A Leash Above

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Maddie’s Final Days

If a death can be perfect, then we just experienced it.

On Tuesday, the diagnosis of lymphosarcoma was confirmed. Maddie was not having a good day. She lay in her spot for hours. She was not drinking or eating. She showed me her teeth when I tried to move her. Jeff and I talked and I told him I didn’t think she would last until the end of the week especially if she was not drinking water.

Maddie loved life

Maddie loved life

After Jeff and I agreed that there was no reason to wait to have this done, it was just a matter of scheduling. They were able to get us on the schedule for 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday, October 23, 2013.


Tuesday night, it was all about Maddie. There were several times during the night where she rallied and looked happy. She drank and she ate. She adored the chicken we gave her. I allowed her to eat a half of a bag of pumpkin/blueberry treats. It appeared she was hungry but only for the treats. Forget that crappy dog food! A few times she went out back. She had time to hang out around the pool. We let her have some alone time outside. When she didn’t come in for awhile I went out to be sure she wasn’t in a corner somewhere, and I found her in the pool. She was not swimming, but she had both her paws on the first step in. Of all places, this was her most favorite. She needed help getting out. I made her carob/peanut butter treats. I wanted to save most of them for Wednesday, but I did give her one or two.

Maddie ate these

Maddie ate these

I had planned a pajama party for her. When she first came to our home as a puppy, she had a lot of problems adjusting to the crate. I had our inflatable bed blown up and I spent weeks with her every night. She was loud enough that she was going to wake my son up, so I stuck my hand in the crate through the slats to pet her, to let her smell me. I even got my hand stuck in there a few times and hurt it! (Ah, the things you do for love!). Eventually I was able to take my hand out, then move my inflatable mattress further away, then to the couch, then to my bedroom. For her the crate was always treated as a good place to be. Of course eventually she ended up in our bed, but that is another story. Laying with her on her last night on this earth seemed right; however, my old air mattress was not going to cooperate.

And these (a half bag of these)

And these (a half bag of these)

About 2:30 a.m. I heard her from my bedroom. I thought perhaps she needed to go to the bathroom. I let her go outside and once again she stayed there for awhile. When she came back in, I got her settled on her blankets in the living room. I was petting her and decided it wasn’t so bad on the floor. I brought out my blanket and it was so adorable. She had her paw near my arm and chest, and she tucked her nose under the blanket–just like how we used to nap together. I fell asleep and didn’t even hear Jeff get up to go to the gym. At some point between 4:00 a.m. and 6:15 a.m., I woke up, saw that she moved away from me, and I popped back into the bed to get some sleep for the long day ahead. After Jeff got home from the gym but before Patrick woke up, he spent some time with her on the floor.

But these were her FAVORITES.

But these were her FAVORITES.

We got Patrick off to school and I got into the shower. I had to leave at 9:20 a.m. to see my clients. I needed to be back at our house by 11:30 if we were going to be able to keep to the schedule and be on time. I was grateful for the distraction but found myself having several panic attacks.

Maddie in her prime.

Maddie in her prime.

Jeff was able to have some alone time with Maddie. He was able to get her outside. He said when he was crying, Maddie came over and licked him and then put her paw on his arm. She was helping him to know that it was okay. I was grateful they had time alone.

Oh no!  Not spoiled AT ALL!

Oh no! Not spoiled AT ALL!

Jeff and I made a pact that we would support each other. Regardless of the signs we saw that might point to her feeling better, we needed to do this for her. This now was about her and any feelings that might creep in were selfish.

You love my crooked tooth!  Yes, Maddie.  Yes, we did.

You love my crooked tooth! Yes, Maddie. Yes, we did.

Since she was still in the backyard and not back to a laying position, I got her leash and just walked her out to the car. With a little help, she was eager to jump right up. This is very weird. She disliked going in the car except for a brief time in her life when she would drive to Patrick’s school to get him (a 100-mile round-tip drive). Jeff stayed in the back with her. We helped her get down. I wondered if we should allow her to get one last moment outside, but she was pulling us towards the door. They got us right into a room. We fed her treats nonstop. We asked if we could see the x-ray so we could visually wrap our heads around this all. I am so glad I asked. There was really no room left in this poor dog’s chest cavity between the mass and the heart. They already had the catheter in her front paw. I asked if she would be on the exam table or if we could have her in our lap. They felt it was better on the exam table, but they put blankets down for her. We said final goodbyes privately, but when she was on the table, she looked a little scared. We told her that she had been an awesome dog and we loved her very much but we did not want her to be in pain. As the medicine was being infused (the kind that would stop her heart), we told her to go, be at peace, we would be fine, we loved her, go find grandpa and Sam and Buddy and Patrick’s brother Matthew and we would see her again when it was our time to go. I asked the tech — Has her heart stopped already? Has she stopped breathing? Is she technically considered dead?

They warned us that the brain might be hyperexcited from the medication being administered and warned us of weird things, even what might look like struggling, but it was physiological response. She had none of that. It was over within 1 minute. The tech (Buffy I LOVE YOU) said she was ready to go since everything went so well.

They let us stay until the end. I laid my head on her and it almost felt like her chest cavity moved a little bit. I asked them if they could please make sure that she indeed was not breathing anymore and they thought it was just the post-death gurgling noise. They let me listen in the stethoscope.

I love belly rubs!

I love belly rubs!

The last thing she tasted was her treats. The last faces she saw were of us. The last feeling she experienced was of love and of release of her job as our dog. Of course she was more than a dog to us, but those are our human feelings we placed on her that made her feel like our child.

The indignities we made her endure.  :-)

The indignities we made her endure. 🙂

We both felt relief when we walked out. We are both experiencing moments of sorrow, and moments where we have a minute or two where we just burst out into tears. But this place is familiar to us and we will get through it.


Her last Christmas with us.

On a humorous note, driving home we saw something on the highway that just made us laugh out loud. We live in an area where there are a lot of coyotes. They have brazenly walked our neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning looking for food. Teasingly, when Maddie would misbehave, we would joke with her, saying if she didn’t watch it, we would feed her to the coyotes. They would find her tender golden retriever meat to be absolutely delicious. (OF COURSE WE TEASED). I turned my head as this truck passed and it said, “3-D Wolf Transport.” After laughing and Jeff staring at me, I said, “Look at the name of the truck.” He didn’t get it. So I reminded him of the story. I have never seen a truck with that name for as long as I lived in Texas. Was it a sign already from Maddie? I don’t know. It provides me a lot of comfort to think so.

The last picture we took of her, happy that dad was home, on October 22, 2013

The last picture we took of her, happy that dad was home, on October 22, 2013

22 thoughts on “Maddie’s Final Days

  1. The great love you had for Maddie is so evident Hilda, so sorry for your families loss, you had me at tears by the end, you write so beautifully. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks Phil. I appreciate that you took the time to come read it. Most people won’t because it is too difficult of a subject matter.

  3. I am absolutely heartbroken for you. I am properly sobbing. You were the absolute best furparents ever and Maddie, I have absolute faith, had a wonderful and well loved life. Just as she likely chose before coming to this world. God’s peace be with you x

  4. Hilda, this the most well written and beautiful tribute I have ever read. I know how very happy Made your lives, and she will be in our hearts forever. What an extremely lucky dog she was! I hoped Patrick takes it o.k. but you know the best thing for his empty heart will be another dog, perhaps a 1-2 year old or older that you won’t have to spend so much time training.

  5. I am still bawling. Maddie’s life was filled with such love. I’m so sorry it had to end, but I’m glad it was on your (and her) terms. Hugs go out to you and Jeff in this tough time.

  6. Thanks Debra. I was expecting her to come into the kitchen as I was making my dinner and when she didn’t, I started bawling. Jeff had just returned with Patrick from the store and she normally was standing in the front window with her tail whacking the window and he started crying when that didn’t happen. I’m sure it will be like this for awhile for us. Appreciate the support of our friends who have been through this and can understand.

  7. Beautifully written. Made me miss my Chato. I still can’t think of giving a part of my heart to another dog. It was all about Chato.

  8. I am so deeply saddened by the loss of your dear sweet Maddie. Having gone through this with our beloved pets Casey, Jack and Pudy…we know all too well what you are going through. Please know that we are thinking of you all, and holding you close in our hearts. <3333

  9. Hilda,

    This was such a nice story to hear the love you all have for each other is truly wonderful. As other have said, your story reminded me of our cat Smokie, it’s a looong story but we miss him even 4 years later.

    Thank you for sharing such a difficult experience, you are an amazing person.


  10. Hilda, I’m so sorry that I have just now been able to catch up on my blog reading. This was so beautifully written. I still cry over my Keela (Siberian), she was such a lady. There are times at night when I can almost feel her presence, as I’m sure you must too. Such an odd “knowing” but such a comfort that she’s just “on the other side”. I hope that happy memories of Maddie bring you and your family comfort.

  11. Thanks Joan. I don’t cry about Sam anymore–I miss him but it’s now been about 12 years and 2 other dogs. Sam was our wedding gift to each other. Sam got my through my miscarriage. It is quite a story. Maybe I’ll share those stories. I think I’m going to use this blog for awhile to share Maddie stories. I have so many of them. I am sending you hugs about Keela. Huskies are beautiful dogs.

  12. I think that Huskies are the best kept secret, but then, that is the only breed that I’ve had. Outside of the “flying fur”, I think that they are wonderful dogs. That said, I think that the one that I have now will be the last Siberian because they are so strong and I don’t think that I will be able to handle another young one. I would consider rescuing a senior, though, and not necessarily a Siberian – Greyhounds have had it tough and that is one breed that I’ll have to investigate with regard to adoption. Take care, Joan
    p.s. I don’t know if you tried to email me, but for some reason the addy was missing an ‘m’, which I’ve corrected.

  13. Hilda,
    I’m sorry that I just now read your beautifully written, heart breaking, story about Maddie. I can hardly stop crying long enough to write this, but I want you to know how sorry I am for your great loss. Maddie was a beautiful, loyal and loving member of your family, and I know that the memories of all the precious moments that you shared with her will be cherished forever. Life is precious, and you seemed to appreciate every moment that you had together with Maddie. My prayers to you and your family. Thank you for sharing this story of life, and love. As painful as it was to read, it made me realize how important it is not to take a single day for granted, and to love our dogs as if every day were their last.

  14. Your fur-baby is helping to ease my pain. And you are such a wonderful person. I am blessed to have your family in my life.

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