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Mourning Maud, Part 1

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Mourning Maud, Part 1 by Rick ThompsonThis is the first part of a three-part series about my experience with losing my close companion Maud. I hope that sharing this story might make it easier for others who are going through a similar experience. Part 2 can be found here and part 3 here.

We gently petted Maud as the vet’s assistant held her and the vet gave the injection. Maud immediately relaxed and then slumped over. Within a few seconds, she was gone. I paraphrased the line that was recited when Lincoln died: “Now she belongs to the ages.” We were all still and quiet, only to be startled by several postmortem respiratory gasps, which the vet assured us were not uncommon. We then spent some time alone with Maud.

There are dogs—and then there was Maud. My partner, Ken, and I had been immediately drawn to her at our local animal shelter three years earlier. She looked like she could have been a sibling of our two German shepherd mixes at home, Nellie and Toby. Her fur was thick but soft as velveteen, like a luxurious teddy bear. The shelter estimated that she was 7 years old. We have a soft spot for older canines, and as a larger, long-haired dog, her eventual fate had she remained at the animal shelter was dubious at best. We adopted her the same day and named her Maud in honor of Maud Haldeman, who had founded the local animal shelter in 1917. We later learned that ours was at least Maud’s fourth or fifth home. That baffled us, considering that she was as sweet as could be. At last, ours would truly be her forever home.

And for the most part, we all lived happily ever after—or at least until one morning in January 2009, when Maud suddenly collapsed with stroke-like symptoms. She made a slow and steady recovery into the spring after the vet determined that her collapse had been caused by vestibular disease. But as spring turned to summer, the recovery went into reverse. By August, Maud was becoming increasingly immobile and her quality of life was rapidly deteriorating. The decision to euthanize is always accompanied by two guilt-ridden questions: “Did we act too soon?” and “Did we wait too long?” The answer to both was “no.”

Now Maud was gone, and our mourning had begun. The loss was profound.

maud-1b

Maud would remain in the vet’s morgue for a few days until the cremation. Before we left, a lock of her thick fur was trimmed for us to keep. And then we left—without Maud. One of the saddest images possible is that of someone leaving a vet’s office with an empty leash. Fortunately, Nellie and Toby were waiting for us at home.

I had two unusual requirements for Maud’s cremation. The first was that I was to be the one to transport Maud to the crematorium. So just past noon the following Monday, the vet staff respectfully carried Maud’s cardboard casket to our car—our charcoal-colored PT Cruiser had always reminded me of a British hearse, and now it truly was. I attached a bouquet of wildflowers to the box, and then the funeral procession began.

The other unusual requirement was that I was to be present at Maud’s cremation …

If you were moved by “Mourning Maud,” please contribute to Maud’s True Friends Memorial.

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    Pamela Harp Gentry says...

    February 19th, 2010, 7:01 pm

    I know all too well that feeling of sorrow and emptiness when leaving the vet’s office without your beloved furry child. We lost our beautiful Golden
    named Daisy 6 years ago and I continue to think of her every day. She will live forever in my heart. She, like your Maud, was also cremated and her remains will be with us forever, in a beautiful wooden urn. We did not have another dog waiting for us at home, but 4 months later a new Golden entered our lives. Her name is Dixie Belle and she continues to give us tremendous joy and inspiration through her boundless love and sweetness. I will look forward to reading your next post. Blessings.

    Tucker says...

    February 19th, 2010, 8:21 pm

    I to have been through the same thing as well, My dog Sugar Pop
    a white Poodle. I was at the Vets as well when Sugar was
    Put down. It was like she knew because she was trying to get down off the table and all the way on to my body, (I was holding Sugar on the table, not all the way up on me)
    This was many years ago, and am still SAD about it!!!!!!
    I had another poodle (black) named Shirley temple black.
    She was waiting for me at home.
    I came home and Shirley was looking for Sugar, Shirley not at all acting her self. She was acting strange the rest of the day and in to the night.
    I had came home from work the next day, Shirley was up at the top of the
    stairs howling like You wouldn’t believe!!!!!!
    Shirley had NEVER done that EVER before!!!!!!

    My VEt told me to love Shirley and spoil her ,give her all my attention like never before!!!!!!This went on for a week or so, It just broke my heart, first Sugars death and then Shirley not acting at all like her self!!!!!!
    I let her outside one day after a week of not letting Shirley out for the fear
    of Shirley running away.
    I thought a week to ten days was a good amount of time, and My dogs were always inside/outside dogs.
    So I let Shirley out kept an eye on her, went to the kitchen came back
    Shirley was no where around!!!!!!
    After weeks of putting up posters every where and offerings of a reward
    I had realized Shirley probably went off looking for Sugar. Shirley her self had run off to die her self.
    God bless all animals and pets who have died, they are all up there haveing one hell of a party!!!!!!

    ALWAYS LOVE YOUR ANIMALS AND PETS, THEY ARE A PART OF YOU AND YOUR FAMILY!!!!!!

    Kurt Schwenk says...

    February 20th, 2010, 4:51 am

    Dear Rick and Ken,

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Your story breaks my heart as we are currently living on borrowed time with one of our dogs. She is a 9 year old Shepherd/Lab/Chow mix named B’Elanna and they discovered a “growth” in her spinal column a month ago after she was unable to move her front legs. Luckily she has responded well to steroids and is able to walk again, for now.

    Your photo of Maud also looks so much like the dog I had when I was young. She was a collie/shepherd mix named Krypto who passed from cancer at age 13.

    Dogs are the greatest gift that God gave man, the live to the fullest and love unconditionally. I think their lives are so short because they are the closest thing to perfection we will ever find in this life.

    Thanks for sharing your story, and for adopting an older dog!

    Julie Bowyer says...

    February 20th, 2010, 11:05 am

    We are so sorry for your loss. We too have just lost our beloved cat Sammy who had been with us for almost 24 years. He was a beautiful white cat with black markings and he loved us as much as we loved him. He always stayed close to home and loved being in the garden with us or having a lap to sit on. I used to joke with our son Christopher who is now 22 that if anyone was going to leave home it would have to be him as Sammy had been a member of our family for much longer. Sammy was euthanized on February 10th and we asked the vet to come to our house as we felt Sammy would be less stressed and in his own home. All the family were with him and we buried him in the garden next to his much loved brother Snowy. It has only been a short space of time for us since he died but it does’nt matter whether it is 3 years or 24 years the grief is still the same. Our house rabbit Lottie misses him as they used to sleep together in the same room at night and that in itself is painful because she does’nt know where he is. We will always love and remember Sammy and we have some lovely photo’s to remember him by as I am sure you have of Maud.

    Nancy Ball says...

    February 21st, 2010, 7:24 am

    I am truly sorry for the loss of your beloved Maud. Your story brought back the emotions my husband and I felt on february 1/10 when we took our adopted boy Oscar in for his last visit to the vet’s office. It’s heartbreaking and the void you feel is unbelievable. I felt as though we were right beside you as what you describe is what it is and yes, we are still in mourning for our boy. His ashes were just returned to us and because he loved to walk, we took him on our nightly walk. Our pets are cherished gifts who bring so much joy to our lives. RIP Maud, you were a champion.

    Michelle says...

    February 22nd, 2010, 6:02 pm

    Rick, thank you for this powerful post!

    If anyone would like to create their own True Friends Memorial for a loved one, you can do so at http://www.peta.org/truefriends

    Christine Gordon says...

    February 22nd, 2010, 6:54 pm

    Keep that lock of hair close.

    Marg Durrance says...

    February 22nd, 2010, 6:56 pm

    I have been through this 3 times in my lifetime–all a matter of necessity & all equally hard. Unfortunately our animal friends do not have the lifespan of their human friends & we have to accept that. Now I have a 3 year old friend since she was a baby but now the tide has turned & I am hoping that I live long enough to see her through hers as I am now in old age.

    Masha says...

    February 22nd, 2010, 6:57 pm

    R.I.P Maud: I am sorry for your loss.
    I was going to write a big novel-like paragraph about the beloved cat that I once had, but I’ll make it brief.
    He understood me and I understood him. I’ve always known he loved me like I loved him. I’m not the cat whisperer, but we had a connection. Since the age of 7, I guess you could call him my soulmate: call me insane if you please. But I have always had a deep love for animals, ever since I was born. I will think of Maud when I pray today.

    My sincere condolences,
    Masha, 13.

    Karen says...

    February 22nd, 2010, 7:02 pm

    I lost my 10 year old furry friend Luna to kidney cancer on September 2009. I still miss her everyday and Maud’s story brought tears to my eyes. Just yesterday I adopted a kitten about to be euthanized (In Colombia where I live adoption is not very common and most animals in shelters are euthanized eventually) and I know Luna would be the perfect companion for the new little one missing his mom, she was always kind and acted like a mother to all my other rescued cats.

    I agree with all the comments above, animals are overwhelmingly special beings, and having the chance to experiece their friendship, innocence, purity of spirit, and true love is one of the biggest joys in life.

    Jeff Neumann says...

    February 22nd, 2010, 7:12 pm

    It is so sad that these animals have to go through those kinds of lives in order to find true happiness, the people who abandon there animals are just cowards and should not have had them in the first place. I have a 5 year old mastif/rottie named watson, we got him at our local shelter, he was left along with his brothers and sisters in a box on the side of the highway, i immediatly called friends and family to see if they wanted to adopt these amazingly cute furry animals. To this day watson has remained a gaurdian of my home but he is as gentle as the day we picked him up. Truly a pet that turned into a family member and he will always be in my heart.

    sheena says...

    February 22nd, 2010, 7:32 pm

    I’m truly sorry to hear about your loss. I too had a dog that passed from a vestibular disease. I’ve never heard of such a thing and and the symptoms were so awkward. Asia, my shetland sheepdog, would have strokes(which at the time I didn’t know were strokes) that would sometimes last up to three days. she would slowly eat and drink, but sluggishly walked around with a dazed look and used walls to balance herself when walking. She always snapped out of it, but seemed to worsen every episode. The last time it happened she wouldn’t eat or drink and this time had blood shot eyes. Another effect of the stroke was that her head always tilted to the side.. come to find out from the vet, it was because the strokes made her feel dizzy. We asked if there was anything we could do keep her with us just a bit longer, but the Likelihood of her snapping out of the stroke was unlikely so the decision was to euthanize. Asia knew what was happening… like I said, the strokes caused her head to tilt sideways as if it stiffened her neck like that. As she was laying on the table, she forced her head to actually turn and look me straight in the eyes…. I balled.. she was the first pet I ever had to put down. I miss and love her so much.

    Lynda Walker says...

    February 22nd, 2010, 8:36 pm

    I am truly sorry for your loss. Maud sounded like a wonderful pooch.
    It was just three years ago, on feb. 19, 2007, we had the vet come to our home and watch as she gently, ever so gently, shaved a small piece of fur from Ceheus’ front paw, handed it to me, and gave him the needle that would put him out of his long journey with heliobacterium.
    He had three endoscopies in 5 years to determine how badly the disease was traveling through his weakening body.
    Prior to this Homecoming for Ceph, he too, went for a walk, and was not back in his usual time. I drove around the neighborhood and found him walking in the street. I told him, that we were all family, and that we would not be at all happy if somehow he left us to go quietly somewhere so as to avoid having us know his time was coming.
    We drove home and had two weeks more with this lovely creature we called, our young man.
    We brought his body to the vets and cried all the way. We returned to a quiet home with hundreds and hundreds of memories of a Beagle/ Basset, who touched our hearts in ways we never imagined.
    To this day, I cry for the love and kisses he gave so happily and how he relished every moment with his family.
    You will, no doubtedly, experience the saddness and lonliness of someone so important in your life.
    BE GRATEFUL FOR THE TIME YOU SHARED YOUR LIVES TOGETHER.

    May Maud rest in peace and may you all met up someday at Rainbow Bridge.

    MAURA VENERI says...

    February 22nd, 2010, 8:45 pm

    i know how they feel. my sister had to put her beloved cat “jj” to sleep one year ago this may. that cat was one of a kind. he is buried beside our mom’s garage. he was a twin. his brother junior, was put to sleep a few years earlier. those two men who buried their beloved pet, should take heart maude is in a better place, and she is “waiting” for them. jj &maude, may you both rest in peace. you both were loved. and will be sorely missed.

    Robb says...

    February 22nd, 2010, 10:00 pm

    It is simply amazing how we can even heal from humans leaving us for the afterlife, yet your story brought back the tears for my Border Collie I lost nine years ago. I know people that say it hurts so much that they will never do it again. I simply tell them that it is their responsibility to go save another life.

    RIP Maud

    Maura says...

    February 22nd, 2010, 10:24 pm

    As I read this the tears are streaming down my face, because just 2 weeks ago I had to have my poor kitty Chester put to sleep. It broke my heart SO badly that a day hasn’t gone by without me crying. He suffered from liver disease, and I gave him everything possible for 2 years to keep him going. I am sorry for anyone that has to suffer this type of ordeal, and I truly hope our furry friends are waiting for us in heaven.

    Michelle says...

    February 22nd, 2010, 11:27 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about Maud. My prayers and thoughts are with you. I have a dog named Carrie and she is like a child to me. The thought of loosing her tears me up. Animals are God’s gift of love and people need to respect that. Blessings to you.

    Kim Burry says...

    February 23rd, 2010, 12:21 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. I have been in your position on 2 separate occasions. Our beloved shit-zu “spooky” had to be put down due to cancer. She had personality plus! Her companion and most of all my shadow ‘rookie’ was put down a few years later due to old age. He followed me everywhere and when I had to be away whether for an hour or 2 days, he would wait by the window in his chair, for me to return home. The kids would have to force him to go outside to pee, but he did it reluctantly. As hard as it was to lose ‘spooky’, it was 10 times harder to lose ‘rookie’. There are days that I swear I can still feel him laying beside me like he used to. They are very truly in a special place in your heart forever. Miss them both to this day. I have 2 new additions since then and they are wonderful. Just can’t imagine life without pets. It would be too empty and lonely. RIP Maud and all the others that have passed on to a better place.

    Colleen U Jones says...

    February 24th, 2010, 5:49 am

    I had to say goodbye to my beloved Brandy, my 13 year old German Shepherd at the vets office in April 1991. She was so beloved by my family that my husband and mother were there as well. It wasn’t until March 2005 that I was finally able to get another dog! Now I have Mia and Moses, two wonderful Schipperkes – and though they cannot replace Brandy in my heart, they both have their own place there.

    I refuse to believe that animals are not in Heaven because God certainly couldn’t be that cruel that the only time we have with them is the short years they are with us on Earth! I look forward to seeing them all again one day.

    Nicole says...

    February 25th, 2010, 4:28 pm

    The day my sheltie Happy died, I unfortunately could not go see him be put down because I had school, but before I left that morning he laid right down into my lap while I pet him and said goodbye to him; it was his obvious way of saying goodbye back. When I got on my bus I looked to the sky and saw a small ray of sunlight going through the clouds and over my apartment building; I said in my mind “they are getting ready for him up there”. After a long anxious day at school I came home and let it all out seeing that my dog was not at the door to greet me; I fell into my mom’s lap and cried hysterically. She told me that when they gave him the first injection to relax him, he jumped right up and tried to leave like “Ok guys! I got my shots let’s go home!” and they said it was funny and cute, but eventually he relaxed; they only got half of the second injection into his body before he passed away. The next day I went with the rest of my family to the pet cemetery where we had him buried; before we left we gathered a few pictures, one of his favorite toys, and wrote him little letters to be buried with, I put a picture of myself with him so he could remember who his mom was for almost 13 years. To this day I still think about my baby boy and my prayers go out to you guys for your loss; maybe Maud and Happy are sitting up there in heaven with each other right now, Happy always loved girl dogs that were a lot bigger than him.

    Shirley Munro says...

    February 26th, 2010, 4:48 am

    Our beautiful boxer girl, Trinity, died on the 13th of June 2009, so I can understand your deep sadness and loss.
    Trinity was diagnosed with cancer in April 2009, and responded well to treatment, but took a turn for the worst in June last year. We took her for treatment on the Friday morning, and she passed away on Saturday morning before we could visit her. She was 8 1/2 at the time of her death. She has left a huge hole in our hearts. Her boxer brother Neo, took her death really badly, and is only now getting back to his usual self.
    What has helped us the most, is our other dogs. We have 4 other rescue dogs, Coco (boxer), Chanel (bullterrier cross), Aidan (Boxer), and the newest one, Angel (boxer), who came into our lives on the 8th of January 2010. Angel is so much like Trinity. Sometimes it’s really difficult seeing her, as they have the same mannerisms and personality, but’s it’s also a re-affirmation that life does go on, and that we provided the best possible care for all our dogs, in the time they are with us. Trinity was our first boxer, and was the craziest, naughtiest, wildest, sweetest boxer, she was love personified, and loved all creatures great and small. She’s the reason we have now rescued so many other boxers, and will continue to do so in her honour. We will love and miss you always, Beautiful Butterfly, fly free till we meet again.

    Denise says...

    February 26th, 2010, 4:35 pm

    I am reading your story about Maud and crying. Our beloved Petie was diagnosed with old dog vestibular disease the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The next month was up and down he would start to recover then relapse and the Tuesday after Christmas we decided to put him to sleep. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do but the vets office was so sympathetic and it was peaceful. We took a lock of hair also and took many pictures of us with him before we left. We had no other animals to come home to so that night we filled out an application for a rescue dog and brought home Buddy on Saturday. Buddy will not replace Petie but it sure has made it easier. We had Petie creamted and he will always be remembered. He was the best dog ever.

    Linda says...

    February 28th, 2010, 12:25 am

    with tears streaming down my face, reading all the comments. I have to tell you about griffin.

    griffin was my soul mate. the instant that we first made eye contact as he was helped out of a greyhound rescuers car, we fell in love.

    griffin was a beautiful red brindle male ex racing greyhound about 2 years old that was rescued for calenta track in mex. with a broken leg.

    griffin found that living as a pet and being a member of our pack was really cool. and we all loved his so very much. we, being sadie, a 10 year old springer spaniel and lucy 6 year old german shep, (both rescue) and me, human, 60 female. he being the only male was so very charming to we girls, he was our sweetheart, our clown. we were smittin. all of us. Everyone that ever met griffin loves him. we would just stare at each other in awe.

    oct. 2, 2008.
    2:30 pm

    griffin comes into the kitchen and starts to hack up some, what i would call yellowish foamy stuff. I clean it up and think that he’ll cough it up and that will be that. i continue doing what i’ve been doing and griffin comes back into the kitchen still hacking.

    i forgot to tell you that 4 days before, i by mistake closed griffins neck in the car window. it was an accident. it was very hot in the car when we return and all that i could think of was to turn on the air and close the windows. he yelps. my finger was still on the window control and i immediately opened the window. griffin gulped a few times but seemed okay so we continued on home.

    griffin seemed off, can’t put my finger on it but since i was going out of town that weekend i decide to have him checked out by our vet. looks good he said.

    griffin hacked and hacked. when he finally fell on the floor and pooped did i realzied he was in big trouble. i tried clearing the foam from his airway. this can’t be happening, but it was. i was screaming for help, pleases help us, no one there. i screamed and screamed and screamed. i once heard that you get amazing powers when in this situation. i could not pick him up and carry his to the car, too heavy. 76 lbs.

    i haven’t been the same since. i think of him everyday, he was my soulmate.

    Rick Thompson says...

    March 15th, 2010, 9:56 am

    Ken and I want to thank all of you for reading “Mourning Maud.” Many thanks for your kind comments, expressions of sympathy, and for sharing your own experiences of losing a loved one. Take comfort in cherishing all the fond memories.

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