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.