Why do I have four deaf dogs? Because I can't take a fifth one right now. Why did I even choose a deaf dog? I didn't choose Pickles, Nea, Piglet or Opal...they all chose me. Why do I make their food from scratch? Because the vast majority of commercial dog food isn't worth the material used for the packaging. Why am I on Facebook so much? I'm trying to get the word out about deaf dogs and I'm trying to get the ones in the shelters adopted. The deaf dogs in rescue I'm not so worried about because, although that may not be their forever home, they are safe and loved with fosters. The ones in the kill shelters are the ones that concern me the most. I wish I could bring them all home but I can't. I wish that I could play with them all but I can't. I wish that I could love them all and I do but I can't hold them and tell them.
Did this all start with Polar? Sorta. Polar was the first time that I stepped outside my comfort zone and fought for something that didn't relate to who I was. It wasn't about Mac the husband, Mac the parent, Mac the police officer or Mac the friend. It was about Polar and what was going to be done to her through no fault of her own. Did it really start there? No. It all started in 2002 when we bought an American Mastiff puppy from a breeder (I didn't know any better back then) in Ohio and named that puppy "Saint Brigid's Madred". When we were looking for names we wanted something Gaelic or Scottish and wanted it to mean "monster" because we knew she was going to be big. We looked everywhere and found the word "madred" (pronounced mah-drid) which meant "monster" (although I can't find that reference now). That was perfect! Saint Brigid has many meanings to Donna and I and they are intensely personal. Click on the link for more information on Saint Brigid. Maddie, as she became know,n was our child. We loved her and cared for her like doting parents do but we did make mistakes. I spoke harshly to her and even spanked her. I got mad at her and yelled. I know now that bad dogs come from bad owners and although I didn't consider myself as a bad owner, looking back...I was. Maddie was a great companion but I took her for granted and didn't treasure that friendship I had with her. She loved me, unconditionally, even when I didn't deserve it. There were times when I thought she was too much and wanted to give her away but I realized that I made a commitment to her and knew I couldn't do that.
Maddie began to get older and was less active then she started to not be able to get up without assistance. We were told that this breed of Mastiff only lived seven to nine years and we had had her for about six so her slowing down did not concern me although it should have. You see, when she was a puppy, we fed her a commercial brand from a national dog food maker available at your local pet store. Then later, it became too difficult to go to the pet store because it was another thing on the errand list so we started buying dog food made by a national dog food maker available at the grocery store. I was to find out years later that I would have been better off feeding her the bag it came in.
In September of 2009, we had to help Maddie get up because she wouldn't stand on her own and when she would walk, her spine was twisted so she would walk sideways. Still, I didn't take her to the vet. I just thought she was getting older and the end was coming but did I play with her any more that I did before? Not really. In November 2009, I had to help her up and down the stairs because she couldn't walk them. Did I spend any more time with her? Not really. Later in November I had to pick her up in my arms and carry her outside several times a day to go potty. Did I love her anymore? Not really. In fact, I was mad at her because "she" was like this.
I took her to the vet and wanted the vet to fix her. The vet took some x-rays and we discovered Maddie had arthritis in her upper back causing her not to be able to walk. I took Maddie to another vet who began treatment with Chinese herbs and acupuncture and after one treatment, I saw a little improvement and I was hopeful that she would get better. I started feeding her a raw diet, like the vet said to and she looked like she was doing better. Through scheduling problems, I wasn't able to get another appointment with the new vet for three weeks and I thought that would be okay but as it turns out, it wasn't.
On December 10, 2009, I took Maddie outside and it had been raining. Maddie was still big (about 140 pounds) and while carrying her, I misjudged the steps, missed the last one and almost dropped her but didn't and sat her down roughly. When I went to pick her up, she bit me and I knew in that one instance she was in pain and the things I was doing for her weren't for her...they were for me. She was hurting and I know she was embarrassed because she had to be carried out to go potty. I knew in that one instance, her time had come and I had to do what I knew...in my heart was the right thing for her. The next day, I visited with a friend and we talked about what had happened and what had to be done. From there, I went to the vet and made the arrangements for Maddie to be euthanized at my home the following day and then I left work. I went home, held Maddie and didn't let her go. Friends and family came to the house and loved on her like never before. We gave her an old blanket, that smelled like us and covered her up. My daughter gave her a stuffed toy and she slept in the living room. I cried myself to sleep that night. I knew that this was my fault and there was no way for anyone to talk me out of this. I waited too long, fed her crap and neglected her.
On December 12, we all gathered around Maddie and loved on her all day. She had the best day of her life! She knew, in that one day, that she was loved the way she loved. Friends and family came and sat with her and played with her and she had the best time.
Later in the afternoon, the vet came and then...it was time. I almost sent her away. I just couldn't do it but the vet and Donna told me it was the right thing to do. It was time to let her go.
I held her in my arms and the vet gave her a shot that made her sleep. The vet said she was sleeping and wouldn't feel what would come next. I had a friend read the following Masonic prayer which is given at a certain time during the raising of a Master Mason:
THOU, O GOD! knowest our down-setting an our up-rising. and understandeth our thoughts afa off. Shield and defend us from the evil intentions of our enemies, and support us under the trials and afflictions we are destined to endure, while traveling through this vale of tears. Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth as a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee; thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass: turn from him that he may rest, till he shall accomplish his day. For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. But man dieth and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up, so man lieth down, and riseth not up till the heavens shall be no more. Yet, O Lord! have compassion on the children of thy creation; administer them comfort in time of trouble, and save them with an everlasting salvation. So mote it be. Amen.
With that, the vet administered the medicine that took my Maddie from me. She was still and silent but she didn't hurt anymore. She wasn't in pain but I was. The guilt and pain I felt, and feel to this very day, is still very real and some days almost all consuming. I didn't do enough for her while she was alive but I was able to give her the greatest gift of all...the gift of freedom. I know she'll be waiting for me at the Bridge and before we cross, I know I'll have to answer for a lot of things I did and didn't do to her.
It rained all weekend. I believe the Heavens were crying for me. I couldn't drink enough on this day to forget what happened and I couldn't drink enough the next day to forget what happened the day before.
We had her cremated and the company was very professional the day she died as they were when we picked her up on Monday. I bought her a little table at Target before we picked her up so she would have a place to stay forever. No matter what, this is her forever home! To this day, she's in the same spot. She even has her own Christmas tree (the little Charlie Brown Christmas tree) and I know she loves it very much.
I believe Maddie is watching and I believe that she is guiding my path when it comes to these deaf dogs...all deaf dogs. I think that Polar and Maddie are great friends. I will never again feed my dogs food wherein the bag is better for them than the contents. Never again will I get mad at my dogs because they did something bad because I know now that it is the fault of the owner. Never will I hit my dogs. I will never take for granted the feel of a wet nose of a sloppy kiss. I know some people are thinking why didn't we get another Mastiff. Well, it's because of the life span. Large breed dogs typically lead shorter lives and I couldn't have another dog for seven years and watch them die. Pickles chose me! I didn't choose her! She started it all and will always be "Daddy's girl".
Lately, I have come to realize that I spend way too much time on things that shouldn't matter and not enough time on the things that do matter. I forgot to listen. I forget to speak softly. In dog terms, I'm doing too much barking and not enough tail wagging.
I forget to tell people that I love them. Don't you forget to do that!