Editor's Note: Sadly, we have to report that Maggie, the main subject of this column and beloved fur baby of the Corbins, has passed over the rainbow bridge. We send our deepest sympathies to all of the Corbins, whether they have two legs or four.
As I sit here contemplating writing my column, as usual, topics swirl in my head and I quickly rule out a few because I don’t know if I can write enough about it and I ponder over what ideas are contenders for this month’s topic. Sometimes, the topic is right there, front and center; sometimes I have to dig really deep or even ask others for ideas. It might be something I’ve ranted about on the phone to my sister or something that has really had an emotional toll on me lately.
Tonight, I’m sitting here with the swirls in my head and all three of the Corbin canines start barking. As usual, the one that starts the barking is Molly, the 7-year-old, mixed breed (we’re 99% some of the mix is pit). But Mabel (recently turned 1, Weimaraner-lab mix) and Maggie, the 13-year-old lab mix quickly join in. After a long day at work, my first instinct is to yell at them to shut up — all that barking is loud and I’m trying to concentrate.
But then I thought twice about it. They’re barking because they’re excited that my husband is home. Would I want to stop a kid from being excited from seeing someone they love dearly? Do I want to feel like I can’t be excited that he’s home? No.
Growling and barking is how dogs show their emotions. Babies can’t talk so they cry when they’re in pain or uncomfortable or just want attention. Dogs can’t communicate either, so they use the tools that they have to communicate with us.
Each of my dogs has a personality of her own. If anyone ever says that dogs don’t have personalities, then they probably don’t either.
Molly, like her mom, has some killer side-eye skills and her facial expressions definitely tell you how she feels. And that one? She has no problem turning her back on you and walking away if she doesn’t like you or what you’re saying to her.
Mabel is clumsy (also like her mom) and goofy and fun. She LOVES to be outside and has these gangly legs that make her look so funny when she’s running around and getting out that puppy energy. Her large ears definitely don’t help the goofy factor. She’s the destructive one of the group — both Molly and Maggie outgrew that stage but Mabel hasn’t yet. She’s the only dog we’ve ever even CONSIDERED crate-training. Jason and I just didn’t like the idea. But we also didn’t like the idea of having to replace a fairly new home after she destroyed it, so we bought a crate.
I saved Maggie for last because of today’s events. Over the last several years, Maggie has had various health issues. Stomach problems, pancreatitis, arthritis and she was overweight for several years (this is where she’s like her mother LOL). Her hearing is starting to go, her eyesight isn’t the greatest and due to the arthritis, she has a hard time getting around. But those big brown eyes still look like puppy dog eyes to me.
Jason and I noticed about three weeks ago that she had a lump on her face under her eye. She has several lipomas (fatty tumors) on her body that the vet has said are harmless, so we sort of brushed it off for a day that it might be one of those. That’s not good enough for me though. I had to sit down with her and love on her and touch the lump to see how she reacted. When she recoiled from me, I knew it was painful and it probably wasn’t a lipoma.
Well, as an anxiety-ridden dog mama, my brain started swirling but in a different way than it does when I’m trying to come up with a story idea. I was thinking “Tumor? Abscessed tooth? Bug bite?” I didn’t dare Google it because that’s the worst idea ever for someone with anxiety — but especially when the patient you’re searching about can’t talk!
The next morning, just when I had planned to call the vet, we noticed the lump was gone. So, we dismissed it.
Last week it was back and bigger and I swear, it seemed like it grew daily over the weekend. I told Abbie (my sister) and Jason that I felt like it might be an abscessed tooth. Maggie is our low-key dog — she lets us trim her nails, clean her ears, brush her teeth and loves snuggles and pets and thinks everyone should pet her. Since she is so low-key, I sat down and tried to look at her mouth but she wouldn’t let me. But she did let me stick my finger in there and it didn’t seem like there was any swelling in her mouth, so I thought “Well, I’m not a professional, so who knows?”
But I called in the professionals. I called the vet yesterday and asked for the earliest appointment they had.
I might not have any human children, but these dogs are my babies. After years of infertility, Maggie has been the kid I never had. That dog has seen me through more struggles than some of my closest friends. When my uncle died, I laid on the floor with my head against Maggie’s chest and sobbed, tears and snot running into her fur. I cried until I couldn’t anymore and she nudged me with her head and licked my face to give me a kiss.
There’s been very few issues in my life that my Maggie girl can’t help with.
Fight with Jason? Cry on Maggie’s shoulder.
Bad day at work? Lie on the floor with Maggie.
Jason working night shift and you’re lonely? Maggie sleeps in the bed with you.
Scared because of a noise outside? Maggie’s got your back (and you’ve got a gun).
Dropped food on the floor? Maggie will clean it up.
Saw a sad video on social media about someone’s dog dying? Lie on the floor with Maggie and cry into her fur.
Jason and I have always known she was getting older. Birthdays pass, Christmases pass, etc. but it wasn’t until the arthritis really got to her that we started to really see her age. The gray in her muzzle has been coming in for years, but it’s not until I look back at old photos that I really notice HOW much there is. I’ve seen it said that “Whoever said diamonds are a girl’s best friend never owned a dog,” and I can 100% confirm that.
Aside from the fact that Jason and I (and our families and friends) will miss the hell out of Maggie whenever that time comes, I also realize how much Molly will miss her. I’m sure Mabel will miss her too, but Mabel is only a year old, and she’s one of three dogs. For six years, it was just Maggie and Molly. On the doggie cameras (yes, we’re those pet parents), I saw Molly pacing today and looking for her sister. It was that same action about two years ago that made me think that we needed a third dog so that whenever Maggie crosses the rainbow bridge, Molly would need a companion or she’d stress herself out. (Little did we know, Mabel stresses her out anyway LOL).
I know far too many people that have lost pets this year and it’s heartbreaking. Luckily, the vet said that it was an abscessed tooth and Maggie is scheduled for a dental procedure next week to get it taken care of. My intuition was right.
As much as I love Maggie and cannot imagine my life or my home without her, I also can’t stand the thought of her suffering. Right now, she’s having good days and bad days when it comes to the arthritis. It’s Tuesday and on Sunday night, I looked into those big brown eyes and looked at the knot growing under her right eye and just teared up. I sat down right there in the wet grass in our yard and started to cry. She limped over to me for me to pet her.
I was thinking to myself, “She has to stick around for one more Thanksgiving. One more Christmas. One more birthday.” But when would “one more” ever be enough?
As I thought about what that knot might be, and asked myself and Jason questions that I didn’t even want to think about, all I wanted was to bury my face in her fur and sob. So, I did.