June 9, 2014

Goodbye to a Good Friend

Maya Angelou was quoted to say,  
"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you."  
I learned that Maya Angelou passed away Wednesday, May 28. 
My untold agony has been that we lost McGee the same day. 

McGee was the best dog I've ever known.  Losing him was extremely difficult.

Lots of people keep saying to me that it is hard to lose a pet. 
I never really considered McGee a pet.  He was a part of our family, a member of our household.    
McGee was a constant presence in our home & life. 
Did I take him for granted?  Perhaps.  I always imagined we'd have him twice the time we did.

"To err is human.  To forgive, canine."

McGee lived the very best life I can imagine for a dog.  He was never tied, kenneled or confined.  Indoors or out, our home was his.  He had five kids who he adored, which multiplied the sadness of losing him.  Being Mom to the five kids who loved him broke my heart in all directions. 

He was as good a friend as I could ask for.
I waded through some of my most personally difficult times over the six years in which McGee was along for the ride.  It's no exaggeration to say that he was the most dependable being in my life,
I was never alone thanks to him. 
On sleepless nights when the stars were out, sometimes I walked, and McGee was by my side.
All the long seasons of Mitch working away from home, McGee was here with me helping hold down the fort.  
He was with me to see three of our children off on the school bus to start their first day of kindergarten.  Including the youngest, which left just the two of us turning back toward home together.

There was no better walking pal, whether we were headed into the woods or down the road, in deep snow or thick mosquitoes.  He knew whenever I tied my shoes on the front porch that it was time for a walk, and would get excited, start ahead of me, then stop & wait for me to catch up, always at the same point.  He didn't mind if I was slow, taking pictures, and he would race me if I felt like running. 
It's a special thing, having someone who is always so enthusiastic to be with you.  Having his company on walks is one of the things I'll miss the most.

Always gentle around children (he saw a lot of them!), he was also trustworthy with chickens. 
As a one-year-old, he met a porcupine & tested those waters..  First he picked up just one quill in his front paw, as if he'd tried to greet it.   A few days later, he had a few on his shoulder, as if the porky had given a swat with it's tail to tell him to back off.   And finally, he got a muzzle full, which he patiently let me yank out, and he never touched a porcupine again.   
He didn't know any tricks.  But he knew his manners.  He didn't chew, dig, or "go to the bathroom" in the yard.  He knocked at the back patio door to be let in, never scratched the front door. 

While mostly just a fabulously ordinary family dog, McGee was also a hero for a day.
In our remote rural neck of the woods, he found a trespasser hiding on our property one 4th of July. 
He & I had been going for one of our summer evening walks before dark when he sniffed out the intruder, who it turned out authorities of all kinds were looking for at the ends of our road.  The hoodlum had been outrunning police at a crazy speed (I heard 160 mph) on a motorbike and ending up down our road, then on foot trespassing onto our property and was hiding in the woods near our house.  Had McGee not bounded into the bushes after him where he crouched hiding, he would have watched us leave home a short while later.  There's no doubt McGee spared us, and the authorities, and possibly others, a great deal of trouble.  He saved the day. 
He also kept the skunks, bears & coyotes away all these years.  McGee was a woofer, not a barker, and he had a nice deep bay, reserved for those times when his hair stood up and he was protecting the premises.  

McGee, May 2014

McGee got cancer.  We didn't know until it was much too late.  Dogs can have advanced disease and act completely normal until the body cannot compensate any more.  That was the case with McGee.  We had a healthy 6 year old dog who suddenly showed serious signs of illness & failing for just one week, seven days of very rapid decline.  There was nothing we could have done differently for him.  And though we could see how unwell he was, he let on to no suffering.  His tail kept wagging.   
I sat in the grass in our yard with him that final sunny week of May and cried my eyes out while I knew the cancer had taken over his body.  He just put a paw on me & soaked up the love & sun.
I have tears still, to think of it.  
But with each day I've been more able to smile at the happy memories, rather than dwell on the sad.
I don't wish to talk much about that final day, other than McGee was such a good boy. 
It was devastating.  I was so unprepared.  I kept thinking it was the worst timing imaginable.  (It was.  What a day.  What a week.)  But I don't think there's ever a good time to say goodbye to someone you love.  I kept thinking it was all wrong, but as time separates then & now, I can see that it was as peaceful a goodbye as we could have hoped for.
In that last week he got to enjoy one last walk.  One last, beautiful long weekend spent outside with his family.  One last backyard fire with the kids & their friends, I was so surprise he'd moved himself all the way to the fire to lay down with them.. he was loving it up.  One last smiling car ride.   All the things he loved best.  

I didn't know it would be possible for a dog to affect my heart as much as McGee did.

I was humbled by the outpouring of love & kindness to our family in the past couple of weeks.  We received so many cards, emails, messages, & caring words.  
We know some wonderful dog lovers.

A friend shared these words:

Can I imagine a new puppy right now?  No. 
We were spoiled with McGee, the trustworthy mature dog he was.  The thought of a puppy overwhelms me. 
In the days of losing him, I thought I could never have another dog again and wondered, "Why do humans do this to themselves??  Why do we put ourselves through the inevitable pain of losing them, given their lives are so much shorter than ours?"  
Again, time is allowing me to see the answer:  Because of all they give us in the time they have.

He was one of a kind and will be a part of our family always.
I'm so thankful for the Life of McGee.


  1. oh, i know this pain too well. there were times when i swore i'd never do it again, but i did. because they make each day so joy-filled while they share life with us. truly the best companions. best of family love.

    i am so sorry as he was far too young. bless all of you. and bless mcgee's soul.

  2. Oh my :( I am so sorry.....our pets can hold just a near and dear place in our hearts. I'm so so sorry for your loss. I love the photos you shared of him.

  3. Tearfully . . . I can't imagine . . . aching for your loss yet celebrating your love and memories.
    You write soulfully . . . beautiful memorial . . .
    Hugs Amanda . . .

  4. Tears just streaming unbidden down my face. I feel the pain of losing this wonderful family member. What a blessing it was to share those six years with him. But I wish... as everyone who has ever loved a creature as loving and forgiving as McGee knows, that it could have been different. Sending you hugs and love.

  5. Amanda,
    I am sorry to hear of your family loss. It is hard to lose a pet; they add so much to our lives. Prayers of healing.

    The last picture/quote you shared is awesome.

  6. I am so very sorry to hear of the loss of your beloved McGee. Your heartfelt tribute made me cry my eyes out. It hits very close to home....my dog Bear is over 12 years of age, and last week I got a very huge wake-up call that his days are becoming numbered. Bear was my best hiking buddy, but a trip to the beach last week made me realize that his hiking days are done. Like McGee, I consider Bear a family member, and I just can't bear the thought of him leaving our lives.

    Sending smiles and hugs to your family. :)

  7. oh good gracious Amanda, I am so sorry. You've written such a lovely tribute to McGee, your words make my heart sore. One day several years ago I swore no more cats, no more dogs but today we have one dog and 4 cats, the heart heals and we do it all over again, once the sadness softens we can fall in love with another wonder. He look the great big love just as you describe him. :-( and hugs.

  8. The quote says it all ! Losing our beloved Ridgeback after 11 years was heartbreaking , are was not just a pet but a member of out family a part of our history and she ,like your McGee ,saw the children grow up , a companion. We never " replaced " her but we have another dog now.
    A beautiful written post ….bringing tears to my eyes.

  9. Amanda - So sad. I'm sorry you & your family lost McGee. He sounds like an amazing dog. Your heart will be pained for a long time because McGee was a big piece. I'll give my puppies a few extra hugs a day for you - hopefully you will feel the hugs and the puppy kisses.

  10. I'm sorry to hear about McGee's death. This post is a beautiful tribute to him. Treasure the memories.

  11. How very sad... I'm sitting here crying just thinking about you and the family... McGee WAS a member of the family... God Bless You ALL... You were lucky to have had him as long as you did. He will always be in your memory...

  12. Oh, I am so sorry. We went through a very similar thing several years back. Cancer is bad.


  13. I am so sorry for your loss. Dogs are such special components in our lives.

  14. Amanda, so sorry for your loss of such a wonderful member of the family. Peace be with you all as you grieve.

  15. The tears are flowing because I know how hard this loss was for you and your family. It's exactly the same way I feel every time we lose one of our cats. They are different from dogs of course but the love and devotion that animals give you is what matters the most, not whether they are cats or dogs. I just loved everything you wrote about your wonderful McGee. He sounds like a truly awesome dog and friend. I believe that someday another wonderful animal will join your family as that's what McGee would have wanted. Humans were meant to share their lives with animals. May God keep you comforted by those precious memories.

  16. I am soooo sorry for your loss....

  17. This loving tribute brought tears to my eyes... Losing our dogs, a piece of our heart - so hard; and yet our lives are so much the richer for knowing them.

  18. So sorry for your loss but your tribute was very true....

  19. What a wonderful dog McGee was, sowing many memories into your family life and especially for you. Hopefully as time moves on you'll find a greater calm and the joys of summer will help brighten your days. What e brat dog to have had. Maybe there'll be another pet/friend for another season of your life.

  20. I am so very sorry for your loss. He looks like such a fine and handsome dog, and it sounds like he has been a wonderful guardian to your family. Wishing you comfort.