Trying really hard to find something I LOVE today. So, Maggie.

Posted on November 5, 2009

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It’s one of those days.

Instead of whining about it, and because I was kind of an asshat with my NaNo rant yesterday, I’m linking to Neil Gaiman’s phenomenal letter of encouragement to NaNoers (which applies to all writers, too). And then writing about something easy.

Maggie, my pit bull.

I met Maggie when I was 19-years-old during the summer break before my junior year of college. I was visiting Michigan and volunteering at a shelter in Ann Arbor to pass the time. One day, we got a call alerting the shelter of a possible hoarding situation. It was worse than any of us could have imagined.

The police and cruelty investigators responded to the call to discover 42 animals in the house. The place was filthy; surfaces and floors covered in feces and urine. Two dogs were locked in the owner’s car, in the garage; other animals were locked in closets, bathrooms- in every nook and cranny imaginable.

Maggie was the owner’s most recent aquisiton, which meant that she weighed a generous 34 lbs (of the 43 she should weigh) as opposed to the 21 lbs of skin and bone that most of the other dogs weighed. The owner didn’t fight the animals; he just collected them and ignored them as they wasted away.

Maggie was found in a tiny crate she could barely even turn around in on top of her owner’s TV. Her intake report said that she was incredibly fearful and timid, and that they expected her to become a “fear biter.” She had epilepsy and a multitude of other health problems, cage wear on her teeth, and scars on her feet from trying to break out of her crate.

All of the animals (which included several cats, parrots, and a few assorted rodents) had to be held as evidence by the humane society for 6 months, because the defendant fled. Because animals are property and there could be no trial in his absence, they still belonged to him and could not be adopted out. This meant that the shelter had to house, feed, and provide medical care for a large number of animals for months on end, while still having to accept every new animal someone dumped on the doorstep.

Maggie did not do well in the shelter environment. She pressed her head against the wall in a corner, and wouldn’t even respond if you clapped your hands by her ear. Thankfully, I was able to foster her, and she came out of her shell somewhat during the month before I had to return to college. I will always remember dropping her off at the shelter before heading back to New York; it was one of the saddest days of my life. I cried until I had no tears left, and I still have the picture I took of Maggie in the back seat of the car, looking sad and hopeful in the shelter’s parking lot.

After the trial, the shelter won custody of the animals but had a policy against adopting out pit bulls (which has been changed- YAY!). Luckily, a pit bull rescue stepped in and took Maggie and a number of other dogs in, including Olive, Z”L, the dog my infinitely talented author friend Stephanie ended up adopting.

I returned to New York to learn about Dante and The Decameron, about James Hogg and Seamus Heaney…but I never forgot Maggie. I was still living in the dorms and as such, couldn’t have pets. But as time passed, I became more and more desperate to adopt a dog of my own.

Meanwhile, Maggie had been at the rescue for a year, and wasn’t adjusting well. She screamed when placed on a tie-out and her neuroses made rescue life tough for her. She was up for adoption for a whole year, but no one wanted a dog with epilepsy who didn’t know how to fetch or play, or do much of anything except look pathetic.

That Spring, I found the perfect apartment – a 400 sq. ft. studio on the Upper East Side, right across from John Jay park, next to the East River Walk and only a mile from the Carl Shurtz dog run. I had a few part time jobs and finally felt it was time to adopt.

Right after I signed the lease, I called Maggie’s rescue to find out how she was and where she ended up. I was hoping that, by some miracle, she would still available.
When the rescue director told me she’d been adopted a few weeks prior, I was heartbroken for myself but happy for her. She finally got the forever home she deserved.

Two weeks later, he called me back. Maggie had been returned; the owners couldn’t deal with her medical issues, and the director wondered if I was still interested.

HELL YES!

After a long drive from Michigan to New York, Maggie arrived looking much smaller than I remembered her and very out of place in my tiny, Ikea-outfitted apartment. Luckily, you don’t need more than a few feet to snuggle. And exercise? No problem- like me, Maggie hates it. Unfortunately, that also meant I had to bribe cab drivers to drive us the ten blocks to her vet’s office, since Maggie takes issue with the MTA busses and refused to walk on NYC streets. But we made it work.

Eight years and over thirty thousand dollars later (thanks for those bilateral ACL tears last year, btw), she’s still my girl. Yes, she slept through that drunken home invasion a few months back, and no, she still doesn’t do much of anything except eat, sleep, and look sad, but when it comes to having a potato-shaped sack of warm to cuddle up to? No one beats Maggie.

I love you, you ridiculous dog. May you live until 120.

Do you guys have pets?

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Posted in: pets