All of my bulldogs have been characters. Yes, each one, from Maggie, to Boz and Gracie, and now Buddy, has owned his or her idiosyncratic bent and curious quirk unapologetically and with aplomb. And they’ve all had my number; I’m a basically a pushover for anything that wags a tail (or rump as the case may be for the breed of bulldog). If I may borrow a line from the show West Wing, “I serve at the pleasure of [insert dog’s name here].
My first bully, Maggie, came to me through the Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue, though she lived about two hours away in the coastal town of Aberdeen. She had been loved dearly along with her littermate Duchess, but unfortunately their guardian had passed away and the two were not getting along with each other. Maggie was a looker, as was Duchess, though Maggie was now sporting a scab on her behind from a scuffle with said sister. I delighted in meeting Duchess and Maggie but also recognized the letting go of beloved dogs by family members seemed a sad affair. A remaining pet, one that you’re not well-suited to care for, is such a constant reminder of a loved one lost. And letting go of something so loved, is like letting go of their beloved all over again, or so I suspect.
I gushed, I hugged, I scratched butts, ears and tummies. I went on and on, wishing they could both come home with me, even though it was deemed they’d be happier in separate homes. The family was kind, and luckily read my behavior as not that of a crazy person, but that of a soul who would love their furry keepsakes with his whole heart and being. I let the family decide which dog was right for me, and so Maggie it was. They contended she was less needy, which was a plus since I worked away from home each day. I still laugh at their assertion; Maggie was stitched to the hem of my jeans, not making a move that didn’t mirror mine. Nope, not needy at all.
I remember lifting Maggie into to my little VW bug so she was riding shotgun, resplendent in her new bed and new role as my sidekick. When I looked in the rear view mirror, I could see a slowing of the goodbye waves and what seemed to be a wiping of the tears. I was honored that such big hearts trusted me with their Maggie. I thank them to this day.
Maggie was my brindle warrior princess, fully embracing her sole dog status regally, while making sure all corners, nooks, crannies, and boundaries were safely attended to. She was never aggressive though, and I took her everywhere, but she always stood her ground or sat attentively between me and the friend, or the dog, or the stranger. At the time, I lived a block off Green Lake Park, which featured a three-mile walking loop around the lake. Maggie marched that path daily and quickly dispelled the notion that bulldogs are lazy, slothful creatures. Maggie became my weight loss secret.
Maggie held court on my little corner of Green Lake, acting as the conversation starter for neighborly visitations. When I gardened in the front yard, she would find the warmest part of the sidewalk, and like the lady she was, sleep almost side-saddle until the first admirer would wake her with a pet and a rush of puppy-talk questions, e.g. “Who’s a good girl!” Those who stared down at her and said she had a face only a mother could love, would barely warrant a raised head or eyelid from her. If they could not see her inner and outer beauty, then she could not see theirs. Disinterest was her stinging retort.
My VW bug convertible became her mobile throne. When driving slowly with the top down she would crawl up to the folded boot canvas and sit atop it like a beauty queen in a one-woman parade, surveying her adoring fans, sniffing out the latest wafts of airborne doggy delights. Every driver that passed us seem to honor her with a smile or chuckle in disbelief. One of our favorite haunts, Bushell’s Auction House, elevated Maggie to celebrity status by taping a photo on their safe of Maggie resting on the convertible top while being parked outside their fine establishment. We took the honor very seriously. If Maggie was not by my side, the question “Where’s Maggie?” preceded any “hello, how are you?”
As dowager countess, Maggie made the move from Seattle to Vashon with me, and settled right in to the advent of warm winter hearths, sunny summer porches, and grounds and wilds worthy of exploration should the spirit or sniffing nose so move her. As time progressed so did Maggie’s ailments and doggy dementia (my diagnosis). She would circle the house, on a very slow stroll, less about surveying, and more about simply moving. At this point, I carried her up the stairs with me each night, and tucked her in at the foot of my bed.
One day when I was on the phone, she disappeared from her throne on the porch. I knew she was nearing the end of her life, so I feared the worst. I wanted to be there to say goodbye and see that my sweet girl was as comfortable as could be. Maggie had other plans. I scoured the property. I called out her name. I cried. I sought the help of friends to help me find her. I posted flyers. I lamented. I wished I had kept a closer eye on her.
I never found her, and began to visualize a happier ending. Perhaps, she had found a nice spot to die in peace, or that a kind soul took care of her in her final days. Maybe she slipped out of her collar? There’s a curious heartbreak in not knowing what happen to a loved one, whether human or critter. Years later I was finally clearing an impenetrable bramble patch behind my barn, and there among the deep recesses of tangled canes I stumbled upon some unmistakable remains. Maggie had found her final resting place, and all within an earshot of her favorite porch. Knowing this, made me feel better. I suspect that the day she departed the house was truly the day she departed this earth. Her dog instinct lead her on a short walk, one where she went quietly, without a fuss, and in her own way.
It’s nice to know Maggie never left me, in proximity or presence. Rest in peace, my dear beautiful bulldog. You were loved and now, lovingly remembered.