Our first Christmas without Maggie was also our first Christmas with Nelli. By then, Nelli had been with us for two months, and I was still getting used to having a new dog. As anyone who has experienced the loss of a pet, there can be a certain amount of guilt in moving forward. And I was not immune to this feeling. I knew moving forward in her absence was going to be tough, but I wasn’t truly prepared.
So, that year, as we celebrated our own Christmas at home before heading back to family, Tom handed me little box with a card……
It was a sterling silver watch with an “M” on the face of it; which for me stood for “Maggie”. It was exactly what I needed. I just needed to feel it was ok to move forward without Maggie; that her absence didn’t mean forgetting her. Rather, the watch was a way to honor her; to NOT forget her and to recall the moments with Maggie that made us both crazy and also love her with all our hearts.
So I looked at the watch, and I remembered………
The time she chewed and burrowed her way into the side of the couch. I mean IN the couch. As in all the way inside the couch. Stuffing flew out as her little puppy butt wagged with glee. She was out of my sight for a minute, and the destruction she managed was horrific. Yet somewhat impressive, to be honest.
Then there was the time she got her collar caught on the lower rack of the dishwasher. As I tried to unhook her, her anxiety overcame her, and she took off running. With a full rack of dishes trailing behind her. I can still hear the crashing, shattering and banging of dish fragments flying everywhere. I fled after her, but it was all too late. By the time I caught up to her in the living room, she had broke free, and I was looking at a new set of dishes coming for Christmas. (ok…so it was a mixed blessing).
Then there was The Boat….a 1973 Fabuglas boat with brown vinyl seats, a gas gauge on the fritz and an engine that died at the most inopportune moments. Maggie was the most excited of any of us about that boat. From day one, she firmly positioned herself at Tom’s side as “co-captain”, sharing the captain’s chair for every voyage. Together, they steered us along the shores of Lake Minnetonka each weekend sharing the responsibility of safely navigating to our destination. While Nelli has taken over the job, Maggie will forever be Tom’s #1 co-captian.
All the times we took her hiking in Busch Nature Preserve of St. Louis, the trails around the lakes of Minnesota and a weekend in Grand Marais, MN along Lake Superior. She was in her element. She loved our times on the trails as we talked with her, always including her in the conversation, “what do you think, Maggie? Having fun, girl?” We didn’t really have to ask; the wide grin, the endless wagging, the leaping over logs and into lakes was all we needed to know she was in heaven. And to watch her on those outings, we would be witnessing exactly how to live life in the moment.
And I think of all the trips back and forth to St. Louis she was again Tom’s co-pilot looking on from her Kennel just behind the seat. She never took her eyes off him or the road ahead. All those road trips, the move to Minnesota, the winters, the summers (even better), the mouse infestation in our townhouse, the move to our new house with a backyard, the boat outings….Maggie was right there.
Car accidents, family emergencies, illnesses, job changes, career changes….Maggie was right there.
Secret new shoes and handbags, sad movies, cartons of ice cream…Maggie was right there keeping secrets, sharing the ice cream and comforting every tear.
Maggie was the thread that tied all our moments together. And while some of the moments fueled frustration, they were always followed by empathy for a dog finding her way. And not one day went by without being grateful for the smiles, the love, the lessons she was teaching us along the way in moments big and small.
It’s been five years since that first Christmas without her. And there is still a hole where she once was in our lives. And I often wish I could go back in time again to be with her; to be less frustrated with some of her antics, to be more patient. And while that’s not possible, I do have the watch which has become a symbol that I look to for a reminder of special moments, and how to truly live a life that always seems short on time. Just as Maggie taught me.
So this holiday, savor every conversation, every gift you give, every gift you receive. And when you look down on your watch to check the time of day, take a moment to remember the time when……….