Wednesday, April 19, 2023

One Final Farewell

Just over two weeks ago, my sweet girl, my Maggie, told me it was time for her to cross to the other side.  There was nothing more that I could do for her.  I had loved her, fed her, played with her, cared for her, and loved her ever more.  

Mags was adopted as an older adult dog from Langley Animal Protection Society, after a requisite three visits for us to get to know each other. I think she knew from the very first day that she and I were meant to be together:

"Will you be my new mama?"

Maggie was a fearful and very timid dog, but soon found many things to enjoy:

Day long hikes at first, then shorter walks as she got older, and then rides in the car to local parks to spend time just sniffing the grass and flowers and the fresh air: 

Beaches - oh how she loved sandy beaches!  Splashing along the ocean's edge, investigating marine life, trying to chase ducks despite my firm command to leave them alone.  Beaches at sunrise and beaches at sunset.  Beaches with rocks to climb and beaches with miles of smooth sand.  But mostly, beaches with her mama.

Never a fan of people or dogs, she learned to tolerate them and some she even came to like.  Her Auntie Pat and the poms who we hiked with in the earlier years, and our neighbour Marilyn who looked after her while I hiked with a friend in more recent times, were among her favourites.  And anyone with some treats or a sandwich to share was welcome to share her space after gentle introductions and a lot of sheltie barking. Oh how she could bark!

To many,  she seemed like a noisy or serious girl.  But with me, she was calm and usually quiet, happy and surprisingly giggly.  I swear she knew how to share a good joke.

She loved to be outside - spring, summer, winter, fall.  She and I would wander meadows of flowers in spring,

wade along ocean shores in summer or just rest in the shade of a bush or tree,

or dress up warmly to check out the vanilla ice cream that covered the ground in winter.

But our favourite time of year for walks was in the fall - leaves crunching underfoot, beaches empty of people, light rain or weak sun surrounding us.  It was the greatest time for photos - a world of  sable sheltie colours with a sheltie in the centre of it all.

Maggie became very adept at posing - if I pulled out the camera, she posed.  Often she did several poses in a row, like a fashion model on a photoshoot.  She even chose her own settings  - spotting something that interested her like a field of flowers or a curving piece of driftwood, she wandered over as far as her long leash would take her and sat down, looking at me in a way that clearly said "Get your camera out, mama!" 

And then, of course, there was this:

"Sigh....Seriously, mom?  There better be extra treats for this!"

One of the great pleasures of her life was anything to do with training.  She was very treat motivated and loved puzzle toys and other food toys that exercised her mind as much as her body.  

We did one-on-one and group training with Positive Dog in Nanaimo, and Maggie developed a new passion when our trainer introduced us to canine parkour - using the natural and human-made structures on our walks to traverse the landscape by climbing, jumping, leaping.  Two paws up, four paws up, leap, walk the log - all became a major part of our vocabulary on walks no matter where we were - in town, on beaches, in forests or fields. 

One of her favourite parkour activities - a large circle of stumps at Rathtrevor Park, where she leapt from stump to stump to stump all the way around the circle without letting her paws hit the ground.

She ran the log on the right, then leapt from it to the high stump!  Her agility in her 'younger' (around 10 or 11 at this time) years astounded me. 

Before long, she needed no command to jump up on a rock or a stump or even an empty urban planter, to walk along a log or a retaining wall or a park bench.  Even on  one of her very  last walks with me, at Moorecroft Park, she startled me when my limpy, slow, old sheltie suddenly half-jumped, half-scrambled up an old rotten stump and laughed at me as she waited for her treat!

Look at me Mom!  Treat please!

But a few weeks ago, we began a roller-coaster ride as her body failed her, with limbs that would not, could not work.  Acupuncture helped for awhile, but soon her pain was masked only by medications that left her unable to live a life of quality, of joy, of dignity.

And so, my precious Maggie,  I gave to you a final gift - the gift of letting go. I held you in my arms, let my tears fall on your soft fur, whispered how much I loved you, how much I will always love you, and I kissed your sweet, sweet head as your spirit drifted away on a breeze, off to the Rainbow Bridge.  

Thank you for the joy you brought to my life, sweet girl.  One day, I will see you on the other side.  Meanwhile, run with joy, free of pain, in meadows of flowers and along sandy beaches.  Jump high on logs and rocks and stony precipices.  Find friends, both human and canine and maybe even a cat or two (but no, you still can't chase them - or the ducks - unless they say it's okay!).  Bark to your heart's content, and feast on all the treats you want.  

And if you will, check in with me now and then, for a part of you stays on in my heart, and a part of my heart has gone with you.  I'll love you forever and always.  

[Postscript:  It is my intention that Maggie will be my last adopted companion.  Now in my seventies, I am reluctant to take on the responsibility of another pet, one who might outlive me  when I have no one who could commit to taking them on.  Vet bills for aging pets are excruciatingly high, and housing with pets is hard to come by.  Depending on my circumstances, I may pet sit or foster small, easy, old critters, but as much as I love animals I am no longer comfortable taking on  permanent responsibility for them.  And so, with that said, it is time to officially end this blog.  Thank you to those who have followed along for the past many, many years.  It has been a pleasure sharing 'my life with the critters' with you. Jean.]


Anonymous said...

Oh Jean, I am beyond sorry. I know the bond between you and Maggie was different from all others and I know letting her go was almost more than you could bear. But your love was stronger than that pain and you let her spirit fly free. How lucky you were to find each other! The photos and memories you share here are simply magnificent. Your beautiful, aching words made me cry. I send you love!

Christine Heal said...

Thank you, Jean, for sharing your photographic tribute of your lovely Maggie, and, over the years, those who came before her. Always wonderful photos matched with just the right text: sometimes descriptive, sometimes humorous, other times more philosophical.

Although another pet may not be living with you permanently, there may be others who call you Foster Mama, or Auntie, or Friend, or perhaps simply "The Cool Photographer with Treats."

Despite not having that specific animal in your home, I know your life with the critters will continue. The banana slug leaving a shimmering line alongside a walking path. A heron lifting off a stump, wings contrasting the blue sky behind. A black-tail deer peeking through the brilliant fall foliage. The tiny black beetle hanging on a flower stem after a recent rain. No, I think critters will always grace your life and you will be there with your camera to capture them. Perhaps not in this blog, and perhaps only for your own enjoyment, but to me you will always be "Jean and her life with the critters."

A sincere thank you for sharing, and run free Maggie!


sobe said...

Jean, thank you for sharing your Maggie with us and all the other critters before her. I've followed you for a very long time and have been a fan of the many adventures you took us on.
Miss Maggie was one of a kind, all the pictures you posted reminded me of how many times I've laughed and smiled at her silly antics.
Sending you hugs and love, and a heartfelt thank you for taking us along on your many adventures.

Marie Tate said...

Jean, my heart aches for you mostly but all of your friends who have read your blog over the years, and there have been many, have sad hearts today. Maggie and you were a great team, loving each other and enjoying all that life had to offer, no one could have made her so happy as you and she smiled all her gratefulness in every picture you took. She was a beautiful gently soul and I will always remember visiting her in Crofton and I know I will never forget you or her as I complete the winter of my life.
Sparkle still lives on a farm with my friend and I've been lucky to be able to see her occasionally when I always get lots of love and attention from her.
Maggie, I will remember and love you always and can picture you frolicking at the Rainbow Bridge, smiling as usual. Thank you Jean for this beautiful tribute, you are such a kind person and know that we do appreciate your love of animals and talents with the camera.

Brigid said...

Dear Jean - I didn’t encounter you till “after the piggies”, and we’ve never met in person, but I have loved your pictures and your stories, and known some of the joy and pain of sharing life and death with beloved pets. You gave Maggie such a wonderful life, and a part of you will never lose her. Thank you for sharing her in that wonderful sequence of words and images.

And now the end of a chapter – though I’m sure it’s not the end of your creativity, and I’ll look forward to seeing your pictures on FB. With no companion at home, perhaps you’ll have the freedom to travel a bit more – if you’re in the Lower Mainland, contact me for a personal visit at the Richmond Cat Sanctuary!

With love and e-hugs

Kim Donohoe said...

This is the most beautiful tribute. With words and images, and your acts of kindness and the beauty of your relationship. It brought me to tears. You two had a very special relationship and you gave her such a great life. 🩷

Zazie said...

I'm so sorry for your loss of Maggie. Thank you for sharing her with us all these years. These photos are a wonderful testament to what a happy life she had with you. I love your blog and am so glad I got to know you through it. I will miss your lovely posts with so many beautiful photos. Take care, Zazie.

Gayle said...

Thank you for everything that you've shared over the years (I started following during the piggy years). I offer my condolences (as others have) and recognize that there is more than a good-bye to Maggie here. I will miss you, your skilled photography, your poignant words, and your generosity. Thank you, for everything -- Gayle

Sheryl said...

I'm so sorry for your loss of Maggie. It is so hard when they leave us.

Thank you for the years of wonderful blog posts - I've been following your blog since the piggies.

Take care of yourself and I hope your future holds everything you want.