A Dog Gone Shame
by Calendar Hacksaw
It's after 2:00 a.m. on a shivering Saturday morning, and I'm sitting out in the shed, stone cold sober, contemplating my "to do" list for the day.
My mind is focused on only one item: #3.
Maggie is older than anyone knows. She was adopted by Auntie Patsy sometime in the mid-80's after a home invasion robbery in which Auntie was severely beaten by a pair of low-life thugs we'd all like to have a few turns at. Because my Aunt was deaf, she never heard the slime breaking the window to get inside her house. After recovering from the ordeal, she decided to get a dog capable of generating some good growling and barking, and that's how Maggie entered the family. Maggie was probably about seven years old at the time; a collie-mix that loved good people, but also could sort out the bad ones. And thanks to Maggie, Aunt Patsy never got trounced on again during the remaining three years of her life.
After she passed on, all us relatives gathered at the house to sort out her worldly possessions; a massive collection of old newspapers, magazines, food coupons, family photographs, etc. Eventually everything had been distributed or disposed of properly. Everything, that is, except Maggie. We all stood around waiting for someone else to speak first; someone to say, "Oh, hell, we'll take her with us." But no one volunteered, so I finally gave in to the sad look on Betty's face, and announced, "Oh, hell, we'll take her with us."
So we did, and Maggie fit in real well as soon as she got used to her new digs and learned how to negotiate and reach compromises with our other livestock. She warmed our feet in bed each night whether we needed it or not. She loved to take walks, ride shotgun in the truck, and just watch some decent TV once in a while.
The years go by quickly for a dog, and now - suddenly - she's lived to the ripe old age of eighteen. In "dog years," that makes her older than Moody's grandmother, but not nearly as pretty. Maggie's been deaf for a long time, blind for almost as long, and the arthritis has taken its toll. She no longer has the "presence of mind" to go outside, and that creates certain housekeeping problems that aren't appropriate for discussion in a family publication like this one. Bein' deaf and blind doesn't matter to us, and doesn't seem to trouble her much, but the other problems have become unbearable. So, today she'll take her final ride, down to visit Dr. Kavorkian. And ol' Calendar's mind begins to wander...
I remember my uncle telling me how his younger brother - my dad - came running back from the creek one time with tears streaming down his face. My grandfather had sent my dad down to the water to drown a litter of greyhounds. The year was 1910, and my dad was eight years old. Food was scarce in western Oklahoma then, and it was no place for any living thing that couldn't hold its own. The method of "puttin' a dog down" may change over time, but the emotion never does.
Maybe things would be a little different if I was up in Walker Basin or the Piutes, where local protocol might dictate that I take ol' Maggie for a walk down in the south forty, or drive her up into the National Forest to "do the honors." But down here in town - the "drive-by shooting capitol" of the U.S. - the sound of my single gunshot would raise suspicion for blocks around. "How come ol' Hacksaw's doin' a .22 in a .45 zone?" they might ask, and rightly so. Something like that would cause 'em to call the cops for sure.
Once we get to the veterinarian's office, I pretty much know the routine. The vet's assistant will come out to the waiting room to take Maggie by the leash and lead her away. She'll ask me if I want to come along, but I'll decline this time; been there, done that.
By then, the other pet owners in the room will suddenly realize how I jumped to the front of the waiting line and why I'm writing a check before any service has been rendered. Out of sympathy, respect, or whatever, they'll focus their collective gaze on the floor until after I'm out the door.
The assistant will return in a minute or two, and hand me the empty collar and the leash. And that will be that.
Not exactly. I'll return to the truck to sit and reflect for a spell. Maybe turn the radio up a little loud for a couple of minutes, and grip the steering wheel kinda tight. And ol' Calendar's mind might begin to wander...
There I'll be, just a kid, sitting alone in the Crest Theater back in 1950-something, watching that young boy raise his rifle, with tears streaming down his face, and send Old Yeller to the Great Beyond. And yep, I came out of that theater with tears streaming down my face, too.
Rest in peace, dear Maggie, rest in peace.