Alvin sticks out his tongue when he is nervous

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ode to Maury

It was a year yesterday that I had to put my first dog to sleep.  I am including him here because had a chosen to keep him alive longer neither Alvin nor Stevie would be here.  Maury required a lot of care near the end of his life and I couldn't start fostering until he died. 

Over four years ago, my dad and his wife brought their cocker spaniel to my house and their dog played with Maury.  Maury was in heaven and played and played.  This encouraged me to get a dog for my dog.  I am a sucker for the older dogs for many reasons and had originally requested an older dog to foster and possibly adopt, with the hope that he could be a playmate for Maury.  The dog had modeled lovely behavior in his original foster home and had lived easily with many other dogs.  He wasn't here for more than a half an hour when he began to growl at Maury.  Maury was deaf and blind so he couldn't hear the warning signals and it was clear that the match wasn't a good one. This turned out to be a bit of a relief for me because in the meantime I had seen a video of Timmie and had instantly fallen in love.  I kept showing everyone the pictures of Timmie and I thought he was the prettiest dog I had ever seen.  Cathy at Camp Cocker agreed to bring Timmie the next time and two weeks later that bundle of love arrived at my house.  Timmie nearly lost his home here over how he treated Maury.  He was very, very jealous of Maury and began to growl at him and when Maury kept coming he lunged and attacked him.  I had no choice but  to keep him for the weekend because Cathy was about four hours away.  In the meantime, Timmie marked 16 times in my house the first night and went after the cat.  I tried to put Timmie in a kennel at night, which proved to be very unsuccessful.  Because he was marking like a mad man I didn't want us to sleep in my carpeted room so I ended up sleeping on the sleeper sofa in the living room with one dog on each side of me.  I awakened several times throughout the night to the sound of growling by Timmie because Maury was trying to walk to the other side.  I ended up sleeping on that sofa bed, with the same sleeping arrangement for nearly a month.  At the end of the weekend, I was supposed to meet Cathy in San Jose to give Timmie back.  Thank goodness there was a very bad storm and I didn't want to drive the hour distance to give Timmie back.  Plus, although Timmie was incessantly barking, marking, had no concept of potty training, was walking on three legs because of recent surgery to fix his previously crushed pelvis, had separation anxiety, and was aggressive with my dog and cat, I just couldn't bear to hand him off because he was going to have to go back into boarding and he loved people with a tremendous amount of intensity and I couldn't imagine how sad he would be to go back into boarding.  He had a little girlfriend at the boarding place and she had come with him on the drive because she had a home waiting for her in northern California.  Imagine having to go back into boarding and losing your girlfriend at the same time.  I also had a strong feeling about Timmie and initially agreed to keep him for the two weeks until Cathy came back through town, with the hope that it would give us time to find another home for him.  Well, everyone knows how that story turned out and the truth was that Timmie went from all of that into an ideal, very well-behaved dog, with the exception of wanting to kill the mail carrier.  But this is an entry more about Maury.  So, four years ago we became a family of four with Maury, Maddie, Timmie, and me.

I got Maury when he was 10-years-old and unbeknownst to me he was nearly completely blind and deaf.  I got him from a different rescue that is now no longer in existence, which is a good thing considering I got him without them having done a home check, I completed the application after getting Maury and the rescue had never even met Maury.  I was not intending to adopt him and just wanted to try fostering because I had only had one previous dog that died when I was 14 years old.  The rescue ended up abandoning both of us when they took his information off an adoption website and would not return my phone calls or e-mails.  So, by default Maury became mine.  Maury was just a good, old dog.  When riding in the car, he would sit in the passenger seat and take his right paw and bang on the side door, which was the sign that he wanted the window rolled down.  On a few occasions he managed to hit the button that rolled down the window and the first time he did it, I nearly drove off the road because it was a shock to have a dog roll down his own window, and because he was blind I was worried he might jump out of the car.  We ended up worked out the system of when he banged, I rolled down the window just far enough for him to feel the breeze.  When Maury was 12-years-old I found out that he could get cataract surgery on one eye and for about a year he had some sight in it before losing it again.  I never regretted having spent the money because getting to watch him see again  remains one of my favorite memories.  Right after his surgery, I was brought back and be with him because he was causing quite a ruckus wanting out of the cage.  He was so upset that I ended up crawling in the cage with him and then accidentally locked myself in.  When the vet tech rounded the corner and found us both in the cage, he burst out laughing because it was quite a sight (pardon the pun).  They were merciful enough to move us to a dog run, which was kind because I have no doubt that it was entertaining to watch us both crammed in a dog cage together.  Once Maury had enough space to be able to step back and see me, he responded by hurling himself at my face with such speed and force that one of his bottom teeth jabbed me in the cheek, leaving a mark.  He went eye ball to eye ball with me and was so excited to see me.  He was overjoyed with his sight and it was a far more dramatic reaction than I could have anticipated. 

Maury was my faithful friend who wasn't much of a cuddler but could always be found right next to me.  Before he had the cataract surgery and then after he lost his sight again, we used to play hide-and-seek and I would run upstairs and hide, usually behind a door so I could watch him through the crack in the door.  He could only was depend on his sense of smell and would stand in the doorway of each room, put his nose in the air, and would know that I wasn't in the room without even needing to enter.  This was particularly impressive because I had even showered beforehand.  When he would find me, he would get so excited and there were times when we could fill a good part of an afternoon playing.  His sense of smell was so good that when a squirrel was in the vicinity, he was able to put his nose to the ground and track every small movement the squirrel had just made until we inevitably got to the tree that squirrel had just run up.

Because of Maury being deaf, I had trained him to do three tricks with me using hand signals that I had to do right next to his face because of his dimming, and then gone eye sight.  He learned to sit, lay down, and then roll over like he was dead, which in retrospect wasn't the most appropriate trick to teach an elderly dog.  My signal for rolling over and playing dead was that I would point my index finger and make my hand look like a gun, while saying, bang-bang, which he clearly couldn't hear but it added to the effect of the trick.  Once he completely lost his eye sight again, I would do the hand signals actually on his face and he would perform the tricks. 

I originally found out about Maury when a wonderful private citizen named Elena Kogan saw a poster on a street corner that said that Maury was going to be put to sleep in three days by his family because they couldn't keep him.  Elena took Maury without knowing what she was going to do with him and paid quite a bit of money for vet care.  It was after that the now defunct rescue organization agreed to take him and when I inquired about fostering for them, they connected me with Elena and told me to go get him.  Elena stayed in contact with me and asked if she could visit him about a year before he died.  At that point, I hadn't tried to do Maury's tricks with him for about a year because he had developed dementia and had very weak back legs.  During Elena's visit I remembered his tricks and decided I would at least give it a shot because she had never seen them.  I will be darned if he didn't remember them and performed them like a champ.  What brought the house was what happened next.  When Maury would get especially excited, he would point his nose to the ceiling and let out a big howl.  He did this maybe once a month but before this particular day, I had not heard him do it for at least six months.  After performing his tricks that day, he raised his head to the ceiling and let out a loud, excited howl.  We were all so taken aback that Elena jumped.  Maury died 14 months later and the day of Elena's visit was the last time I ever heard him howl.  I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed thinking back to that day and that he did his last howl in the presence of Elena.

Maury was just a kind, quiet, faithful boy.  Once I realized that Maury would be staying for the remainder of his life, I came to terms that I wouldn't have a great deal of time with him because he was already 10.  Little did I know that he would live to be nearly 15 and I had to choose to have him put to sleep because he was never going to give up the fight to live.  I put off putting him to sleep longer than I should have because I had never had to put a dog to sleep and I was so hoping he could die at home in his sleep.  He was afraid of the going to the vet and I didn't want him to end his life at a vet but my vet didn't do house euthanization.  I able to give him a sedative before we went and I had a bunch of beef jerky to feed him in my lap while my mom drove us there.  He was very relaxed and ate so much beef jerky that we had to stop at 7-11 to buy more.  My vet gave him a sedative injection when he first got there and he ended up falling asleep in my lap with a mouthful of beef jerky, which was exactly what I was hoping for.  We put him to sleep with the vet crying as hard as I was. 

I had decided that the best way I could honor Maury was to foster dogs like him.  In the past year, I have had five foster dogs, including Alvin and Stevie.  I picked out Stevie because she reminded me so much of Maury.  She is very hard of hearing, was blind but recently had cataract surgery, and is another older, sweet, faithful dog.  Wherever I go, she goes and when I come home she insists on getting on her back legs, with her front paws on my lap and wants me to get right in her face so she can see me better.  It doesn't matter if I leave the house just to go to the car and come right back, Stevie is excited to see me every time.  Stevie, just like Maury, is the kind of dog that makes you feel better about yourself.  One day I noticed that Stevie was standing directly over Maury's grave and was sniffing all around the area.  I got a bit misty thinking that I was witnessing a particularly touching moment as Maury kind of handed over the torch to Stevie.  I was so into it and was thinking how I would tell my mom about this profound, touching moment and then I realized what she was actually doing.  Apparently the cat liked to go potty on Maury's grave because the dirt was softer and it was back when she still buried her waste.  Stevie had found the spot and was sniffing around for the poop, which he promptly started eating.  I wish someone had been there to get a picture of the look on my face because I did a 180 from being deeply moved to be repulsed and nauseous.  It was another lesson that at times in life, it just doesn't matter how wonderful you are, there will be those people (or cats in this case) who will still insist on crapping on you. 

When I think about that fact that if there hadn't been a Maury, there wouldn't have been an Alvin, Stevie, or Timmie, I am particularly grateful for a little old, blind, deaf dog who taught me that often some of the most precious gifts come in packages that from the outside look a bit damaged.  If you think about it today, roll your window down a bit in honor of a dog that always appreciated the small delights in life.  To Maury!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your love story with Maury. It was so beautifully written.

    The part about Maury regaining his sight brought tears to my eyes (and that doesn't happen often).

    I had to pause again when I came to the part on putting Maury to sleep. It brought back so many memories of my own dog Berri. I rescued her at age 3+ and she loved with me for 14 good years before passing at the ripe old age of 17+. She too was blind for the last 12 years of her life and had to be put to sleep at the end. It's been a good 5+ years since her passing but thinking about it never fails to bring on the tears.

    Bernice, Singapore