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Missing Maia...

Posted: 13 Feb 2014, 15:59
by brandtrn
I know that I posted about this earlier today on my Facebook page, and, in a way, this post is somewhat ridiculous. It's not that I miss my Maia any less on other days; but today is the second anniversary of one of the worst days of my life...the day that I had to say "goodbye" to Maia (the only day in my halfway recent history that I can think of which was worse was the day that I learned that my daughter Megan was in a car wreck and it was unclear, at that moment, whether she would live or die).

I'll never forget the first day I saw Maia. One of my nurse co-workers had brought the remainder of her litter of "wolf pups" (Mom was a wolf-malamute hybrid, and Daddy was a shepherd mix) to work that day, in hopes of getting one or more of her co-workers to adopt them. I was determined not to even go have a look, because we'd just moved into a new home and weren't even fully unpacked yet -- so many of our things were still in boxes -- and the last thing I needed was more work! I was working a full-time job, putting in LOTS of overtime because of chronic short-staffing and call-offs, had kids at home, etc., and at the end of my day, I was tired, tired TIRED! The absolute LAST thing I needed was a puppy to housebreak! As it was, my co-worker brought the puppies to me. I picked up a little blonde baby with big brown eyes, who wrapped her little paws around my neck and kissed my face, and I was hooked! At the end of my shift, the little puppy went home with me, in spite of my intentions NOT to have any part of this! Our first trip was to the grocery store to get some puppy food, and then we arrived home...much to the dismay of my husband, who ALSO thought we weren't yet ready for a dog, and to the delight of my children, who were positively thrilled to have a warm puppy to cuddle and to play with.

On Maia's first night at home, you could tell that she was lonely and missing her Mom and her litter-mates. I emptied one of my moving boxes and loaded it with blankets, in order to construct a makeshift "doggy bed" which I placed right next to our bed, but Maia was having none of it. As soon as I settled into bed and grabbed a book with which to read myself to sleep, I heard a was Maia, standing up in her doggy bed, with her paws on the edge of my bed, looking up at me with pleading eyes. How could I resist?? I scooped her up and placed her next to me in my own bed, where she slept every night since then -- unless she was curled up in bed with one of the kids. Even toward the end of her life, when her step was more uncertain and it was harder for her to move around, she slept with us! Yury even constructed a "step" platform to allow her to get into bed more easily, when she was no longer capable of making that "jump" needed to get into our bed.

Yes, as dismayed as my husband was at my bringing the puppy home, he soon became enamored of his "All-American yellow dog," as he referred to her. During those evenings when I wasn't there for supper (which were frequent, once I switched back to the night shift way of life), Yury made it a point to cook a special meal for Maia when he made his own supper, so he'd have somebody to share his supper with. Maia quickly became used to such treatment so, even on the nights when I WAS home, Yury continued to cook for Maia and to feed her from the table -- no matter HOW much I'd bitch at him about it! It didn't seem to matter to him when I informed him about dogs being "pack" animals, and that the appropriate thing for him to do was to feed her AFTER we'd eaten, because pack leaders are supposed to eat first. As he'd say to me, "Cindy, even when you're not here, Maia is, and you know that I don't like to eat alone." Even now, two years after her death, he still keeps a framed photo of her on his desk at work. It's sad, really, as much as he loved her in those early years, that he saw fit to "detach" himself emotionally from Maia when her health began to fail, devoting himself more completely to Lucy, the puppy we got just over ten years after we got Maia. I know now that he saw the dark days coming and that he was trying to "protect" himself emotionally in preparation for her loss. No, he didn't neglect her by any means...he continued to cook for her, and, as I previously indicated, got involved in "projects" like the step platform he constructed which allowed her to get into bed, in order to make her life a bit easier. Still, as Maia's health began to fail and her eyes grew cloudy with cataracts, I felt that his seeming "detachment" was a betrayal of all the love that Maia had given to both of us, and I devoted myself to her even more fiercely.

Even though her health was failing, and her steps becoming slower, less certain and more painful, it was obvious that Maia was still managing to get some great enjoyment from life, and still had enough spunk left in her to maintain her "alpha dog" status over Lucy until the bitter end (not an easy thing to accomplish, I would think, for a senior mutt to maintain "alpha" status over a big, young, Doberman!). On her days when she *wasn't* sore, she often engaged in what Yury referred to as "Maia's engineering projects." On one occasion, she dug a hole so deep that, when I went out to bring her back into the house, I couldn't find her -- the thing was deep enough that she'd actually disappeared into it! When we constructed a fence in our back yard (basically to contain Lucy, who didn't mind nearly as well as Maia did when she was told that it was time to go back in the house), Maia engaged in digging what Yury referred to as a "freedom tunnel," and almost succeeded in escaping from the enclosed yard, which she *didn't* much like! She also enjoyed sitting in what Yury referred to as her "office," (i.e., our front porch), sunning herself and watching the neighbors go by as they walked their own dogs. She still enjoyed her walks, and being greeted (and petted) by our neighbors, all of whom knew HER name, even if they didn't always know mine! And I still miss my morning ritual, coming home from work, that Yury and Maia engaged in almost until the very end of her life. Yury always knew the approximate time I'd be coming home, and always took Maia out at that time, to pee and to do anything else she might need to do. I can still see Maia now, in those early morning hours, straining at the leash until I'd parked the car. Once I was out of the car, Yury would release Maia, and she'd come running, just as fast as her legs could carry her, across the yard to greet me! Those little, seemingly insignificant, memories mean so much to me now that she's gone.

Maia's final deterioration, when it came, came rather suddenly. I had taken her to the vet because of some increased urinary frequency, along with some blood in her urine (which I wouldn't have been able to see, except that there was snow on the ground). The vet diagnosed a "slight" urinary tract infection, gave her an antibiotic, and told me to call if she wasn't better in a few days. Well, a few days came and went...and the antibiotic didn't seem to do ANYTHING for Maia's symptoms, but it DID give her horrendous diarrhea! The diarrhea was so frequent, in fact, that we were going outdoors nearly hourly -- and so awful that I'd have to wash her bottom (she was a VERY hairy dog!) before being able to allow her back into the house. Obviously, since it was doing no good for her symptoms and causing her only more misery, I stopped the antibiotic and had to wait through the weekend until Monday, the 13th, when the vet's office re-opened. By Monday morning, her symptoms had gotten SO bad that not only was there blood in her urine, but she was passing HUGE clots! I called Roseland Animal Hospital (the veterinary facility that cared for Maia) to report the worsening of Maia's symptoms and her need to see someone ASAP. I was told that they would call me back, so I waited...and waited...and waited. It was early afternoon and I STILL had not received a call back, so I tried again, only to get a busy signal this time! In frustration, I called my brother, asking for the name of HIS vet, because MY vet seemed to have blown us off, and Maia needed help immediately! She'd lost so much blood that she was panting almost constantly (severe blood loss WILL make one short of breath, after all!), and her own vet couldn't see fit to help, after twelve years of faithful visits! My brother's vet, Western Veterinary Clinic, told me to bring her in right away. I knew, before taking her in, that barring some kind of miracle, that this would be Maia's LAST trip to the vet. In the meantime, my youngest daughter called. I was in tears by then, and, when she asked me what was wrong, I told her that I was taking Maia to the vet and that she would, more than likely, be euthanized. Melanie asked me to wait, if I could, because she wanted to come over and see Maia one last time. I knew that I didn't want Maia to suffer any longer, but I owed Mel that much...a chance to say "goodbye" to the dog she'd devoted so much time and affection to. So, Maia and I waited, and, as miserable as she was at that point, she greeted Mel so very happily. I have to wonder if she knew that Mel was saying goodbye for the last time. Just before she left, I asked Mel to take a picture of Maia and I together. It had occurred to me that, as many pictures as I'd taken of Maia over the years, I wasn't in ANY of them! There were pictures of Maia with Lucy, Maia with Yury, Maia with Melanie, but NO pictures of Maia with me -- more than likely, because I was always the one *behind* the camera! Mel snapped the shot, and offered to come with me. I honestly thought about it, and decided that it was better if she didn't come. Not only because I didn't want her to watch Maia die, but because I knew that, once it was over, I'd need some time alone. So, off we went, just Maia and I, on our last trip together.

I still feel a good deal of guilt at how it all ended. Yes, Dr. Chris, the vet who cared for Maia that day, agreed with me that it was best for Maia to be euthanized. But, since he didn't know Maia, and because I'd told him that Maia had, in her pain, bitten me when I last washed her bottom (I'm certain that diarrhea made her bottom VERY sore -- she'd NEVER snapped at me before!), he wanted to muzzle her before administering the injection. Maia had NEVER worn a muzzle before in her life...and, as short of breath as she was, in unfamiliar surroundings, having that muzzle placed on her little snout was probably terrifying for her! I felt like an absolute POS that the last few moments of her life were so frightening. The only blessing was, when the end came, it came quickly. Maia collapsed in my arms, and didn't even have time to close her eyes before she died...that was the last thing I was ever able to do for my baby! How nice it would have been for her if she'd been able to spend her last moments in HER OWN vet's office, where they knew her, and where she wouldn't have had to have been muzzled and terrified before she died. I still think of her final moments, and the memory brings me to tears every single time. If only she hadn't had to be so horribly frightened at the very end -- my poor, loving baby! She deserved so much better than that!

I still "visit" with Maia from time to time. Many times each year, I sit by the flower bed where her ashes are scattered, look at the beautiful flowers in bloom, and think of her in happy days, remembering how much she loved to trample on my flowers and roll in them. I'm so much looking forward to seeing those flowers in bloom this year, as they've become the part of Maia which still lives on...

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Re: Missing Maia...

Posted: 13 Feb 2014, 17:32
by pilvikki

beautiful story and for once i can say i know how you feel; it's been some 8 years since i lost my best pal, smokie, and i feel equally guilty for his last moments on this earth.

i so miss him.

Re: Missing Maia...

Posted: 13 Feb 2014, 17:35
by pilvikki

Re: Missing Maia...

Posted: 13 Feb 2014, 19:51
by Ice.Maiden
Oh dear. That made me cry.

I can remember you telling us about Maia, brandtrn, and the beautiful dog was obviously well loved. It's so easy in hindsight to kick ourselves for not doing this, or that, but you were doing your best for her.

I've already spoken to our vet about the day it might be necessary to put them down. It's a terrible subject for me, because our dogs're part of the family, but I've asked that should the time come, I want them to be sedated before the final injection, which's been agreed upon. The thing is, I don't know if I could bear to be present, although I feel they'd want me there.

You were very brave to hold Maia. I can only imagine how distressed you were, but you'll never forget her - and hopefully, it'll be the fondest memories which stay. x

Re: Missing Maia...

Posted: 13 Feb 2014, 23:35
by brandtrn
Ice Maiden, that was the very least I could have have taken Maia's final "journey" with her, all the way through to the bitter end, and to allow her to die in my arms. I owed her that much! As frightened as she was with me by her side, I can't bear to think of how awful it could have been for her if she'd have been *alone,* with no familiar and comforting faces nearby. It's always a difficult decision to make. As much as I didn't want her suffering to continue, I probably let her condition go on far longer than I should have...more than likely because I was hoping against hope, that somehow the treatment prescribed by her vet would make her "better," and that I'd have another year or two with her, which I wanted so desperately. I think Maia would have wanted that, too. ALL living creatures *want* to live, and will struggle to stay alive, just as my Maia struggled, even when such struggles only lead to more misery. I'd like to think that, as un-peaceful as her end turned out to be, that she is at peace now and is, perhaps, waiting to meet me on the "other side." In the meantime, I have two living babies, Lucy and Ricky, to care for, and their companionship today has given me great comfort. I applaud you for thinking ahead and for making plans to make it easier for your babies, should the time ever come that you should have to have one of them put down. I wish that I had had the foresight to do so...not that it would have done me much good, since her own vet punked out on her at the very end, when she needed him the most! Still, it's so easy to second-guess oneself, even when (or especially when!) it does no good to do so. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, and the "what might have beens" have a tendency to torture us, even when we *know* that we did the best that we could have done under the circumstances. I comfort myself with the fact that Maia *did* have a good life; at least, up until the last week of her life, which I'd now, knowing what I know today, give anything to have been able to spare her from. If only I'd had her put down the last time she was at the office of her own vet, she might have been spared the misery of her final week, and the horror of being muzzled and euthanized by strangers.

Re: Missing Maia...

Posted: 13 Feb 2014, 23:45
by brandtrn
Pilvikki, thanks for the comforting words and for the pic of the flowers...just the sort of pretty blooms that Maia would have *loved* to roll in! For some reason, she had a fascination with flowers, and repeatedly tore up my flower beds. It was for this reason that I stopped planting annuals (too much work for the very short life they'd end up having at Maia's hands -- or, should I say, paws!) and started planting perennials, which come up year after year, and usually more abundant than the previous year, instead. That way, at least I had a chance of having *some* blooms surviving through the summer!

Re: Missing Maia...

Posted: 14 Feb 2014, 07:00
by Ice.Maiden
You sound to be a lovely caring person, and a proud mum to boot.

There's nothing I can add to your post, because I agree with you. We can all say "if", but what's done's sadly done. Comfort yourself that Maia went to another place quickly, and that she's now at peace.

We're all guilty of pretending to ourselves that our beloved pets might improve, or even get better. It's because we'd wish for that and can't bear to think of them being put to sleep, but at the end of the day, it's the kindest thing to do.

When I lived at home, I had an Alsation who was a gentle-natured and wonderful dog. His back legs started to go, and painkillers weren't helping him. When his eyesight began to fade, I knew that it was time. He wasn't happy, and yet still wagged his tail and wanted to be held and talked to. My parents'd been explaining that the time'd come, and yet I didn't want to let him go. It was just dreadful. My father took him to be euthanised, and was there until the end. I couldn't bring myself to go. I wish I'd been brave enough, but my heart breaks every time I lose a pet. It was the same with my cat. He slept on my pillow the night before he died, purring contentedly, but I swear he knew what was coming. He had bleeding on the brain, and was in pain, yet the poor beautiful animal kept rubbing his face against mine.

You might not believe this brandtrn, but for a week after he'd gone, I heard him purring at the side of me. Then one night, I felt him "go". He'll be waiting for me along with the rest of them, just the same as Maia will for you. x

Re: Missing Maia...

Posted: 15 Feb 2014, 19:50
by Tomsk