10.24.2011

Maggie


I met Maggie in June of 2001, when I was 19 years old, on summer break before my junior year of college. I was visiting volunteering at a local kill shelter in Ann Arbor, MI, and one day, we got a call to prepare 5-6 kennels for a cruelty case- the wife called in, said her husband beat her dog bloody, and they had "five or six" dogs. The alarm bells went off, but when the police and cruelty investigators went to seize the animals, they did not expect what they found.

There were 42 animals in the home. Every surface was covered in feces and urine, including the beds of his three children. Two of his dogs were locked inside one of the cars in the garage and living there. Still others were locked up in closets, and living there too. Every nook and cranny revealed more animals; dogs, cats, birds, and even two guinea pigs and a rabbit. Maggie was found in a tiny crate she couldn't even turn around in, covered in her own filth, on top of his television, with scars on her feet from trying to escape. She was ten pounds underweight (and therefore in better shape than virtually all of his other dogs, some of which were so starved they were drinking their own blood and urine).

Her report said she was incredibly fearful, and timid, and she was likely a fear biter (proven to be not true!). All dogs had to be held by the humane society for six months, because no one could track the defendant down, so technically, the animals were still his pending a judgment. 

Maggie did not do well in the shelter. She pressed her head against the wall, in a corner, and wouldn't even respond if you clapped near her ear. She was so, so sad that I took her home to foster her, just for the summer because I was returning to NYC in the fall and would be living in the dorm. Before school began, bringing her back to the shelter was the saddest day of my life.

After the trial, the shelter won custody but they didn't adopt out pit bulls at the time--many shelters still don't. But luckily, a pit bull rescue got word that there were a number of sweethearts that survived extreme cruelty and neglect and took as many as they could from the case. Maggie was put up for adoption. But no one wanted her.

She had epilepsy. She was neurotic. She couldn't be crated, wouldn't go to the bathroom on a lead and couldn't be on a tie-out or she would scream. I was dealing with school and exams and life and I didn't know any of this, but I was desperate for a dog--I missed my childhood dog and started planning to move to an apartment for my senior year so that I could adopt a dog of my own.


I finished my junior year. I signed the lease on an apartment, a 400 sq. ft. studio on the 2nd floor of a walk-up on the Upper East Side across the street from one park and about three quarters of a mile from a dog park. I started browsing Petfinder and realized the dogs I was looking for were all smallish pit bulls. I remembered Maggie, and wondered how she was doing, and if by some miracle, she might still be available. So I called the rescue and asked, but she wasn't. She'd been adopted out just two weeks ago. I was happy for her but sad for me. I resumed my search, but halfheartedly.

And then I got the call. The call that said Maggie had been returned because her epilepsy was just too much for the family to handle, and was I still interested?

Hell yes I was.

She moved in with me in August 2002. Maggie and I had an amazing year.  I didn't realize that she wouldn't go to the bathroom on a leash but thanks to the parks, we made it work. I also didn't realize that Maggie was petrified of NYC buses and wouldn't walk on the streets of NYC so I'd have to bribe cab drivers with $40 (for just 10 blocks) to get her to the vet as often as she needed to go. But we made it work. I also didn't realize before I adopted her that it would be $65 just to walk in to the vet, before they drew blood, prescribed meds, and did any diagnostic exams on her, so I found myself having to work two jobs (in addition to my full course load) just to pay her vet bills. But we made it work.

Since then, there have been more vet bills. In the last ten years, she developed food allergies, and went on a special diet. Her seizures weren't fully controlled on just one epilepsy medication, so I consulted neurologists and added another. She developed hypothyroidism and then added another medication to manage it. She tore one of her ACLs (a ligament in her knee), so she had surgery and physical therapy to fix it, then tore the other one in the next six months and had surgery and physical therapy to fix that one, too. She came down with pancreatitis, so she got two days of inpatient supportive care to heal. She developed a mass on her eyelid and I was terrified it was cancer, but she had surgery to remove it and it was benign. This August, she developed a mass on her hock and I was terrified that was cancer, too, but a week before I left on tour, she had surgery to remove it and it was benign, too. Five weeks ago, her bloodwork was great and overall, she was in awesome, amazing shape.

But two hours after my flight landed last week, after being away for about four weeks, I took one look at her and knew she wasn't right. The sitter said she hadn't wanted to eat all day, and she was having trouble staying on her feet. So at 2AM, I admitted her to the hospital with a distended abdomen, labored breathing, a severely enlarged liver, anemia, and a fever. I thought she had pancreatitis again. So when I got the call the following morning from the internal medicine specialist telling me that the oncologist was 100% certain she had lymphoma, that she was dying, and I needed to decide whether I wanted to proceed with chemotherapy or euthanize her, to say I was in shock doesn't even cover it.

Maggie has a different life than most dogs. She was never interested in toys or playing or walks but loves food. She would rather snuggle and sleep next to you than jump up on you. But those things? She loves those things. And when I saw her Tuesday night, I didn't think she was done yet. Sobbing, I told the oncologist "I want to do the chemo, but don't let me be cruel." She said that she wouldn't and that I wasn't, because for dogs, chemotherapy isn't administered in doses toxic enough to kill cancer--it's given to manage their cancer and extend their quality of life, so they have none of the miserable symptoms that humans experience with it. Maggie has stage 5B lymphoma; the worst possible kind, but the oncologist said that IF she responded to the chemotherapy, she'd have the same chances as a dog with a less severe stage would.

And so Maggie started treatment. First, her fever broke. Then, her liver values decreased by half, and her liver went back to it's normal size and stopped pushing on her diaphragm and her kidneys (which caused her to leak urine for 24 hours). She received a blood transfusion to help her recover even faster, and then things really progressed; her values decreased by half again and her red blood count skyrocketed, then held. She got her second dose of chemotherapy and her platelets went up, too. She was responding. And she went from this:



To this:


And this:

And this:



She is eating everything in sight, cruising around the yard, licking marrow bones and snuggling close to me on the couch and in bed. In a word, she is happy.

And because it looks like I am going to be able to get another good year with her, so am I.

Thank you so, so much for your good thoughts, your prayers, your support, and your understanding while I've been away.  We aren't out of the woods by any means, and her medication schedule is, in a word, intense:

9AM: Sucralfate
10AM: Denamarin/Pepcid/Clavamox/Phenobarbital/Levothyroxine/Keppra
11AM: Breakfast, prednisone, cerenia
5PM: Sucralfate
6PM: Denamarin/Pepcid/Clavamox/Phenobarbital/Levothyroxine/Keppra
7PM: Dinner
1AM: Sucralfate
2AM: Keppra

So things are going to be hectic and hard for me for a while as I take her to chemotherapy, cook her food, give her meds, and try to work, shower, and sleep every now and again. But every day I have with her is a blessing, and it means the world to me to know you all understand. 

30 comments:

  1. I'm happy that Maggie is getting better. <3 Her meds schedule is intense but from what I've read, Maggie is one strong dog.

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  2. Michelle,

    You are amazing. Seriously. One of the most kind hearted people EVER.

    All the best to you and Maggie. I will be sending good thoughts your way.

    Big hugs, and hang in there.

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  3. What a heartbreaking story to begin with and what a wonderful person you are to take her in! I am so glad she is doing so much better. It's amazing how much like family animals can be and when they are suffering, we suffer too.

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  4. Oh my god. I am so glad those animals got taken care of, and that you rescued Maggie. Hugs. <3

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  5. dude, you're a total hero. My thoughts are with Maggie. She's really lucky to have you.

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  6. I'm so glad that your dog, Maggie, is well. I was praying for her to get better because I didn't want to suffer the loss of the one you love, like I did with my baby girl. Hope you're doing okay!


    - A.C.L.-M.
    xoxo

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  7. Maggie is so so precious. What a hard life she had in the beginning but I am glad you found her. My dog was diagnosed with cancer 5 years ago and we were told that with chemo he would only live for 6 months to a year but his quality of life would be improved. I am happy to say that he is still alive and kicking 5 years after that scary incident and I hope the same happens with Maggie. =)

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  8. Thank you guys so, so much!

    @Bailey - do you know what kind of cancer your pup had? What kind of dog was he? That's basically what I was told with Maggie, so I'm really, really curious!

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  9. MICHELLE! I've been thinking of you and Maggie so much and hoping for a positive update. Those pictures of her all bright-eyed and up-and-about have me sniffling with happiness.

    Such HUGE hugs to you both. And a kiss right on her precious nose. <3

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  10. I'm in tears just reading this. Sometimes they're really lucky to have us, but, I think, we're more lucky to have them.

    One of my kitties, Tigger (currently on my lap as I type), earlier this year wasn't being his usual Tiggery self - he was lethargic, and then I noticed he was having trouble walking up the stairs. We dragged him out at 11pm to the emergency vet where I had to get my first ever credit card just to take care of his costs (had I not gone, he wouldn't have made it) but there was absolutely NO way I could have not have paid. It's unthinkable.

    You guys are in my thoughts 100%. *hugs*

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  11. You are an angel to Maggie. I volunteer w/ Colorado Beagle Rescue and foster dogs whenever I can, so I know how heartbreaking some of their stories are...you've done so much for that sweet dog and I'm sure you're a big part of the reason she's recovered so well. I'm keeping you both in my thoughts. *hugs*

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  12. I understand your heartbreak. I had a beautiful rescued dachshund who, by the age of 10, started to have strokes. I took her, many times, to the vet. I obtained medication to help, but it was no cure. She kept having strokes until she finally became immobilized. I spent Thanksgiving day thru that Sunday caring for her every need (she couldn't eat, drink or go to the bathroom, so I had to give her food and water through a medicine dropper and clean her up after she went to the bathroom on herself.) She felt lots of pain, so I woke up constantly to tend to her every wimper, as I decided to sleep on the floor beside her to give her more comfort. That Monday, I had to go back to work. Before leaving, I petted her and she licked my face and gave the best smile her limp little body could give. An hour later, God decided he needed her.

    So I know how you feel now and know how you will look for every best option for your little Maggie. Just know she'll always appreciate what you've done for her. They absolutely know and understand who truly loves them and they'll love you endlessly for it.

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  13. Michelle: He is a miniature pinscher and he was diagnosed with GBM, a type of brain cancer.

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  14. I am so happy to hear that she is doing better. I can't imagine how you felt knowing the decision you had to make. I know how horrible i felt every time i had to sign the resuscitation papers when Xand would have surgery and it wasn't near as serious as this.

    I am sending healthy puppy vibes your way and hope that Miss Maggie will continue to get better!

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  15. So glad she's doing better. I'll keep her in my thoughts.

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  16. I'm sorry...it's hard to watch your baby go through things like this. Best wishes=)

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  17. So sorry you're going through this. I thought the dog story in Mara Dyer was so touching and now I understand where it comes from. I lost two pets this summer and sympathize with how hard it is to see these little guys in pain. Sending good thoughts that things resolve peacefully for you and Maggie.

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  18. Thank you for sharing this. It sounds like she's had it pretty good since you became a part of her life. And I'm sure you'll make the most of the time you have left together, however long that is!

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  19. Thanks for keeping us all in the know!

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  20. Thank you for sharing, Maggie is blessed to have you and you are blessed to have her. Best wishes and I will keep you both in my thoughts.

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  21. I cried as I read this! It's so sad what some people will do to animals. She seems like a lovely and happy dog! I'm glad she's well!

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  22. I am so happy to hear that Maggie is doing better. I was worried and you two were in my thoughts. She looks so happy!

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  23. That great she's happy and doing better. You are so kind to her!

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  24. Ass Michelle, your post made me tear up! I'm so glad Maggie is doing bett and I know exactly how you feel. I love my abigale like a daughter (my husband and I have no kids). I cherish every day with her and I just wish someone would invent something to make dogs live forever!

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  25. This is one of the most sweetest stories I've ever read! You are such saint to do all that, a lot of people would have just given up on her or not given her a chance in the first place. Also, is there any chance that Maggie is the the inspiration for a certain abused pit bull in Mara Dyer? :)

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  26. I have tears reading this for a couple of reasons. One for sweet Maggie (my own pup's name)and what she's been through to finally have someone who loves her like you do. But also for you, so many people would have opted to put her to sleep instead of trying to heal her. I love how you are each other's angels!!

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  27. I am so incredibly happy that this story has a happy ending. My family and I had to put our 14 year old golden retriever to sleep in June. He just stopped eating, too. In his case, it was his way of saying he was ready to go.

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  28. I just got back from the animal shelter and saw a dog named shooter. He's 2 yrs old and has an infected dog bite which personally I didn't see as a problem but my mom... not so much. We're going to wait until he's in better shape to adopt him :(.I emailed the shelter and am hoping to have him by Christmas.

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