Godspeed, Mae West

Not many people know we had more than one dog, since the beagle is such a ham and steals the limelight. But Mae was fine with that because she’d been around so much longer.

We adopted Mae from the pound 9 years ago after our dog, Hershey the Swamp Thing died. Our hearts were so thoroughly broken, and I didn’t think we’d get another dog. But the hole in our collective hearts continued to widen until we couldn’t stand the thought of not wrapping our arms around a ball of warm fur. And so Mae came into our life.

A relative had sent me the adoption photo – she was a blond version of the Swamp Thing. I remember how I couldn’t get up to the pound fast enough to see her. It was a  freezing cold, early December morning, and all the dogs were outside in kennels barking and wearing their best “come adopt me” smiles. Except Mae. She was tucked way back in her kennel, wrapped up in a tight ball, shivering against the cold. I knelt down and smiled at her. She looked at me as if to say, “you don’t want me, I’m nobody.” She was so sad and lonely, it shattered my heart.

“No,” I whispered, “you’re the reason I’m here.” I stuck my fingers through the kennel and waved them at her. “I’m here for you.”

With that, she popped up and licked my fingers and wagged her fuzzy tail. She was a mess – twenty pounds underweight and a healthy case of kennel cough. But I didn’t see any of that. All I saw was a bundle of fur oozing the need to give love. She was perfect – two years old, hideously polite, and a ceaseless need to be a part of a family.

She had a big task ahead of her – how to mend five broken hearts over losing their beloved dog. But Mae was up to the challenge, and for nine wonderful years, Mae West (so named for her flowy long blond hair) showered us with love and smiles every day. It felt good to have this polite little fuzzbucket in our lives, and we fell in love with her urgent need to always be at the center of our craziness. She was even good-hearted about accepting the beagle when our son brought her home with him from the Army, even though they were both females.

You could always tell when it was 6 o’clock in our house because that’s when their internal clock would ding, and they’d shoot around the house, upending tables, lamps, us, all in the heat of having a good romp.

I’d noticed Mae had been losing weight the past few months, but figured it was because she was 11. She still loved her walkies and had a good appetite. But all that ended this past weekend, and we knew something was terribly wrong. She never made it out of surgery today. Pancreatic cancer, massive internal bleeding. The doc rushed us over to say goodbye.

I declined to accompany hubby and the two boys. I just couldn’t. I’d been the one who loved her first. I’d found her in a cage, forgotten and unloved. I simply couldn’t be the one to give her a last kiss goodbye.

I’m sure I’ll regret that decision to let her slip away without one last hug, but I want to remember her racing on our bike path, with her blond hair waving in the wind, tongue hanging out. I can’t let my last memory be of her relinquishing her life on an operating table.

As I say my own, private goodbyes to my Maesie, I’ll take comfort that our Swamp Thing will be waiting for her at the Rainbow Bridge, welcoming her with a fresh chew bone. And I’m sure she’ll thank Mae for taking such good care of us for all those years.

Goodspeed, my little bug, my little pound princess. I loved you so very much, and I thank you for sitting at my feet while I edited manuscripts and never complained when I insisted that you were too heavy to sit in my lap. You truly mended our hearts, and I don’t know how I’ll find the strength to live without your smiley face.

32 Responses to Godspeed, Mae West

  1. Moondoggie says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Pets provide such unconditional love and it is never easy when we must say good-bye to them. I’ve been there, I know the ache, and I’m so very sorry.

    “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”

    May all your memories of your sweet Mae remain alive in your hearts and may they comfort you and your family as you move through your grief.

    xo

  2. S.P. Bowers says:

    Wow, how sudden. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss.

  3. Melissa says:

    I’m so, so sorry, Lynn. My heart has lots of dog-shaped holes in it… and each time a new dog has come and made my heart bigger to compensate. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

    Get some extra kisses from the beagle tonight. Maesie will be watching and smiling — and waiting.

  4. kimkircher says:

    When my Rocket died, I was distraught. He was an avalanche rescue dog, and by God, the best dog that ever lived. He died at age 8 of pancreatic cancer. It was so fast, so swift, that I didn’t feel the sting until after he was gone. He lived right up until the minute he died. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. We never have enough time with them.

  5. Kim, I felt your loss because you talk about Rocket in your book. When I was editing your ms, all I could think was what a fabulous dog he must have been – to stay wrapped around your shoulders while you hauled up the mountain in all kinds of horrible weather.

    The most heroic thing Mae ever did was not eat my lunch off the table when I got up to fetch a napkin. Pancreatic cancer took Mae, too. It’s so sudden, that it’s like your heart has been ripped out of your chest while it’s still beating. No preparation, no “your dog is sick and has three months to live.” She slept in our room, we took her out, and she was gone.

    You’re right – we never get enough time with them.

  6. Can you imagine how Mae is bragging to Hershey about everything her life has been with her family, as they compare notes, swap stories, run and laugh about it.

  7. GutsyWriter says:

    Now I’m crying. I just hugged Cookie, 13, and realize how much my husband and I treat her like a daughter now that our sons are no longer living at home. It’s a huge loss for you and your family. So very sorry.

  8. David Mitchell says:

    Lynn ~ May you find strength and comfort in your memories. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  9. Claudia VanLydegraf says:

    I’m sooo sorry for the loss of your dear pup. I know exactly how you are feeling right now, I had to say goodbye to two doggie pups last Feb, 2010, on the same day, and it killed me soo deeply that I just couldn’t see anything that was going to lighten my heart. But then a gal friend of mine told me she had a pup for me and if I didn’t want him, I could just drop him back over her fence, yeah right, like that would happen… And then I adopted a little girl friend for him, and now have a full house and heart again. You know as well as I do, that all of our fur friends will be waiting for us at the end of our road, so while you will miss her for a long time to come, she will always be near to your heart, and she knows that also. Every animal that comes into our lives, stays there forever and will alway greet us at the end of our time here with love in thier eyes and a kiss that will knock our socks off and open up that part of our heart that was closed because we wanted to keep that little space in our memory. She will there waiting on you, as always.

  10. Owwwwwwww.
    I’m so heartsore for you.
    Deepest sympathies.

  11. Jane Smith says:

    Lynn, I’m so sorry for your loss. You were very lucky to share your life with such a lovely, loving dog and Mae was very lucky to share her life with you.

    I hope things become easier for you as time moves on. Sending you much love.

  12. My heart goes out to you. We lost two this past year–a beloved dog and my favorite cat.

    I know the ache deep in the heart that constricts the throat and makes it hard to breathe.

    May you find peace and comfort in your coming days, as you remember all the beautiful ways she touched your life. {{hugs}}

  13. cat says:

    A big virtual hug from me too.

  14. That’s so sad Lynn. I’m very sorry about your loss, but I’m glad she had such wonderful 9 years with you.

  15. She sounded like a wonderful dog. I’m sure the beagle misses her too.

  16. Crowe says:

    Oh Lynn, I’m so sorry. It’s so hard to lose them.

    Don’t be too regretful about not being there. She had other loved ones with her so she wasn’t alone. My old boy died in my arms and it haunted me for a long time afterwards – I couldn’t think past that great head going heavy on my lap. Now, 15 months later, I think much more about his life, all those funny and sweet moments. Life is where the love is.

  17. Lev Raphael says:

    The tragedy is that their lives are so short; the joy is that they live so intensely that they teach us a lifetime of lessons.

    So sorry for your loss, Lynn. Sending cyber hugs. And a howl or two.

  18. Lynn, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. You gave her a wonderful, long life filled with joy and love.

  19. I’m reading your lovely comments with tears in my eyes. Thank you all so very much. This means a lot to me. Last night was a long one, not only for us, but for the beagle. She cuddled extra close against my side as she wrestled with her confusion. Now it’s about putting one foot in front of the other, knowing she won’t be there to accidentally trip me.

    Thank you again for your warm hugs.

  20. Digital Dame says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. And I’m sorry I couldn’t read the whole tribute but the waterworks flow too easily for me and I’m sitting at my desk getting all weepy at work. My own dog has been gone a long time but I miss him constantly. Better go before I cry all my makeup off. :::hug:::

  21. Chip Jacobs says:

    Jesus, this broke my heart, cuz your adoption of Mae West so followed our rendezvous with our current dog, “Auggie.” I think there’s a universal dog spirit that God gave us to tap into, knowing us humans need ore than a little TLC and loyalty in a sometimes brutish world. Just think of all the tail wagging and walkies and adventures you’ll have on the other side of the sky, Lynn. Focus on the great times and not the end and know there aren’t any goodbyes, just see ya laters. Gulp. My condolences. This cuts close to the bone, but that was one lucky dog.

  22. Lauren says:

    [[[[[HUGS]]]]]

    lynn, I am so sorry for your loss. It’s a terrible thing to love a pet who has loved so unconditionally. But her life was good. You did a wonderful thing. And she still knows it.

  23. Cath Murphy says:

    It’s hard and it doesn’t get any easier. The more living things you share your life with (human and otherwise) the more losses you have to face. But how much richer it is to share and to make one life better, like you did hers.

    Sympathy, from a fellow dog owner (we have three, all rescue dogs, two now in their dotage.

  24. Sairy says:

    Lynnie,
    This is just beautiful. It really choked me up and took me back to how bad it was when Swampy left you; and how excited you were when you brought Mae home. I know she was a one-of-a-kind and she’ll always be a part of you…those big hearts just never quite let go. Love you, sweetie. My condolences to your whole family.

  25. This is a lovely tribute to what was obviously a dear member of your family. I wish you well, and hope you find a new darling soon.

  26. ute carbone says:

    So sorry Lynne. There’s not much more to say that hasn’t already been said. She was well loved, and gave unconditionally- and those things live on and on.

  27. Colin says:

    Lynn, thank you for this beautifully written and evocative piece. My wife and I have a wonderful female Cairn terrier whose name is Mignonne (cute and clever in French, and Toto in the Wizard of Oz). She goes by Mini, and she’s ten years old. She’s been all over the country with us and lived in France for three years (Paris and Cognac). I shudder to think how we’ll deal with it when she’s gone. She’s had health issues lately. Thank you again. And thank you for this blog.

  28. pierre l says:

    I too am very sorry to read about your loss. Many virtual hugs.

  29. I am deeply sorry for your loss. Losing a dog is losing a part of the family. May her sweet memories comfort you and yours until the day your souls meet up again.

  30. Lynn, thank you for sharing your pain. We lost our Jazzie, a black German Shepherd, at the age of only eight a few months ago. She had been sick for a year from kidney cancer. It broke my heart to lose her so soon, but a cousin of hers, Max came into our lives after neglect and abuse. We are healing together along with our Golden, Sunny, who misses his companion too. I feel honored to read your story. Your honesty is amazing.

  31. Aw, she looked like a truly devoted friend. We lost our Chester at fifteen last fall. He’d also been losing weight and had no appetite. Along with his arthritis, he wasn’t enjoying his final months at all. When he developed profuse nosebleeds, it turned out he had a nasal tumour.

    We said goodbye to him last September.

    I hope the beagle steps up to the plate and pinch hits a home run for her old friend.

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