Our dog, Maggie Shinn, died this morning.
Lisa took her to our vet, Dr. Gray, about a week ago because she’d been acting increasingly lethargic, was in pain, and was having trouble walking, sitting and standing. She’d been slowing down for quite a while, but I just assumed that she was depressed because I didn’t spend as much time with her as I used to. Well, I was right on both counts: she was depressed, and I didn’t spend enough time with her. But I was wrong on the diagnosis. She had Addison’s Disease. Also known as chronic adrenal insufficiency, it’s a disease that is both expensive and difficult to treat, and the treatment (steroids, basically) can result in some nasty and unpleasant side-effects in a dog as large as Maggie. In dogs, it usually appears between 4 and 7 years old. Maggie was just over 4.
Our vet advised that we may think about alternatives to treating Maggie. He said that most people aren’t able to afford to treat a dog with Addison’s, and the medication and care quotes supported that. We sought another opinion, and found out that treatment is uncertain, in-depth, and lifelong. We decided not to seek a treatment we couldn’t afford for an outcome that would entail serious quality-of-life compromises for our dog.
So we had a great weekend with Maggie. Brando, Tim and Rachel’s dog and one of her two best dog-friends, came over to play and say goodbye. I cooked bacon for her (her favorite) and even gave her the grease when we were done. We made sure we spent the entire weekend at the house, and that we were around and available for her for as much of that time as possible. I sat on the couch last night and let her sit with me while I read. When we were finished, we took one last late night walk. She enjoyed walking on her leash with me, despite her inability to walk well or very far. She slept in the house all weekend, on her favorite quilt by the back door.
This morning after breakfast and a visit with Shadow (Brad and Mary’s dog and her lifelong dog-friend), we drove to the studio and took some last family pictures with Maggie. She was pretty sick, and didn’t look great. But taking pictures is one of the ways we make sense of life, so we did it anyway. Then we took her to the vet and said our last goodbyes. Maggie died this morning at about 10:30 am of a lethal dose of an anesthetic. It was very peaceful; she just laid down and went to sleep.
We’ve told Liam that Maggie went to be with Jesus. A lot of people believe that God takes care of animals, and that they have enduring souls like humans. I don’t have any way of knowing whether this is true, but I desperately want it to be. We picked Maggie up 4 years ago this week as a little puppy. Over the last four years, she’s become a very important part of our lives and our family. Liam doesn’t remember a time when we didn’t have her.
I have a lot of regrets, mostly surrounding the lack of time I’ve spent with her over the last year as our business has grown, and I’ve been working and trying to be a father to two (other) children. Maggie’s place in my life moved from somewhere near the center to a position closer to the periphery. I can’t go back and change that now, but I know that I did all I could to make her last weekend as enjoyable and comfortable as possible.
Thanks, Maggie, for a very special four years.
ed. note – pictures added to this post Tues., Nov. 24.