Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The end of an era

I have tried and failed numerous times to start this post. There is no way to make light of the loss of Maia, nor should there be. So instead, here are a few memories of her:

*Fair warning: disjointed memories follow... watch for awkward - or even no - transitions ahead. 

Years ago, we took Kita and Maia up to our family's vacation home on the Puget Sound and one time we decided to row her and Kita out to the floating dock to hang out with us, thinking it might be fun to spend some time with the dogs out there. Maia apparently disagreed. Almost as soon as we got the dogs out to the dock, Maia jumped off and swam to shore. We jumped back in the boat with Kita to go retrieve her but halfway to shore Kita jumped out of the boat and joined Maia on the beach. The beach there is a rocky curve of land below a cliff, upon which the houses stand; to reach the house you have to climb a tall staircase to get to the top of the cliff. When he reached the beach, Kita led Maia up the stairs before we could get to them - unfortunately, he led her up the wrong stairs, sending us on a chase through the neighborhood to track them down again. Maia would - and often did - follow Kita anywhere, when they finally came back Maia had found something in what must have been an advanced state of decomposition to roll in - she stank to high heaven and it took multiple washes to get her smelling anywhere near approachable again. 

We used to camp every summer on the southern Oregon coast, at a small campground with beach access that was generally fairly unpopulated so the dogs could run free to have a little fun and stretch their legs. Since the beach was bordered by a tall cliff on one side and the ocean on the other we considered it a fairly safe area to let the dogs explore off leash. On one occasion, Kita and Maia took off down the beach and disappeared. When next we saw them, they were running along the top edge of the cliff. How they got up there is still a mystery. How they got down was terrifying: Maia tripped and started to fall. I panicked and ran in terror to the cliff edge, ready to try climb up to get her or catch her if she fell all the way to the bottom. When I looked up again, she was happily running back down the cliff to the beach. To this day I could not tell you how she recovered from her fall or how she found her way around on the cliff so quickly. She was, apparently, a lab/beagle/mountain goat mix.

Maia lived to the ripe old age of 19 years - a pretty good feat for a dog of medium (about 45 pounds) size. To the end, she loved going with us on trips and to the beach. Unfortunately, she was less and less able to keep up or walk for very long the last year or two. We were then faced with two options: 1) leave her at the house and take just the younger dogs, or 2) get creative. Clearly option 1 was off the table so we got creative. We bought one of those big-wheeled garden carts from Costco and loaded it, her dog bed, and the dogs into the Suburban and headed to the beach. We put the dog bed in the garden cart and pulled it along the beach behind it us. When Maia got too tired to continue on we would set her in the cart, on her dog bed, and wheel her along with us, her ears flapping in the breeze, her eyes blinking in the sun. She seemed to not mind being treated like a princess and she always got a lot of attention from the other people on the beach. She has always adored being the center of attention and in her opinion the more people, the merrier.

Maia in her princess cart, with a blanket to keep her warm on the windy coast