I first met Maggie when I was still a school girl. I was walking out of the tutoring center at the mall when my parents pulled up to the curb and a little puppy with huge floppy ears stuck her head out of the passenger side window and licked my face...and there she was...my first dog.
My mom and dad had adopted her from the pound in Downey after she had vaulted over all of the other puppies to get to my dad. They knew it was meant to be and after filling out the adoption paperwork, introducing her to me and giving her a bath my Dad and I christened her "Maggie"...though my Mom felt she needed a richer and fuller name and so she became Magdalena Alvarez Pew Braun. But she would only hear her full name in the future when she was in trouble.
I don't know how you necessarily define what it is to be a good dog. Is it loyalty, obedience, adoration, cuddliness, and/or love of going for walks that defines a good dog? All I can say is that I know a good dog when I see one and Maggie was one good dog.
Without question she made my life a better, richer and fuller one and she sure made my grandma happy in her later years. She would hang out with her in the kitchen and Grandma would throw bits of cheese at her (she was particularly partial to sharp cheddar). When the cheese ran out Grandma would fry her an omelette. If my Grandma hated one thing it was leftover food going to waste and Maggie provided her not only with companionship but with the world's best garbage disposal as well as endless hours of entertainment throwing food across the kitchen for Maggie to catch. Beyond that, Grandma was consistently amused by the fact that no matter where Maggie was in the house if she heard the rumpling sound of a ziplock with cheese she would bolt up out of bed and come running to the refrigerator.
Beyond her love of cheese Maggie's other great love was running around and having grand adventures on our property outside of Yosemite National Park. She liked to pretend that she was a wolf and howl at the moon and much to our dismay...challenge bears and mountain lions. We jokingly referred to her as the most expensive free dog in the world. Despite being a pound puppy she wracked up close to $60,000 in vet bills during her life in no small part thanks to an encounter with a black bear in the creek up at Yosemite.
One night she went charging out into the darkness, howling at something. Following her down to the creek my dad shone the flashlight and revealed a bear she was trying to corner (it apparently was lost on her that the bear weighed about four hundred pounds more than her). The bear took one swipe at her with her paw and Maggie had to have essentially all of her ligaments in her hind legs reattached. Then of course she lost an eye a few years later and several thousand dollars later she had one good-looking glass eyeball.
Maggie was just a loving, wonderful, stoic, selfless creature. She loved her adopted dog siblings Snuggles, Ling and Odie and she even loved the little cats in the house that might have annoyed a less patient dog. She loved my mom and loved to hang out on the couch and watch tv with her and she loved to bolt out the front door and make my dad chase her down the street. She also loved nothing more than to sit outside on a sunny day and sunbathe in the backyard by the pool. Maggie definitely knew how to enjoy life and help others enjoy theirs.
We knew that today was going to be the day and so last night we ordered Maggie's favorite food...pizza from from Pina's Pizza House. We feasted and then Dad built a fire for her to sleep in front of all night and then this morning, surrounded by her family and the people at the vet's office who have adored her since she was a puppy, she went to a better place.
I'm normally not a person who grieves publicly. I pride myself at never crying at movies in public theaters and rocking enormous pairs of sunglasses at funerals but I felt like it would a little cowardly of me not to celebrate, in a small little way, the brief life of a truly wonderful creature with a heart as big as the bears she liked to good-naturedly harass.