I often shock the kids at school by telling them how much I dislike books about animals. There is one series in particular, one that features warrior cats, that pretty much freaks me out. The cats all have glowing yellow eyes. I call them the freaky cat books. This makes the children giggle. Or roll their eyes. I can do books about animals for little kids, but after that, I am vehemently anti-talking animal.
One of the kids in the youth group at church has told me that the only thing that makes her cry in books is for something bad to happen to an animal. Now, I am not saying that I like it when bad things happen to animals in books, but I am just not an animal person. I cry when things happen to people. I am especially not a dog person. A dog bit me on the leg once, for one thing. And they jump on me and slobber and make me itch and sneeze. Their unceasing loyalty makes me feel guilty. I like cats.
Our neighbors’ dog, though, won me over. She’s just a good dog: friendly, good-natured, calm, and obedient. This is kind of shocking if you know me, but it’s true: I could maybe even be a dog person if they were all like Maggie. Our friendship was cemented the time that our neighbors were out of town and I had to give her medicine (dipped in peanut butter) while they were gone. Maggie really likes peanut butter. She got used to us enough that she would eat and drink normally when her family left her in our care. We have worked to keep her out of the rabbit poop we compost and to keep her out of our house (she was awfully interested in Big Bunny). We have chased her with her monkey and played fetch in the late afternoon sunlight. She has nudged us in our hammock, played with us in the snow, and snuggled with me on the couch when I was babysitting the kids next door.
Over the past few months, Maggie has been getting old, and at the very end of the summer, she started running into things. She stopped being herself. She didn’t greet us when we walked next door. I don’t think she even knew who her family was any more, let alone the next-door neighbors. And right before school started, they had to put her down.
I can’t say that I cried when I heard the news. But I was sadder than I thought I would be, and she has left a hole in our lives. With the cooler weather, we have been in the back yard a lot in the evenings. I miss seeing Maggie charge into our yard when we come out the back door, miss hearing the neighbors call her. I was just learning what people meant when they said that dogs are a man’s best friend. I dearly hope Atticus never asks for a dog, but if we ever get one, it will be because of Maggie.
Even though I am not an animal lover, I think they are part of creation that has been and continues to be redeemed. And I know a lot of people who can’t imagine a version of heaven without dogs. So I am content to imagine Maggie bounding through the fields of heaven, finding plenty of people to love her and play with her until she can be reunited with her family. And even those next-door neighbors who grew to love her. This next-door neighbor hopes that Maggie is getting all the peanut butter her heart desires.
You were a good girl, Maggie. Rest in peace.