Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A bittersweet Passing

It was about two years ago when we received the kind of call that fills us with excitement, and with dread. The call was asking us to join our friend and collaborator Dawne from Southern Siberian Rescue (SSR) to help with dozens of Siberian Huskies being seized from a neglect case in Greenville, SC. Excitement, because it is a challenge to rise to, and lots of lives to save. Dread, because you cannot know how many of the dogs will be more challenge than you can handle.

We took several pups, as this is normally the arrangement with SSR - they take the adults, we take the pups and preggers. But after a couple of days, Dawne asked if we could take on one more. She had a girl that was just terrified, and needed special attention, and she just did not have the environment to help this poor girl.

Enter Maui.

Maui was as pretty as they come. Not that that moment, mind you, she took some cleaning up. But white, off-white, and a sprinkling of tan and black down her back. Beautiful, deep brown eyes. Eyes that showed terror and fear from who knows what, but clearly years of improper handling and neglect. No one knew her age, but by her teeth and physiology, we guessed 5-8 years.

Maui hid. That is what she did. She was terrified of people, and particularly of men. Of course, we tried to give her every comfort, and encouraged her to socialize with our pack. We were patient.

It took almost four months for Maui to walk up to Aida, on her own volition, and ask for some lovin'. Of course, it was happily given, and you could even detect a bit of tail wagging. She ducked for cover as soon as I was within sight, but every day got a little better. Aida and I agreed that Mau-Mau would likely never be adopted, and that was OK. And, no, Mau-Mau has nothing to do with the Kenyan uprising, it is a habit I have with all of our fosters (Blue Blue, Stan Stan, and so on).

Maui tested positive for heartworms, and that is so hard on huskies. When they start feeling better from the treatments, they want to run. And exercise while undergoing hearworm treatment can kill a dog. Try keeping a husky still. Well, Maui cooperated. Unfortunately, it in part because she had persistent lung congestion and infection. When wee took her for X-rays of the lungs, we also discovered that she had most of the contents of a shotgun shell in her legs, shoulder, and chest. We cried for her past, and smiled hoping for her happy, healthier, future.

It was about the time that Maui would not run away every time I cam into a room that Beau and Jerry came over to meet Maui. They had adopted a Sibe from us earlier, one that was similar, but a little darker, in appearance. Keena was definitely not shy, though, like Maui. The one thing I remember most is that Maui did not react to Jerry, and especially to Beau, the way she had initially to us, and especially me. They fell in love, and decided to make Maui a member of their family. We were elated for Maui!

Beau and Jerry set her up like a queen, with the Cadillac of crates, special beds, and all of the love any dog could ask for. They continued with her pneumonia treatments. She went through the same cycle with them, eventually warming up to Jerry and tolerating Beau's presence. They installed a doggy door so she could 'escape' from the humans and romp happily with her pack mates. Something Aida said struck a chord with me, commenting on how Maui played with her canine brothers and sisters: "Funny, something as little as a raised tail could make us all so happy." She was a happy, healthy, girl.

Except that she wasn't entirely healthy. The labored breathing remained a problem, and she was in and out of the vet with congested lungs, taking stronger and stronger antibiotics and even steroids. Finally, on day, the vet decided to dig further, and took a biopsy, since she was just not responding and staying clear. Everyone's worst nightmare came back with those results. Cancer. Lung Cancer and it was not operable.

We cried a lot. It was not fair.

Jerry and Beau gave Maui every luxury, the treatments and meds, and more love than any dog could ever hope for. She had bad days, and she had good days.

A couple of days ago, Maui crawled under the house, and would not come out. When they did get her out, she was clearly distressed. Of course, it was the weekend, after hours. They took Maui to Banfield, where they knew some of the staff. Her temperature was 107, and she was vomiting and pooping black - which means lost of blood. It was very likely that the cancer has eaten through into her abdomen, and that she was now septic, with infection in the blood. There was nothing that could be done other than make her comfortable. One and a half liters of sub-Q fluids and lots of antibiotics, anti-emetics, and intestinal coating meds later, covered with ice packs, they took her home.

Jerry slept with Maui on their big comfy chair, Maui laying on ice packs, and covered in them, to keep the fever down. Maui cried once, and settled back down. In the morning, I helped Jerry take Maui to the vet that had helped her from the beginning. She was calm, although breathing was difficult. She was getting all the love that three people could pour out through petting, talking, and swelling hearts.

Monday morning Maui Hodge passed calmly into sleep, and crossed the Rainbow Bridge. We will forever bear scars on our hearts from her pain and her passing, and will forever be uplifted by the memories of her playing with the pack, and showing with beaming eyes that finally got it - dem hoomins ain't so bad.

Thank you, Jerry and Beau, for giving Maui the best fourteen months any dog could hope for. Thank you.

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