In June 2008 our family gathered around our 7-8 year old Basset Hound Maggie with tears streaming down our faces to say goodbye. We were facing a medical issue that we could not afford: a spinal surgery that could exceed $15,000 to fix our beautiful Basset Hound’s paralysis that was being caused by a combination of a bad design of the breed (short legs and long back) and our Maggie’s intense love of jumping.
And then a miracle happened: on what we thought was going to be the last day with our Maggie we received a message from the Purdue University veterinary teaching hospital that they could perform the surgery for a small fraction of the cost of regular canine neurosurgeons. Maggie’s human father, a paramedic/firefighter by trade, did what he did best and rushed our injured loved one to get help in central Indiana.
Maggie came home two weeks later. She had such bad muscle atrophy that she could not walk, but she could hold her bodily functions, which meant we could work with whatever else would come our way. We were not sure that she would walk again, but we were going to try our hardest, and so would Maggie.
Over the next three months Maggie was on kennel rest, confined to her large crate except for potty breaks. To go outside we put a specially made sling around her rear legs and supported the weight while she used her front legs to propel herself. Her crate was in our main living area so that she would not be alone, and both her human family and her doggie siblings often laid up against her crate as company. We also performed physical therapy exercises on Maggie four times a day so that we could restore the muscle to her legs.
By the time the first snow fell that year, Maggie was walking again. She had a funny little limp, we blocked our stairs from her and confined her to our first floor, but she was up and chasing bunnies and running with the other dogs by the time Thanksgiving rolled around that year.
Over the next five years Maggie had an amazing life with us. We had loved her beyond words before her surgery; after surgery she became our little miracle dog. She was still with us because we had not given up, because of Dr. Distajo’s expertise, help and support, and because the amazing neurosurgeon team at Purdue University (her human momma’s alma mater) who had dedicated their lives to learning how to do operations like the one that saved Maggie.
Over the years Maggie’s two doggie siblings went to the Rainbow Bridge and a new puppy came into her life in May 2011. The crazy black Labrador puppy was the last thing she wanted to see bound into her home and upset her world and Maggie made it no secret that she disapproved of him. Within a few weeks, though, she came around and Jackson became her best friend, bringing out a youthfulness in our Maggie that we had not seen for a while.
Maggie and Jackson enjoyed two years together, racing through the fenced yard, playing tug-o-war, bitey face and other games, with Maggie displaying the energy of a puppy! Jackson seemed to know that she needed to play differently than some dogs; he never tried to roll her over or jump on her back or pull her too much during tug-o-war.
Maggie passed away in April 2013 after a battle with Lymphoma. Her family, particularly her buddy Jackson, misses her terribly. Jackson is lost without his sister and walked through the house whimpering for days after she passed away. From her daily check of the fence perimeter, to her funny little gait, to her love of licking everyone’s ankles, to the smell of her fur when we rubbed our faces up against her shoulder, Maggie was a big presence in our lives. Maggie had been a rescued dog and was maltreated and abandoned by the time she was around two, which is when we rescued her. I think it’s a toss-up to say who was happier that we rescued her and made her our little hound-dog, whether it was Maggie or us who was more grateful…but either way, our lives are forever better for having our sweet little Maggie to love.