"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.