From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms
By Diane Powis
Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible.
~Marion C. Garretty
Maggie Mae, named after Margaret Thatcher and the Rod Stewart song, was my first “child.” Not just an English bulldog, but to my husband and me, our first joint attempt at parenting. When we took the long drive to Enfield, Connecticut, from New York City to choose our baby, Maggie literally ran from the security of her mother and siblings and seemingly chose us. Years of fun and adventure raising her in New York enhanced her naturally friendly and outgoing temperament.
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Later, with a move to the suburbs of Connecticut, she settled into a calmer life, one where she graciously stepped out of the limelight to make room for our two children, Ben and Sarah. She was always a part of the scene, however: annual holiday photos, car trips to the Berkshires, long walks, and later, when she became tired and more stubborn, “drags” around the neighborhood.
You could always count on Maggie to cuddle up next to you on the couch and snore away contentedly, head on your lap, with her tongue, too long to be contained, stuck out and dried up over her lower lip. We joked about “kissing her on the lip” as she really only had a lower one! The kids called her Scoobie or Scoo-scoo for short, and she taught them how much work, respect, compassion, and responsibility it takes to be a pet owner. She was always much more than just a pet, however, as she gave us all the gift of unconditional love.
After twelve and a half wonderful years of life, Maggie died on a Wednesday. I know it was a Wednesday because it happened to be my “crazy day.” I needed to get up by six, get the kids up, semi-nourished, dressed and ready for school, the dog walked and fed, then myself transformed from morning mommy into some sort of presentable shape. I also needed to get my son to the bus by 7:39 A.M. or he required a twenty-minute drive to school with my daughter in tow. She needed to get to her school by 8:00 A.M., a physical impossibility if we missed the bus. Every Wednesday the kids referred to me as “Rushing Mommy,” because despite my best intentions to remain calm and collected, I inadvertently morphed into a clock-watching, neurotic creature who I often could not even recognize.
Although Maggie’s general health had been deteriorating, she was holding her own. So, on that particular morning, as I was beginning the “walking Maggie” portion of the morning routine, it seemed that she was not at all herself. She could hardly make the walk to her special bathroom area of the yard, and once there, lacked the strength to even hold herself up to urinate. With my assistance, she slowly made her way back inside where the children were watching television, and then immediately collapsed on the carpet in front of them. The children shot up from the couch and we all huddled around Maggie, unsure of what to do to help her as she lay there panting. My seven-year-old son burst into tears, my three-year-old daughter sat petting Maggie’s head telling her, “It’s okay Scoo-scoo,” while I just felt overwhelmed and in shock at what was happening.
Within moments, while I had my son in my arms and all three of us were massaging Maggie’s side, she very gradually shut her eyes, stopped panting, and in her final moment, released her bowels all over the carpet. “MOMMY!!!” screamed the children in unison. “Did Maggie just die???” wailed my son. “Can we get another puppy?” asked my daughter. So here is one of those moments: our beloved dog is dead on the soiled carpet, the children are distraught and trying to understand what just happened, and mommy is feeling completely traumatized and overwhelmed.
I believe that there exists within all parents an untapped emergency resource that somehow enables us to cope. For better or for worse, we are able to put aside our immediate needs in order to do our best for our children. So, perhaps with such thoughts skirting the edges of my consciousness, I told the children that I wasn’t certain that Maggie was dead, but she was definitely sick and in need of help. We had to get her to the dog doctor.
This was followed by a blur of activity; I scooped up Maggie’s accident, threw on some clothes, and somehow coaxed the children into the car. Leaving the passenger door open, I went back in for Maggie, and with strength I didn’t know I possessed, managed to get her fifty-five pound body into the car. At that point my son, who wasn’t buying the Maggie-may-not-have-died line, tearfully informed me that there was no way he was able to take the bus to school that day. Unable to argue with his logic, I drove the twenty minutes to and from his school, while poor Maggie slid back and forth on the car floor.
When the children left the car at their respective schools, I encouraged them to say goodbye to Maggie. Ben stroked her back and whispered, “I love you” and when I finally pulled into my daughter’s school, Sarah gently kissed Maggie on the head and ran inside.
Maggie and I were suddenly alone in the car and all the sadness over the loss of my wonderful girl began to take hold. Through tears, I stroked her soft head one last time and silently thanked her for years of love and devotion. Somehow, I phoned the vet and was instructed to get her to their office as soon as possible.
I was escorted to a private office where Maggie’s vet very gently informed me that I could take her ashes home, or that they could keep Maggie’s ashes and distribute them in a “special dog place.” Too dazed to decide on the spot, I asked if I could contact her later. When I returned to the car, I phoned my husband in tears and told him the horrible news.
As the day progressed, thoughts of Maggie, my family, and our years together that were at first blocked, eventually came out. Home together that evening, gathered around pictures of our beloved companion, my husband, Ben, Sarah and I held hands and talked about Maggie and our fondest memories of what made her so special. As we went around the circle, sharing our stories, I could truly feel Maggie’s spirit, and was comforted by the certainty that she would always remain a truly special part of our family.