I hope you’ll indulge me this one time for not writing about writing. It’s been a rather tough week for me. That’s one of the reasons I’m posting a bit late. You see, I’m a dog lover, and up until last Tuesday, I had two: Jack, an Alaskan Malamute, and Maleah, a Siberian Husky. Over thirteen years ago—a year after the death of my first dog, a Husky/Malamute mix named Gunnar—I adopted Maleah. She came to me through BASH, Bay Area Siberian Husky, a rescue league specializing in the notoriously difficult breed.
From day one, Maleah proved just how arduous the breed can be. She cost me thousands of dollars in damage to my home. But even worse, she was a runner, an escape artist of profound ability. We even called her The Great Malini and hypothesized she had hidden opposable thumbs because she could escape from any kind of enclosure or binding. Most of the time, she was with me, right by my side. I was a stay-at-home mom with a home-based business, so I was around a lot, but when no one was home, my husband and I had to make sure she couldn’t get loose. Not an easy task, let me tell ya.
Maleah was one of those special souls who touched everyone she came in contact with. She helped one of my son’s friends and her father get over their significant fear of dogs. That’s how sweet she was. Though the breed is notably cat-predatory, she had her own kitty, Kiley, another rescue. When Kiley died of old age back in 2005, Maleah was a little mopy, so, after a lot of research, we got her Jack, and the two became fast friends, completely inseparable. And up until a few weeks ago, they played hard together everyday, with Maleah as the proven alpha and Jack her ever obedient love-slave.
But all that changed, and very quickly. Maleah’s health, which had been changing due to her age, suddenly deteriorated. Though she was always a picky eater, she stopped eating her food and had to be hand fed. I cooked for her everyday, whatever I thought she might eat: ground beef, carrots, hot dogs, cheese, steak—whatever. But after awhile, even that proved difficult, and she stopped eating altogether. It’s hard for a mom to watch her “kid” not eat and simply waste away. I knew if I took her in to see the vet yet again, he would just tell me her time was near. And I knew that. I realized I would have to say goodbye very soon.
Then Maleah stopped sleeping. She constantly paced around the house, never lying down, never resting. By last Monday, she could barely walk. And on Tuesday, her rear legs became partially paralyzed. This was it. I knew the time had come. As much as I loved and needed her, I couldn’t allow her to suffer one more day of pain. That realization undid me.
My son and I spent the entire day on the floor next to Maleah as she rested on her bed. This was not easy for my son, especially physically. He woke up that morning with his usual backache, but it was markedly worse, and he could barely tolerate sitting, standing, or even lying down. But he did. He never left her side that day. Mid-afternoon, the vet came to our home and told us what we had been dreading, that she would never get better. He advised us to put her down.
So I laid down with my face right up next to Maleah’s, so she could look me in the eye, so I would be the last thing she ever saw, so she would know I was there and that I loved her. The doc gave her a ketamine-valium sedative before stopping her heart. I held her close and cried and apologized then watched the light fade from her beautiful soulful eyes. It was one of the most difficult moments of my entire life.
Later that evening, when my son came to say goodnight, I started to cry yet again. Though I am a very spiritual person, I asked him if he really thought Maleah was in a better place. I wondered if she had a soul that God would allow to carry on in some place where she could play and run.
My son, who is not especially spiritual, told me a remarkable story.
He said that he had prayed the night before for God to take Maleah’s pain and give it all to him. And as I said, he woke up in considerable pain that morning and could barely sit, stand, or lie down, which was not at all typical. He said he thought God had indeed intervened and given him Maleah’s pain to bear on that last day. He thought if there was a God, and He did something like that, then surely Maleah had a soul, and at that moment, she was off chasing squirrels in heaven. His words helped me more than I can say, because suddenly, my son had a faith he’d never had before.
It’s been six days, and while I still have my big silly Jack, I miss Maleah terribly. She was my constant companion. If I moved to another room, so would she. We were inseparable. So it’s difficult for me. Yes, she was “only” a dog, but she was part of my family and I ache for her.
Rest in peace, my beautiful girl!