I just drove back to Boise after a terrific family vacation in the mountains. If you’ve never driven along Highway 55 in Idaho, it’s one of the most scenic stretches of asphalt you can imagine. I’ve driven it countless times over the years but this was the first time I had a chance to experience it in my “new” 1986 Jeep with the top off. The beauty and magnitude of the mountains and rivers was the perfect setting for reflection on some blissful time on a lake with family and close friends.

The most profound moment of our time away for me however came in the form of our dog Maggie. Two days ago, Pam and I awoke to the sound of Maggie crying (both Maggie and her sister Rosie slept on the floor of our bedroom in the cabin) and I jumped up assuming she was letting us know that nature was calling. I knew right away though that something wasn’t right. She was struggling to get up and I saw that she wasn’t able to use her hind legs. Her eyes grew wide and I got down to hold her. Within a few seconds I could tell she was in real distress and I yelled to Pam to get a vet right away.

I held Maggie while Pam found an amazing gentleman to rush to our cabin at 7am on a Saturday in a sleepy mountain town. The fifteen or twenty minutes it took him to get there (we feel remarkably lucky) felt like hours to me. They certainly felt like the last moments I was going to be spending with her and I wasn’t prepared for that. I’ve grown really close with her and I always imagined I’d have the opportunity to say goodbye to her like Owen Wilson did in Marley and Me – a sloppy affair with me sharing some well-thought out vignettes of our time together. This was sudden and real and all I wanted to do was end her suffering.

Maggie’s seizure was still happening when the vet showed up. After examining her, he told us that she’d had a stroke and was coming out of it, though there was no predicting yet how it would affect her but it was clear to him that she was going to survive. He shared stories with us that had both tragic and heart-warming endings. As she started to relax, he gave us instructions on how to care for her for the next day or two and to call him if things turned for the worse.

After about 90 minutes she calmed down enough to lay on the bed and take a nap with me. We both woke about 30 minutes later and she was looking better. I lifted her down to the floor and while as wobbly as a drunken sailor, she made her way down the hall and onto the porch where she staggered around for 15 minutes or so, falling down and dragging herself back up. Each time she got up, she did so with a little more confidence and she eventually got to the point where she could stand for a couple of minutes. We gave her some food and she happily ate it – a good sign for any Lab. We decided to take her down the steps to the lake shore and her tail started wagging – more good signs – and we watched her spend an hour walking in and out of the water’s edge – staggering, falling and standing over and over again on the warm soft beach.

Miraculously, by afternoon Maggie was about 90% of normal. We threw her tennis ball a few feet into the lake and she eagerly fought off Rosie to win the short swimming races – we were stunned. The next morning, Maggie was back to herself. She bounded up when I awoke, ate a hearty breakfast and resumed swimming activities with her usual vigor. 24 hours after thinking we were losing her, she was back to normal.

I spent a good deal of time in the jeep today thinking about her and the profound effect she’s had on me. Maggie’s the first animal that I’ve had a deep relationship with. I’ve had pets in and out of my life but I never connected with an animal the way I have with her. While a little late in life to finally experience that, I feel grateful for the twelve years I’ve had with her and fully recognize how lucky I am for each of our remaining days together. I told her this morning that she’s on bonus day number three now and the sparkle in her eye and the wag of her tail told me she gets it. We went down to play in the water one more time and I got in the jeep and left for home with a new appreciation for the special bond that we share.

Showing 18 comments
  • Clare

    Life begins when you love a doggy.

  • Patrick N. Lewis

    Beautiful post Mark. Awesome pic of you and Maggie on the water.

  • Reply

    Dogs fucking rule. Every moment we get with them is a gift.

  • Dee Rambeau

    I sure can relate Mark. My 14-year old Golden retriever Bogart put me through a similar scare a month ago…only it gastrointestinal. For a solid week he wouldn’t eat, he was hiding from me, sleeping out in the farthest corners of the yard at night. I took all of this as signs that he was done…14 good hard loving and healthy years and now he was ready for the next part of his journey. I took him to the vet on a Thursday afternoon…literally had to lift and carry him to the car and into the vet. Putting him down was on my mind…and I’d struggled mightily with it for several days. Emotionally I’d done all the things I wanted and needed to do in order to say goodbye. I’d even spent 6 hours one summer night sleeping out on the grass alongside him, half-hoping that he would pass in the night.
    On this Thursday trip to vet, as soon as I laid him down on the floor, he popped up wagging and greeting all of his friends. I looked at him “you little devil” and I said “well clearly this dog isn’t ready for the needle yet.
    We put him on an aggressive anti-biotic schedule and two day in he was his old rambunctious grumpy old dog self.
    Now I know that when it is finally his time, I’ll be ready.

    • Mark Solon

      Thanks for sharing that Dee. Bogart, what a great name!!

  • Jill

    Beautifully written Mark. I can barely type this write now due to the tears welled up in my eyes. I’m going to cuddle with Lily right now and remind her how much she too is loved. Hugs and kisses to Maggie (and Rosie) <3

  • Ginger Cohen

    Aw, so sweet. Hope you have her many more years

  • Reply

    Having had my share of dogs over the years, I know how you felt. What always amazes me about dogs though is how quickly they recover and how much they work through the pain and illnesses they suffer from, rarely ever bothering us with their discomfort. I wish people were that resilient.

  • Danielle Alexander

    This is beautiful Mark. I’m so happy to hear that Maggie is doing better.

  • Wyatt Werner

    Good dog!

  • Michael Rene Zuzel

    Toby is glad Maggie is feeling better. I’m sure they chatted about it across the alley.

    • Mark Solon

      Back to her old self Michael. I think I heard them talking today…

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