Maggie the Kelpie

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, April 20, 2016 10:09 PM

In 1972, my grandmother decided that our family needed a dog. When we drove to Eldred, Pennsylvania for Christmas that year, we got one. A little black ball of fur that my sister got to name. She picked Chaudee. We think she meant Charlie but since she was probably all of three, it came out Chaudee. Regardless, Chaudee stuck. He was supposed to be for the kids but he ultimately became my mother’s dog. He loved her completely, loved me and I’m sure my sister. He wanted nothing to do with my brother and I don’t think cared much for my dad. He was more of a ladies’ pup, Chaudee was. He was a puppy when we got him. He died after I had graduated from college and moved west. I think he was 15 or 16. Maybe even older. I remember when my mom called to say that she had to put him to sleep. She was obviously upset; I remember being sad. But he hadn’t been my dog for a long time. And I was still in that too-young-to-get-it stage of life.

Kevin and I got Maguire in 1997 when he was a puppy. He was with us until March 6, 2012. He was just over 15 years old, old for a big dog. I look at pictures of him now and I see how old he looked at the end, his beautiful face white, his eyes only slightly clouded, his once proud back scooped. He was an amazing animal, the love of my puppy life. He brought so much to our lives including a true appreciation for older dogs, so much so that when we finally decided it was time to get another dog, we wanted an adult dog, not a puppy. There’s grace and dignity in an older dog. Wisdom. 

Chaudee was very sick when my mother finally put him down. By her own admission, she probably waited too long but it’s an impossible decision to make. I understand. His quality of life wasn’t very good. He was deaf and blind, he couldn’t really eat, he had little control of his bladder or bowels. We didn’t have that with Maguire. Right up until that fateful night when he had his horrific and never-ending seizures, he had been fairly healthy. He had some trouble getting up sometimes so we helped him. His walks were shorter, but he was still playing with his toys, still eating as usual. 

At 15, he was old. We knew the inevitable was coming and dreaded the thought of life without our precious boy. I used to lay on the floor with him sometimes, just to hug on him and inhale his Maguire scent, because I knew I wouldn’t have him much longer. It always made me cry. It makes me cry as I type that sentence.

I thought of Maguire today and of Chaudee, and even of Cooper who was older but not old enough, when I read about Maggie.  

Maggie lived in Woolsthorpe, Australia. She was a kelpie, a herding dog. Her “dad,” Brian McLaren, got her as a puppy when his son was just 4 years old. The son is now 34.

Maggie died yesterday at the age of 30. She wasn’t sick; she was just old. She died in her bed. Just last week, she was walking, albeit slowly from “the dairy to the office and growling at the cats.” Feisty and ornery, but she earned it. You don’t get to be 164 years old, according the American Kennel Club, without having a little attitude. The American Veterinary Medical Association has said that the the one human year equals seven dogs years is a myth. Regardless of whether she was 164 or 210, she was old. And precious. And beautiful in that majestic, don’t give a f$^k kind of way. She was Maggie and she lived a good, long life. 

I feel badly for Mr. McLaren today. I know nothing of him except that he had an old dog named Maggie, perhaps the oldest dog on record. The official record-holder was a dog named Bluey, an Australian cattle dog who died at age 29 years and 5 months in 1939.

It makes no difference. She was old. She was beloved. She is missed. Her people are sad; devastated. She was Maggie and she’s who I’m celebrating tonight.

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