Figure 1: December 20, 2016. photographer Ishmael Stefanov-Wagner
Maia’s many friends will be sad to learn that I had to put her down on Tuesday, May 10. She had completely lost the use of her hind legs, and control over bowel and bladder, and was needing increasing amounts of pain-killers.
After Sammy died in February of 2014, I thought I’d wait a year to get another dog, and I did in fact wait past the summer, when I had a good trip to Spain with my sister and a friend. But life is so much better with a dog than without one that in the Fall I started looking at options.
In December, my sister, who had lost Phoebe in September, adopted Orion, and was having so much fun with him that I couldn’t stand being dogless any more, and I went to Buddy Dog and looked at the dogs they had and adopted Maia. The shelter story was that she and her sister had belonged to a homeless person who had decided he couldn’t take care of them properly. The vet who gave her a full exam and spayed her thought she was about two years old.
The shelter was calling her Mia, but I thought that with a cousin named Orion, she should also have an astronomical name, so I changed it to Maia, who is one of the Pleiades. (The one who appears in one of the Mary Poppins books.) You find the Pleiades by following the line formed by the three stars in Orion’s belt upwards, past Aldebaran.
Life in Cambridge
The day I met her, the early winter weather was fine and dry. When I went to pick her up a week later, it was snowing, and there was a couple of inches of slush on the ground. Within a week the 2015 snowpocalypse was in full swing. My promise to walk her all over Cambridge remained unfulfilled until March, although we did get as far as Cambridgeport a couple of times.
Figure 2: This seeems to be the first picture I took of Maia. She got more comfortable fairly soon.
Nest-building seemed to be one of her favorite activities:
Figure 3: I abandoned the shawl, and invested in a slipcover for the chair shortly after this.
She had dog aggression issues, so I didn’t turn out to be able to take her to the dog park, but we soon settled into letting her chase balls on the tennis court in the morning and getting walks in the afternoon and at bedtime. She’s fine with dogs she’s been properly introduced to, so she had a couple of dog friends who would join us on the tennis court.
Another thing that happened that first year was that some friends decided to hike the Camino di Santiago and left their dog, Beau, with us.
Figure 4: Maia and Beau, who were properly introduced.
When we visited Fall River, Maia and Beau both got to run through the woods when we went on hikes.
Figure 5: Maia tended to explore farther away, so she didn’t make this picture.
On one of the first of these hikes, I noticed that she was running on only three legs. Three surgeries later, both rear legs had been treated for CCL (Caudal Cruciate Ligament) injuries, and she was again able to run and jump on all four legs.
Figure 6: Maia sharing her chair
Life in Fall River
On July 14, 2020 at 11 or so in the morning, I finished doing something on my computer, and noticed smoke filling the apartment, grabbed Maia and her leash and left the apartment. Most of my neighbors had grabbed their laptops, but I only took Maia. The fire was covered by Channel 7, including a video of me and Maia crossing the street, but they don’t seem to keep their video clips up.
So we went to live with Judy and Orion in Fall River until the building was fixed. (If it ever is.)
She adapted to life in Fall River pretty well. She missed her friends in Cambridge, but she basically liked being in a bigger pack (two humans and two dogs, instead of one human and one dog). She got along with Orion pretty well. One thing she didn’t like was that I couldn’t just leave food out for her as I had done in Cambridge, because Orion would have eaten it. But she liked being able to be tied out in the yard to sit in the sun and eat grass.
Figure 7: Maia and her cousin.
Between her penchant for exploring on her own without checking back with the humans, and her urges to kill dogs she met when off-leash, we weren’t able to take her to the woods regularly, but we both enjoyed walks around the Bristol Community College campus, with a pond and small wooded areas, and the Oak Grove Cemetery. She also found a corner with a couple of benefits:
- There was a community of feral cats whom the neighbors left food out for.
- Also a house had been converted into an storage facility for the hospital across the street, so teenagers felt able to hang out on the steps and eat pizza, and they sometimes left the bones for Maia to find.
She would have gone to this corner three times a day if I’d let her, but I insisted on going to the campus and the cemetery and other parts of the neighborhood sometimes.
Towards the end of April, Maia started walking slower. After a few days of this, I took her to the vet. Several hundred dollars of tests later, it looked like she was healthy except for some weakness in the back legs, and they prescribed some pills and said that if that didn’t work, the next step was to do an MRI.
The pills didn’t seem to work in that she was getting worse instead of better, so I scheduled the MRI on a Thursday for the following Tuesday. Over the weekend, she stopped being able to use her hind legs at all.
She was still remarkably game – she kept pacing around the coffee table in the house, and when I took her out, she wanted to go all around the house, and maybe even farther. (I didn’t want to go farther.)
But she needed more and more of the pain killers, and wasn’t in control of either her bowels or her bladder. When I took her in for the MRI, she had managed not to urinate in the car, but let loose with it as soon as she was lifted onto the stretcher.
The neurologist who’d seen her two weeks before called me before doing the MRI and said that with something moving that fast, it was very unlikely that the MRI would find anything fixable. The most likely thing was a large and fast-growing tumor, and while of course they could operate, the prognosis was not good for recovery. The less likely possibilities didn’t have a good prognosis either.
So we decided to put her down. They have a nice room with living room furniture instead of doctors’ office furniture. She attempted to pace around their coffee table, too. I played her the final chorus from the “St. Matthew Passion” and sang her lullabies, and the vet came in and gave her the two injections and it was over.