This obviously isn't a food post. But I felt it necessary to take some time aside to talk about my family dog, Madison. Madison passed away early yesterday morning. She would have been 15 years old this coming Tuesday.
Tammy, Madison's predecessor of 16 1/2 years, was in my life from the day that I was born. I recall not really knowing what to do when I learned that Tammy passed away. I was 14. I had come home from swim practice and my parents sat me down at the kitchen table. I didn't react at first... I didn't really know how. I was young, and it was my first experience with death. But, I felt empty, for a long time. Tammy was a second mother to me as I grew up and she was gone. I missed having her around and I begged my parents for another dog. In April, several months after Tammy's passing, my mom and I drove to a farm and found Madison. There were so many puppies. One kept biting at my hand. I said, "No, no bite." The puppy chomped her jaws three times, like she understood what I had said and like it was necessary for her to prove that she could do whatever she wanted. Naturally, we left with that chomping puppy that night. She had character. I loved her from the minute I saw her and she chomped her teeth. (For the record: Madison never bite anyone, she just chomped her teeth.)
For the entire time that Madison left her pawprints on this world, she lived up to the fact that she was born in a barn. The dog was insane! But, in a good way. She was full of personality. We used to joke that she had some chemical running through her brain. She'd get this crazed look in her eye and just start sprinting around the house. When she was a puppy, she would pounce on me and steal my hair scrunchies. She chewed through my parents' kitchen. One year, she ate an entire set of bubble lights for Christmas. She also indulged in my dad's chew tobacco from time to time (thank goodness, he quit). She loved going for rides. She would bark her head off when she was about to go for a walk, or a ride, or anytime for that matter. We couldn't mention the word "walk" around her. We couldn't even start to spell the word "walk" because she learned what "W-A" resulted in. She would go insane when the snow fell. She loved taking snowbaths. She played catch with snowballs. She would chase squirrels around the backyard. She loved giving high fives.
Madison would be in the front window every single time I arrived, or anyone arrived, at the house. You could always see her bushy tail and her cute little eyes peering out the window when you pulled in the driveway. And, she would stand there and say goodbye as you pulled out of the driveway. Sometimes, I would sit in the driveway and honk if she wasn't at the window just so I could wave goodbye. It became a tradition... a few times I would return home after being on the road for a few minutes because I realized I hadn't waved goodbye! Slight OCD, but necessary so I could see her bubbly little face before I went along my way.
Maddy was the most lovable dog. Thanks to general teenage drama, I often had many nights where I came home upset. She was there for me, always. It didn't matter where I was in the house. As soon as I started crying, she would appear out of nowhere. She would approach me cautiously... wondering if I was ok, and then lay her head on my lap, look up at me with her puppy dog eyes, and lay her ears back. I knew she was trying to console me, but she always ended up making me smile or laugh. As soon as she saw me smile, she took it as permission to attack me with kisses. She was such a dear dog. I loved her kisses. Even when she went through her stinky breath phase.
She loved her toys. She had tons. Mostly thanks to me because I could not enter a store without wanting to buy her a new toy. She had a basket full of them in the family room and she would often go pick out the toy she wanted to play with. When it was in her mouth, she refused to let it go! But, we always managed to get it from her. Then, after 3 tosses, she'd go back and get another toy. By the end of the play session, the entire basket was sprawled out on the floor. She'd try to gather as many in her mouth as she could, then she'd whimper when one would fall out. She would always find a way to carry 4+ toys though. She was such a smart dog. This last Christmas, I bought Madison a baby lamb toy. Mom said she carried it with her wherever she went. I'm glad I was able to give her one last toy.
I remember when I decided to attend law school in Minnesota. One of the first things I thought about was how hard it would be to leave Madison. I had lived out of the house for many years at that point, but I would go back nearly every weekend to take her for a walk, or a run, or a hike. She remained my best friend even when I lived in the city. I convinced myself that law school was only 3 years, Madison was 12, Tammy had lived until she was 16 1/2, I would return before Madison passed and I would be able to spend time with her. It seems flawed... completely unrealistic, but at the time, it comforted me. And when I left, Madison officially became the "last kid" in Pittsburgh for my parents. The house wasn't lonely with Madison in it and she certainly kept their life exciting. I would often "talk" with Maddy on the phone. We "chatted" on webcam. Well, we tried. Maddy always stared at the computer in complete confusion...
Hearing the news that Madison had passed away was very difficult. Ron told me. Madison loved Ron. He knew her for 7 years of her life and she loved that he became a part of the family. Every single time he was around her, she would sit near him with her paw on him. She was such a flirt. Yesterday, Ron sat me down and he told me Madison passed away and hugged me and held me. He had spoke with my mom earlier in the day and was trying to find a time. Bless his heart. He was very patient. Ron's been dealing with his own personal grieving process because his grandmother just passed away. The past few weeks have not been very good. Ron's grandmother passed away. A friend is slowly losing their battle with cancer and is undergoing a terribly rough chemotherapy treatment. And, Madison passed away. I have to admit that beneath the surface, I find it very difficult to function when things like this are happening. It's hard to maintain perspective and to remain positive and optimistic when things seem grim, but I'm trying to appreciate the moments that I have because life is too short.
It is inevitable that most often we will outlive our pets. Unfortunately, going through this is the hardest part of owning a pet. But, I do not find this a reason not to keep introducing furry friends into a home. The memories that I've made with Madison will forever be in my heart. She was often there for me when I felt no one else was. She never judged me. She never complained about me. She was patient, and loving, and caring, and absolutely irreplaceable. I love you, Madison "Woo"... I hope you are hanging out with Tammy and enjoying many home-made peanut butter treats. I'm sure Heaven doesn't make doggies wait at the oven door for them to bake...
Read this if you get a moment: What Your Pet Can Teach You