Between Me and My Dog

My dog Maggie has died. She was 18, a best guess from the shelter people who said “she’s probably 2 and probably a cow dog mixed breed with maybe some rottweiler because of those brown eyebrows on her black fur” when we got her 16 years ago. A farm dog, evidenced by a good 8 years of her being tempted to chase any pickup truck driving by. We had to keep an eye on her at first. Lately our eye was on her precarious sluggish stride and coming home to see if she could hear us enter the house (nope) and was still alive (yep).

That subsided. The chasing, that is. And the life.

Part of my home has crumbled away. It’s time for days and days of tears and memories of me between ages 29 and 45, Neal between ages 28 and 44, and Aaron between ages 0 and just shy of 14.

And I think, “Oh and is it okay to think about which day we were to schedule the vet’s help to make the goodbye come because Our Lives are so busy and all ‘needs’ need to be scheduled?” And then I realize that our everyday busy needs are part of Her World.

And I think, “Oh and isn’t it too much to make a big deal about the death of a pet when death of humans both near and far, both singled out and collectively taken in tragedy, is everywhere in the ether?” And then I believe it’s okay to be sad about all of it.

And I think, “Oh and who are we to decide?” And then I remember my childhood dog being put to sleep on my 12th birthday and it really wasn’t a deciding as much as a relieving.

So much thinking about an animal.

Hers was the heart that beat alongside my whole adulthood. She had my last name.

This dog made me care about a creature who needed me. This dog made me feel safe. This dog made me see that life is beautifully messy, something any partnership needs to witness from time to time. This dog made me understand what being a good neighbor means. This dog made me see conviction and preference and grace, sometimes all at the same time. This dog made me write. This dog greeted nearly two thousand students over the years who came over for class or a party or a review session or because they missed their own dogs at home or in the beyond, as it happens for college-age people. This dog made me look for when people should be gathered rather than separated, as herding dogs do. This dog made me watch my son learn to care and caress. This dog made me love without question. This dog made me agree to commission a dog oil portrait that at the time seemed too big and now seems too small.

This dog Maggie Janning. She’s mine. She was. My love.

And the eyebrows. My God I will miss her eyebrows.

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