Maggie the maltese terror 1990-2007

Not an hour after I posted those words about euthanising the dog, I got a call from my dad announcing her unperceived passing, sometime this afternoon. I was quite measured about the news, asking him if he was sure. Then I called my brother to double-check (well, as you would), and that’s when I trembled with sadness, for a while.

I don’t have regrets about not petting, calling out to her, and generally fussing about her enough. Being fond of her enough. And I find that I’m actually not spooked about the possibility of hearing her paws pattering about on a ghostly night or something like that. She’d not been pattering about for a while, as age caught up with her, anyway. Funny thing is, old dogs I’ve met before, their fur’s kinda rough and tough. But she was always soft, though somewhat insensible, to the touch.

So I’ll remember her, and and miss her, and be thankful for all the moments, good and not-so-good (plenty of those):

The early years

She started off small (not half an arm’s length, snout to bobtail), snowy white, impertinent and fluffy, living with my uncle, before living with his wife forced him to pass the white stuff to my family in her middle years.

She was the runt of the litter, the pup no one wanted. Maybe they foresaw the temper, the stubbornness, the obsession with being out-of-doors. (One time, she managed to bring down a bathroom door in her eagerness to go out with whomever was going out.)

My uncle once tried to get her to live with a kitten, but that set-up fell apart pretty soon, and the kitten was palmed off to someone else. (Later, the dog would get an eyeball scratched by a pissed cat. Life’s a b*tch, what can I say.)

So life got kinda scary whenever we had to visit my uncle — I was still scared of going near dogs at that point. But she definitely played a big part in my daring to do so, finally.

Oh, and she was spayed, so she never knew motherhood.

The middle years

How and when she passed into the late years, I never noticed. But she was a right nutter, definitely had to be handled with care.

Opening the main door without her noticing was impossible — in the end we settled on a strategy of blocking her with this metal grate my dad picked up somewhere. Or an umbrella. It was a clumsy but effective strategy that possibly caused her heart to break a little every time the door slammed shut.

When a novice tried to leave the flat, she inevitably squirrelled out, and shot like a mad white hare upstairs, downstairs, whichever way was clear. Once she was found on the 11th floor (my flat’s on the 5th), the boy she was found with was clearly prepared to take her in already. The fool. They were all fooled by her furriness, doe eyes, pointy snout and deceptively innocent gait.

Enduring darkness alone was abhorrent to her. Bark bark bark, was her message, until someone was irritated enough to let her into the their bedroom. If the person didn’t wake early enough, though, she inevitably peed out a welcome mat sometime near dawn.

Once an old grey terrier wandered into our lives for a day or two before his owner was found, and the dog finally found some calm in her life, sitting peaceably next to him.

She was a biter. Bit my grandma, bit my maid, bit me. But she never worried the men in the house! My grandma was left with a scar, and her doc recommended that the dog be put down there and then. Well, that was years ago.

Sometimes she would be suspiciously affectionate, and crawl into my lap while I was watching telly, and things would get warm and itchy. She would sometimes lick the arm that cradled her (possibly to relieve some doggish dry tongue syndrome). Sometimes she would scamper about in the morning and try to wake people by pouncing up against the bed — never did quite succeed in leaping onto it, thank goodness. She had some luck with the shorter furniture.

Her tail would always wag when my dad came home, or when food was proffered, or when her red leash was dangled in front of her.

She wore a red collar. Red rope on white fur is a nice combination. The collar had a little brass bell too.

Once a folding table fell on her and caused a bone to stick out (under the skin), painlessly, from under her, for the rest of her life.

If we left her at a boarding kennel, she’d come back hoarse from continuous, possibly record-breaking, stark raving barking. She barked non-stop in moving vehicles too, that is, on the way to the vet, and on the way back if she still had her bark. The strategy then would be to take turns distracting her with cooing and petting. Usually didn’t work.

The late years

These were very recent to my mind. She stopped wanting to rush out, she stopped barking when left alone in the dark hall. She stopped taking wet and violent notice of visitors. She took a few tumbles when she was out for a walk. She tumbled down the stairs too. She refused to climb the same stairs up to our flat anymore, forcing us to either carry her up or take the lift. My dad had to pick her up to cross the road. She couldn’t squirm away as much whenever we petted her. She had skin trouble. She got the shakes. Her excretory habits became execrable. It was a sure and steady decline.

But we abode with her and, in a way, she with us. Goodness knows what she thought of us bumbling humans, cos I’m sure we weren’t the best dog-keepers around. Not by a long shot. We tried advice from books, but practical application was always tricky with her.

In the final days, she got weaker and weaker, and was put on a drip. The dog on a drip. Never thought that could happen.

And so today, she met her end. Reportedly found cold and stiff, her cataract-y eyes dimmed to unseeing glass. No more soft white fur to ruffle, and her name won’t have semi-deaf floppy ears to fall on any longer.

I’m glad I gave her one last ruffle before I left home in July. And she was sometimes found to be sleeping at my door while I was back:

That’s just like her, always sneaking in with an unconsciously endearing act, alongside the scary-crazy-frustrating moments.

So that’s that. She’s gone. I hope this hasn’t come across as one of those I-need-to-take-leave-my-pet-just-died sort of emotional spillings. I just wanted to record some bits and bobs about a dog who was born, lived 17 years and died. She wasn’t a guard dog or a hunting dog or even a therapy dog. Maybe her siblings are. Who knows whether her mum was the maltese, her dad was the terrier, or vice versa. But there you have it. A way to say goodbye.

The end


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