When I saw her, I stepped up to the gate and let her sniff my hand. “Hi, Sweetheart.” I say that to all the dogs, but this little girl was different. Her hair had been shaved off because she had been neglected and the hair was so knotted they had to cut it off. She had one tuft of hair tied with a bow on the top of her head. It was cute, but must have been humiliating to her.
She was an eight-year-old Tibetan Terrier, all of twenty-two pounds, and almost a strawberry blond in color. She had been at the humane society adoption center, and because of her age, not many people kept an interest in her.
She politely sniffed my hand as if to say, “Thank you for talking to me, but I know you won't want me.” She walked away. I called my wife to look at her. The dog greeted my wife in the same way. We quickly went to the find a volunteer to help us adopt her. There was something very special about her, but we didn't know for sure what it was.
The next seven years with her were expensive, but We had never had a dog quite as smart and as interesting as our Maisie. Our first major expense with her came after many vet visits because of urinary infections. The doctors finally decided to see why the infections just kept coming back. They found that her bladder had polyps, which gave wonderful breeding grounds for bacteria. It cost us $2500 for surgery to remove the polyps. It had already cost us a few thousand dollars to treat the urinary infections they caused.
Maisie was not dog friendly. She seemed to be driven to attack other dogs along the trails as we walked her. One day, she tried to attack from the middle part of a slight hill. She jumped up, and as she came down, she landed wrong on her left rear leg. She yelped and fell to the ground screaming and licking her leg. I called my wife to pick us up. I carried her about two blocks to get her to a street where I could load her into the van. The xrays at the emergency animal hospital revealed she had popped her anterior cruciate ligament and displaced her knee cap. The visit was nearly $500. The subsequent surgery to repair the damage was about $1800.
Then we had another bout with urinary incontinence. Tests ran close to $400 and revealed she had diabetes. From that point on, Maisie would cost us a minimum of $200 per month routinely, but most often the vet bills and medicine ran much more than that. Even so, there was no way that we would give up on our little girl. She had won a permanent place in our lives. There were a few more trips to emergency rooms when her blood sugar would become seriously out of balance. One emergency visit cost us $700. She was in serious trouble on that visit. We pulled through again.
She was now approaching fifteen years old. I began to think that her time to leave was coming up. I asked her on a walk one day how I would know when she wanted to leave this existence. One of those strange things came immediately to mind, “When I no longer enjoy walking.” It was clear to me.
After nearly seven years with our little Tibetan friend, things took a turn for the worse. She was losing weight rapidly, she did not want to eat, she was getting dehydrated. We were about one-hundred miles from a vet the day she fell to the ground and went into convulsions. She recovered, but we spent the next day driving to Ogden, Utah where we found a good vet. The vet was gentle. “I can keep her over night and do tests on her. We can see if it's ketones or something we can treat.” Her underlying message was clear. Maisie was very, very ill—irreversibly ill. Maisie squeezed up to me as if to say, “No, I don't want to stay here and I'm tired of all the poking and the prodding. Please don't put me through anymore.
“Should we consider putting her down?” my wife asked. “It is an option to consider,” the doctor replied.
It did not take long for me to make up my mind. It was obvious this precious little girl was hanging on because she didn't want to hurt us by leaving. She could no longer enjoy her walks. They were painful. Everyday was more and more painful. I could not stop crying. She had become my best friend.
The doctor left the room and an aide took Maisie away to place a drug portal in her leg. She came back. Maise laid down by me on the floor. I petted her and talked to her. She went to sleep. Then the aide gave her the final lethal injection. My girl was gone and I could not shake it from my mind that maybe I had made the wrong call.
The following day, we returned to the vet to pick up some items we had left at the vet's office. The doctor called us into a room and assured us that we had done the right thing. "I found a big tumor around her liver and spleen. She would have lived only a few more days.” I felt better, but I was still unsure.
Tonight, I thought of that sweet little girl laying on the floor by me when she died. She came to me trusting me but I betrayed her, I thought. I started crying uncontrollably once again. My little Cooper, our Lhasa Apso ran to me and jumped up on the couch and covered me with kisses. Then that quiet little voice that told me “when I no longer enjoy my walks” came back and assured me, I had fulfilled my agreement with her. She was ready to go and was asking me to let her go when she pleaded to not leave her for more testing at the vet's office. That little girl gave me so much joy and comfort when she was with us in the flesh. She still hangs around to give me assurances now.