would do when Mommy wasn’t available.

She was small, with delicate little legs and a long sleek body but she had the heart of a tiger and for that reason, we also called her Tiger Boo. You see Boo, was one of her other nicknames – all of which she answered to when called. As Tiger Boo she would growl and bark at her bigger brothers when they did something that displeased her. I never saw this behavior with a human, in spite of the fact that her original owner’s boyfriend abused her during the first 10 months of her life. The girlfriend turned her in to the Denver Dumb Friends League, allowing me to become her new owner and to begin a journey which I shall forever cherish.

When Maggie came into my life, she was to be the little sister to Nikki – my other mini-Dachshund I had rescued from my Sister after her divorce. The first day Nikki and Maggie met, the romped in my backyard until they were exhausted and sleeping next to each other. And thus began a 7 year, 2 month journey for the pair. Nikki was “the Big Dog” and Maggie was her “little Sister”. Both were black & tan, short-haired, mini’s. At 14 pounds Nikki was the larger of the pair. Maggie weighed in at 9 pounds. They were so inseparable that we referred to them as “bookends” due to the fact that they sat butt to butt with their faces opposite, forming a semi-circle. “The Girls” were always together. Nikki became Maggie’s protector; no harm would ever come to Maggie as long as Nikki was present.

When we traveled, the girls stayed in the same crate; Nikki at the front, Maggie at the back. When I sat in my recliner, Nikki was on my left side while Maggie was on my right side. If I tried to change them to opposite sides, they would switch on their own. During the long nights doing homework for my Master’s degree, Maggie slept in the pocket of my hooded sweatshirt while Nikki slept in a bed on my desk.

Throughout Maggie’s life she had a habit of sitting up on her hind legs when she wanted something. Her balance was exceptional. No matter how un-level the surface upon which she sat, she maintained perfect balance. A Meerkat would have been put to shame by her skills. Nikki was much stockier, with bigger paws and more heavily muscled and did not have this skill. Maggie would beg for both of them though.

In 2003 we moved to Vicksburg, MS. Nikki and Maggie made the move like the superb travelers they were – always best buddies. One was never far from the other. In March and October 2005 Maggie & Nikki gained 2 brothers – Cooper, a long-haired standard black & tan Dachshund arrived in March and Geoffie, a wire-haired standard Dachshund/Terrier mix with red hair arrived in October. The girls did not think much of the boys and vice versa. It is funny, though, how the three black & tan dogs stayed closer together while Geoffie, the red haired one, remained on his own, more or less.

In 2005 Maggie became critically ill and had to be rushed to the vet. She was in the hospital 5 days while the vets worked to save her. She apparently had an intestinal blockage, likely caused by eating a Greenies. I never bought those again! The vet was amazed at her fighting spirit; he was not at all sure she would pull through. She fought like a Tiger and won! That was the last time she was ever seriously ill.

Maggie was not without her battle scars though. After Nikki died and was no longer there to protect Maggie, Geoffie bit her on two separate occasions. Both were bad enough to send her to the vet. He’s lucky I didn’t kill him! Maggie came first above all others.

I had always known that Maggie had a heart murmur. I felt it in her heart beat the first time I held her. It never slowed her down though. She was always curious and wanted to see what was happening. Sometimes she would tear around the house like a nut; other times she would sleep so deeply that you had to shaker her to wake her up.

In December 2007 we moved to Knoxville, TN. Maggie and Nikki rode solo with me to start our new life. Maggie was my precious Angel; Nikki was the house protector. The girls were SO quiet and Maggie was SO scared in the new temporary living space. Both girls stayed close to me when I was home, but Maggie was glued to me. When I left, they got in their crate and hid under the covers – they were totally silent so that no one would know they were there. A few weeks later when THE TOAD and the boys, Cooper and Geoffie, arrived, the girls became much less fearful.

Our home in Knoxville had an in-ground swimming pool. We tried to get the dogs to swim in the pool. Maggie was terrified. She would stand in the shallow water on the first step but had no desire to go further. Not even her favorite treats could tempt her off that step and into deeper water. Nor would it tempt any of the other dogs. Maggie did love laying on the warm concrete around the pool when the sun was shining! We called it “Maggie baking her boobies” because she would lay on her back with her belly towards the sun.

When Nikki died suddenly in December 2008 due to a brain tumor, Maggie was clearly distraught. She no longer had her Big Sister to protect her. During this time, Maggie became more attached to THE Toad since he is retired and home all day. She stayed with him in his office, either laying on his lap or shoulder.

Maggie was very afraid of being alone. Once, when I took Maggie with me to visit my Aunt in Louisville, KY, she chewed a half inch off the bottom of the bathroom door. I never knew she was a Woodchuck!

When we moved back to Vicksburg in 2010 and THE Toad went back to work, all the dogs had to stay in their crates during the day. Maggie was NOT happy. She lead a vocal chorus of her, Cooper & Geoffie barking so loudly that you could hear them to the end of the driveway. And even though Maggie was the littlest, she was the loudest. Every night when I arrived home, I got an earful from Maggie on the indignities of being in that crate!

Our last stop in Maggie’s life was Chippewa Falls, WI. The weather there was colder than I think Maggie had ever experienced – Denver included. While she did not like wearing coats, she did wear her coat, even in the house.

Throughout the winter of 2016/2017 Maggie slowed a lot. She slept more and her adventures outside were less and shorter. Much of that was due to a lack of a fenced yard. We ordered a fence but never installed it after THE Toad’s heart attack. All the while Maggie stayed in her fuzzy blanket in the blue recliner in THE Toad’s office. Only her little head poked out from the nest she made in the large fuzzy blanket. Initially any attempts by Cooper or Geoffie to occupy the chair with her was met with snarls and growls from Tiger Boo. Eventually THE Toad put the recliner footrest out and Maggie grudgingly allowed Geoffie to sleep on it.

Maggie’s “coughing”, caused by the congestive heart failure, continued to increase throughout the winter. She would have a coughing spell, it would stop & she would continue on her way. During late March and early April of 2017, on warmer days, we took some walks to the back of the yard. Maggie would keep up and occasionally run ahead. We never had her on a leash. Unlike the boys, she did not run off. One of our last trips outside, she had a great time, surging ahead of the boys in the grass with the warm wind lifting her hears to Dumbo-like flying.

On Monday, April 10, we took the dogs to Northern Paws Kennel for what would be Maggie’s last time. She seemed fine when we dropped her off. Then on Tuesday I received a call that she’d had a seizure while playing outside but had gotten up after a moment and was fine. Unbeknownst to me, Maggie hit her head hard on the footboard of  our bed a month or so earlier while I was on travel for work. She experienced a seizure afterwards. Based on THE Toad’s advice, we stayed in Minneapolis and I continued my meetings for work – this in spite of my desire to race home and pick her up – a decision I will forever regret.

Maggie suffered additional seizures on Wednesday & Thursday. To Northern Paws credit, they kept Maggie up front with them, which I am sure she liked. When we picked her up at 4 PM , they carried her out on her bed. Both boys and Maggie were very quiet on the ride home and all evening – which was nothing unusual after a trip to the kennel. Maggie and I sat in the blue chair with her and I wrapped in a big fuzzy blanket. Cooper sat in the other chair with THE Toad and Geoffie moved between the two chairs. Everyone seemed exhausted and no one asked for dinner.

Then about 9 PM Maggie began coughing and was unable to catch her breath. I decided to call the vet’s emergency number and take her in that night. THE Toad said the look in Maggie’s eyes was pure fright as she did not know what was happening to her. We got the boys in their crates and quickly got ready and drove to the vet. I was praying for a miracle.

At the vet’s office, Dr. Emily, a sweet young vet, said her heart beat was very erratic and was even stopping. She recommended an X-ray. I held Maggie down while Dr. Emily worked the X-ray machine to get the picture. That X-ray showed the devastation that age had wrought on our Baby Angel’s little body. Her heart was so big that it filled her entire chest cavity, pushing aside her lungs and trachea. Only 1 lung was working, the other was filled with fluid. Her little ribs were disintegrating. One was completely inverted and pushing in to her instead of out. The picture made it abundantly clear what had to be done.

Through tears and a quivering voice asked Dr. Emily how to put her down with as little pain to her as possible. I also wanted her cremated and her ashes returned to me. Dr. Emily said that she would give her a sedative, which could potentially kill her, but that would ease her current pain. She would follow that with an IV of barbiturates that would stop her heart. THE Toad and I hugged and held on to Maggie for what would be the final minutes of her life while Dr. Emily gathered what she needed. First was the sedative – a shot in her hip. Maggie cried for what would be the last time as the needle slid into her muscle. Within the next few minutes Maggie slowly relaxed and fell into a peaceful sleep. She was wrapped in her pink & beige leopard fuzzy blanket as she drifted off and her breathing eased. When Dr. Emily shaved her fur to insert the IV, she never moved. As the IV slid into her vein and Dr. Emily taped in place, we hugged and held our Baby Angle for the last time. Dr. Emily carefully injected saline then the barbiturate to stop her heart – the heart that had beat so faithfully for 16 years, 4 months and 12 days. Maggie now lay dead in my arms. We laid her on the cold steel exam table, removing her fuzzy blanket and said goodbye to her for the last time. Dr. Emily gave THE Toad and I each a hug and said she was sorry for our loss.

Maggie’s ashes will be returned to us next week. We will go pick them up and pay the final bill for our dear, sweet Angel – who is now at the Rainbow Bridge playing with Nikki, Penny, Sandy, Sam, Heidi & Harry. While I have loved all my dogs, Maggie was the most special to me. Tiny & delicate with the heart of a Tiger. I had her for 15.5 years – too short. Yet what a wonderful little creature. I thank God for bringing her into my life and allowing me to walk this wonderful journey with her. Sweet dreams little Boo! Mommy misses you!!!

PS: 17 January 2018: Nine months and another move after your passing, I still miss you and cry for you Baby Angel. I wish you could have made the move to New Hampshire with us.

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