I remember when Jim brought her home to us...he carried her in his arms. She was so small and soft. Big, brown eyes, a big, block head...and big ol' paws.
She was our 2nd black Lab. Our first one, Lacy, died of breast cancer when she was about 2 years old.
I know. Who knew?
After Lacy died, we got Jake-the-bad-dog. Joshua reminds me that Jake was not a BAD dog...he was an annoying dog.
On that, we can all agree.
Jake was a yellow Lab. He was smart, but he had the most annoying, high-pitched, incessant bark that you have ever heard. In his 8 years of life, or however long it was, he probably barked every 15 seconds...unless he was asleep. When we were home, he had the run of the backyard, but, at night, he would go in the pen in the backyard. It was a ROOMY pen. Jim had covered part of it with a tin roof, so that when it was hot...Jake would have shade, and when it was raining...he wouldn't get wet.
But that dog would bark...and bark and bark and bark. One of Jim's friends at his work, told him to try to distract or "startle" Jake...that maybe the barking was just a habit.
Jim would put a pile of small rocks by the front door at night. When Jake would start barking, Jim would step out, and toss one of those rocks over the back fence...onto Jake's tin roof...thinking that it would startle him, and he would stop.
Which it did.
Which he did.
For about 30 seconds.
And then, "bark, bark, bark..."
She was pure sweetness from the start...and the kids loved her. We asked the kids to give us their suggestions for her name. I think Clark was the one who named her. I can't remember, but I think he said something like "My Angel Garland," and we used the M-A-G from that name, and called her Maggie.
She was a constant and loyal companion to Jim...and to the kids.
But mainly to Jim.
She wanted to be where he was all the time. RIGHT BY HIS SIDE. I could be standing there with a plate of food...and the girl loved to eat...but if Jim was anywhere around, she would plow me over to get to him.
Over the last few years, she had become skittish with loud noises like thunder, or fireworks. She would scratch at the door, and want us to put her in the garage. And we did.
And over the last few years, her hip dysplasia, a condition that is common in Labs, had gotten worse and worse.
During the last few months, Jim would say, "Maggie is not doing well...I don't know what we are going to do with her..." He would let his voice trail off, and I was supposed to mentally fill in the blank of what we needed to do with her...so he wouldn't have to say it.
Because we didn't want to say it.
But each time, I would say, "it's not time, yet. Just look how happy she is...she is still wagging her tail."
That was my sign of that she was still okay on the inside...that she wasn't suffering.
But this week was hard. I noticed that she was visibly struggling to walk. Her back legs had basically quit working, and she was putting all of her weight on her front legs. On Wednesday, she stopped eating. Jim told me to put a pan of water beside her on the patio, in case she couldn't walk to get water...that way, she could stay hydrated. Jim was out-of-town, and all of a sudden...I was keenly aware that IT.WAS.TIME. I told Jim that I felt very uncomfortable being here with her...without him. I prayed that God would take her, so that we wouldn't have to be faced with making the choice to end her life.
But He didn't.
We kept her as comfortable as we could...making sure she had water. I cooked some chicken for her, chopped it up real small...and basically fed it to her out on the patio.
When she would walk out in the yard, to potty, she would make it so far...before she would just collapse. It was the hardest thing to watch.
Jim made the call.
And yesterday, we let her go.
As Jim was cleaning out the back of the Burb for her...to take her to the doctor...she wanted to be with him. She half-dragged herself to the back gate. Jim opened it, and she hobbled out to the driveway, and collapsed beside his car. Her breathing was labored, and she was shaking...but she wanted to be right with her Daddy.
Jim asked me to take a picture of him carrying her to the Burb. I said, "you are just trying to push me over the edge, aren't you?"
In the end, we didn't take that picture. We wanted to remember her as she was...happy, energetic, and playful. When, even up to a few weeks ago, our 12 year old Lab would get her "happy puppy feet" when we walked outside with her food.
She was one of a kind, I tell ya.
And it was fitting that Jim carried her out. He carried in when he brought her to our family...and he was the one who carried her to the doctor.
I know dogs don't have souls, but I can't really think of a reason why God wouldn't want her in Heaven..."PEOPLE" Heaven (anyone getting the "Everybody Loves Raymond" reference?).
And, since we don't know ALL that is in Heaven, beyond what the Bible says, we can IMAGINE (which doesn't make it true, I realize). What we KNOW is that Heaven is filled with Jesus and God and angels and the believers who have gone before us.
BUT, if the wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the baby goat; and if the calf will be safe with the lion, and a little child shall lead them; and if the cow and the bear will graze, and their littles will lie down together; and if the lion will eat straw like the ox...then I can imagine that Maggie will be up there with the other good and wonderful things God created.
And I can imagine that Jake-the-
"For the God is a sun and shield; the bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." Psalm 84:11