In November of 2008, Emmett was almost six months old and we were a dog-less family, not looking for a dog. In a completely random occurrence, Lizze stumbled across a picture of a dog with the most amazing smile.
We weren’t looking for a dog because we had just recently had Emmett but we found ourselves drawn to the picture and it turned the dog was actually somewhat local to us. Lizze wanted to go look at her in person and for whatever I went along with it. It was one of those spontaneous things that wasn’t really like us at the time. There was just something about this dog and we made the forty-five minute drive to meet her in person, not knowing what to expect.
What we didn’t know at the time was that we would be meeting a very special animal that would become part of our family.
This dog we were meeting for the first time had lived a heartbreaking life so far. She was seized in a raid of an organized fighting dog ring. She was pregnant and had been abused by the people she was taken from. There were at least a dozen cigarette burns on her body and some other scars and it was less apparent as to what had caused them.
We fell in love with her and named her Maggie. Everyone in our families thought we were crazy because Maggie was too dangerous, we somehow knew otherwise and they would eventually learn the same. We officially signed the adoption papers right around Christmas of that same year and the rest is history.
Anyone who met Maggie, learned first hand that looks can be deceiving. While on the outside, she was an intimidating looking English Staffy, on the inside she was the kindest, sweetest dog I’ve ever met in my life. She immediately took to our family and fit right in. There was never a moment of doubt as to whether or not we had made the right decision because she needed us as much as we needed her.
Over the next ten years, she would keep us safe in a dangerous neighborhood, look after the kids as though they were her own and love us without limits.
For the last few months however, we began to realize that we were approaching the end of our Earthly journey together with the dog we have loved for almost a decade. Maggie had been starting to show her age. Her vision, hearing and sense of smell were all but gone and she wasn’t moving around as well as she used to. We’d been back and forth to the vet several times because we wanted to make sure she was okay.
She’d already had tumors removed from her back leg, completely severed her ACL and seemed as though she wasn’t always present. She began showing signs of confusion but was otherwise doing well, all things considered.
Last night we suddenly reached the end of the road. We don’t know what happened but Maggie was suddenly no longer able to walk, her body temperature was falling and her breathing labored.
It was heartbreaking to see her like this. Elliott and Emmett were sobbing and refusing to leave her side. Lizze was trying to hold it together and comfort the boys, while I called my Dad for help.
I knew what this meant but we weren’t sure how to handle this with the boys. Elliott and Emmett being Autistic, meant that we had to be very careful how we handled this. There was no way we would let them accompany my Dad and I to the emergency Vet, despite their refusal to remain at home.
I sat the two boys down and explained to them what they already knew was likely to happen. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. They are so sensitive and so deeply impacted by everything in life, I knew this was going to be extremely traumatic for them. I wanted to make sure they were able to say goodbye and at the same time, limit the impact on them as much as possible.
Elliott still cries at night sometimes because he misses my parents two dogs that passed over the last few years. These two kids do not remember a day that they have woken up and Maggie wasn’t there.
This was going to be really hard.
Unfortunately, we had to hold the boys back while I carried Maggie out the front door. My Dad drove me to the emergency Vet and within about thirty minutes, Maggie was peacefully put to rest. I’m absolutely heartbroken.
The moment I walked through the front door without her, Emmett became hysterical. Elliott came running down the steps, immediately realized that was wrong and lost it. Deep down inside, both boys thought Maggie was going to be alright and I’d bring her home after getting her checked out at the Vet.
Walking through that door empty handed was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Lizze, myself and the two boys just cried until we were done. It’s important to be strong for the kids but they also need to know it’s okay to cry and grieve.
The only way to help the boys through this is to distract them as much as possible. I ordered some pizza and we watched a few episodes of Lost in Space on Netflix. We finally got them to sleep a little after midnight. They were so physically and emotionally exhausted, they slept straight through the night.
We’re living our first day without Maggie and while it’s going to take time, I’m hoping we will eventually find our way through to the other side.
I’ve tried to keep the two boys distracted today as best I can. I’ve broken down a few times and writing this hasn’t been easy. Maggie wasn’t just a dog, she was family and she will be missed.