MIKE’S LIFE: Goodbye, Magnolia May

  • Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 7:29 a.m.
Submitted photo
Maggie, napping on a couch, many Christmases ago.
Submitted photo Maggie, napping on a couch, many Christmases ago.

I think the best way to sum her up is thusly – she was just a great, sweet, lovable mound of pup.

Magnolia May, affectionately known as Maggie the Attack Basset, almost made it to 17 years of age. When it was her time, she let us know.

She had been in decline for a while, years in fact. At the end, she looked rough. A shell of her former self, her body had betrayed her. During those final few years, people would often look at her and ask, “Isn’t it time?” Sorry, but I’m not putting down a dog because she’s not as pretty as she once was.

Each vet check, a clean bill of health. And always happy as a clam. She awoke each morning the same way – begging for a dog treat. She went to bed each night the same way – begging for a dog treat. In fact, I’d guess about 70 percent of her waking hours was spent begging for dog treats.

We got Maggie in the fall of 1997. My wife had always said she wanted a Basset hound. One morning, perusing the classifieds, I saw that a family was getting rid of an AKC Basset a little more than a year old. Perfect birthday surprise, I thought, and might make her forget about the birthday gift from the previous year of a cat that, to this day, proves to be one of the most evil creatures to have been forged on this planet. She got her name courtesy of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” playing on the radio on her ride to her new home.

Maggie’s personality was readily evident when you met her – she was playful and fun, but stubborn when she wanted to be. Time to go outside when it’s raining? That’s a big negative, Mr. Dog Treat Giver.

She was very social and loved other dogs. Never – not once – did she ever get aggressive with other dogs. On occasion, she would come in contact with another dog that might snarl or snap or bark to show off some toughness. My wife would have her on a leash, and Maggie, tail wagging gleefully, would look at her foe and either yawn or cock her head sideways and stare in a most disapproving manner.

At her peak, Maggie was a pretty big dog, probably 65 pounds. Yet she was nimble, bounding through the yard and up stairs or onto couches she was not supposed to be on. When we first got Maggie, everyone warned us not to let her jump up on things, as it would be debilitating in a few short years. Apparently, Maggie never got the memo that those stubby legs weren’t supposed to propel her onto a bed when no one was looking and also never got the memo that it would be bad for her back. For a good 15 years, Maggie had no problem flinging herself onto couches, which can come as a fantastic surprise to someone dozing off during a baseball game.

Although AKC registered, we were informed early on that, alas, she would never compete at Westminster, as her ears were not long enough. Not that we ever had plans to make that stubborn rump roast a show dog, but that always struck me as funny. Every time I would see her go for a drink from the bowl, her ears dipped an inch into the water, I’d think, just how long do they have to be!?!?!

As I said earlier, for several years people assumed she had minutes to live. But my wife and I knew that the spry gal was still there. Her final descent was rapid, for which I am grateful. When she told us it was time, I wanted her to be able to pass peacefully, painlessly and on her terms.

It was Thursday night. It was evident that this was the end. I knew it. My wife knew it. Maggie told us. We brought the kids in to say goodbye. Neither of my kids have ever lived in a world without Maggie. She’d always been that lovable lump there to greet them at breakfast (and clean up any breakfast that ended up on the floor).

My son was most upset. He made her a card that read, “I love you Magnolia.” He sat with her for a long time, just talking with her. Later, my wife and I were upstairs and heard the strumming of a guitar. Sweet little fella was serenading the old gal.

The next morning, I awoke and went downstairs. Maggie was still awake, but her breathing was labored, and she was having what appeared to be mini-seizures. When I went to move her, she yelped with pain. For the first time, I looked in her eyes and saw something other than happiness. I knew I couldn’t move her, but I knew the end was near. Kindly, the vet came to our house. My wife and I held Maggie as she drew her last breath, closing out a life that was, from the first time she set foot in her my car, one of joy, both living and giving it.

We buried Maggie in the woods at my parents’ house. That night, as we were leaving their house, my son asked if he could go say goodbye to Maggie again. He had taken his note and folded it up. He tucked it into the leaves covering her final resting space. He then reached in his pocket and pulled out a dog treat he had brought from home. “I know how much Maggie loved treats. So I thought I’d bring her one last one.” He set the treat on the grave. Enjoy, Maggie. Treats are for good dogs, and you, old gal, were one good dog.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama. He can be reached at mwg1234@yahoo.com.

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