It has been 6 months that I lost Maggi and only now do I feel I can talk about my wolfhound years without bursting into a puddle of tears. I can smile now, but I wasn't sure it would happen. It does. So much has changed in that short time. I almost feel as though I have woken up in a whole new life. There are no wolfhounds anymore, but perhaps someday there will be. And so now it is time to write the final chapters of this time I shared with Saige, Maggi and Guinness in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. I begin my end with the one and only Maggi.
I will never forget the 16 hour hell storm we had driven through from Quebec to Nova Scotia. It was the worst storm of the winter. The temperature was an astounding minus 40 with wind chills that stuck your eyes together if you blinked. The roads were closed and snow covered. By the time we hit Nova Scotia visibility and road conditions had us driving at 40 km per hour the final 4 hours.
Regardless of the storm raging outside, Maggi was calm and happy. I cooed and cuddled her in the back seat and the bond was immediate. It was as though she knew she was going home. I could tell from these special hours what an extraordinary and kind-hearted hound I had on board with me! We loved each other DEEPLY and she was exceptionally responsive to my affections. It was a powerful feeling. This was not Maggi's first time driving for days in a storm. From what I know, her beginnings were the stuff of horror movies, and her first 4 years were spent on the end of a 10 foot chain. Maggi was blind, used for breeding at a horrific puppy mill. She had literally travelled from coast to coast in her re-homing efforts. She had covered more ground in Canada than I had. Stories started pouring in from people she encountered on her journey. Total strangers involved in her rescue (including the Saskatoon SPCA and the IW Rescue Coalition of Canada) and everyone in between began e-mailing tales of this tenacious blind Irish Wolfhound that they had known. It seemed everyone had been touched by this beautiful, brave girl who refused to be overlooked.
After a few days of settling in, learning the rules and getting to know her new brother Guinness, we decided to load Maggi into the car again for a walk down to a trail we often used. Maggi crouched down and trembled. It took effort to convince her to get back in the car. She thought she was home. She couldn't face more driving. She did not understand and she did not want to leave. Things were so good now. She had a full belly, and a warm safe house full of love. It was heart breaking. Big progress was made when 3 minutes later she was out free-styling in the snow with Guinness. That first time with Maggi -to and from the house for a walk- was a big step. Now she understood the car would never take her away from her home. Slowly she developed a sense of security and Maggi blossomed into the dog she always wanted to be.
What a joy to watch her express her freedom. Just like the snow, our worries of a blind dog soon melted away too. Maggi had a sixth sense about her, along with trust in my voice. She learned the ins and outs of her favorite trails and memorized her route. This allowed her to walk, run and explore at her leisure. No special leashes or harnesses were required. Just trust, and a set of eyes to guide her. It was marvelous to witness, I was just so proud of her and proud also to see the life I could give her.
I do not know if it is because she knew starvation, was blind, or if she was just a chow hound--but my, Maggi LOVED to eat. I wondered sometimes if she would ever be satisfied! Her search for food was relentless. We lived on a beef farm so it was actually cheaper and healthier to feed them grass fed, lean beef. Since I could no longer free feed them (Maggi would just eat everything in sight) meal time became a production and I loved it just as much as them. I would come home from work, get my doggy kisses and cuddles, then the feast prep would begin! I would cook up the beef as they waited hanging onto my every word. "Yum! How about some rice and cranberries with that today! Oh, and I see there is some left-over carrots and peas. My won't that taste good in our supper". It was wonderful. The pleasure of seeing their enthusiasm and vigour at mealtime was a highlight of my day. Often as I fed her, I would speak softly to Maggi and tell her to eat slow and enjoy. Maggi responded favourably to the routine and positively thrived.
Maggi's food obsession could only be compared to her capacity for love. If friends were visiting she would make the rounds with big smiles and wags for everyone. That definitely set her apart as Guinness was such a mamma's boy. Maggi made time for everyone! And--Maggi liked to be made of. So I made a lot of her. The attention and love really brought out her big personality. Her confidence in herself was delightful to witness. She was quite please with herself as well. She enjoyed little tricks and had a silly sense of humour. She liked to engage people in little games and affections. Everyone who met her simply fell in love with this sweet, blind girl who beat the odds.
Maggi was very clever. She would often line up Guinness to do her dirty work. When it came to stealing treats or begging for more food, Maggi was always behind the trick and could be found waiting and listening on the side-lines for the outcome.
When it was time to leave camp, Guinness would run away and get in trouble. Maggi would walk in circles playing stupid, but knowing full well it was time to go home. Her favorite game was "Where's Maggi?" She would stomp her feet while I moved in closer with a sneaky voice. I would say "WHHHHHere's MAGGI?" She would wait for the "Maggi", no matter how long the "Whhhhere" , and pounce and jump when I finally said it. Her mouth would open in a big smile, tongue wagging happily everywhere as if to say " Well here I am! Maggi right here silly!"
If she wanted something badly, like a walk- or just attention- she would press her head into my belly and shake it violently as if to convey her excitement level about something! The more she wanted something, the more vigorous her head shaking became. My, she made me laugh.
I never took one day with Maggi for granted She lifted me up, took me away from my own problems. Everyone always said how lucky Maggi was to have me, but it was I who was given the GIFT, She gave a whole new meaning to the term "Splorin Wolfie" indeed. Maggi, who lived in darkness, brought light.
I was never quite sure of Maggi's age. There were different stories. Regardless, the reality of all wolfies is that they are a short lived breed. It is never an easy fact to face but I did the only thing I knew that would help. I just prayed. Everyday. "Yes I know they do not live long but please don't let them suffer. Take them from me if you must, but take them peacefully". Years of daily prayer and directed intention worked. On Mother's Day I pulled into the yard. Maggi had died, her heart had stopped and her tongue sprawled out of her mouth. Clayton was frantic on the phone with the vet. At the sound of my car pulling in, Maggi's heart started and she sprung too life running over to me as if nothing happened at all, as she had done hundreds of times before.
We drove Maggi to the vet. The vet said she was tachy cardiac and her little revival was a small miracle. The vet let us down easy, but told us to take her home and enjoy her for the weekend, borrowed time.
We brought Maggi home and didn't make of her beyond the normal love and cuddles she got every day. She rested peacefully and playfully in her bed, smiling contently. At 2 AM I was awoken by a familiar "THUMP THUMP THUMP". Maggi's tail on the wall had been my wake up call for the past 4 years. "THUMP THUMP THUMP", I heard again. Maggi must need to pee I thought, getting out of bed. I went to the door but Maggi stood by her food dish grinning up at me. "THUMP THUMP THUMP" boomed her tail loudly once again. I could not resist a laugh. Right to the end Maggi was thinking of that bottomless gut of hers. There was a little bacon grease on the counter that I melted over a small bowl of kibble. I placed her bowl in her little eating table and watched her enthusiastically gobble up what would be her last meal. Maggi looked up from her empty dish. "THUMP THUMP THUMP". I laughed again, walked her to her bed ands gave hugs and kisses. She plopped down with a huge sigh and drifted contently off to sleep. She woke me again at 6 in the morning for her pee. I waited for her on the front landing wondering if the stairs would stress her heart. I was right, and she collapsed into my arms. She tried to get up and I spoke softly to her. " Just stay right there, Mags," I said. "You just stay with Mamma and close your eyes go to sleep. Mamma here to love you." I patted her sweet soft face and kissed her. She let go her breath and, in my arms, transitioned smoothly to her next adventure. She didn't suffer even a wink. She just let out a sigh and went. I held her for a long time. I thanked God for the peace.
I went outside with Guinness. I was Maggi's eyes for so long it changed the way I saw things. . Always on the look out for obstacle, scanning for bumps to steer her away, and guiding her towards me. I shook my senses as it hit me. I hadn't realized how differently I had viewed the world. Something deep inside me shifted. A feeling of deep- rooted inadequacy spun out of me from some dark corner of my heart. She took it right out of me, in that moment, and I felt it leave. It was replaced by something I can only describe as pure joy. Maggi, the blind girl with a heart of gold and eyes that could not see, it was her final gift to me,and in that moment I had learned... and I saw.