Losing a pet is something that’s challenging for any owner. As a veterinarian, the passing of my patients is an inevitable conclusion to our relationship that I strive to stave off until their quality of life has been significantly compromised.
Recently, one of my longest-term Los Angeles patients, Maui, was put to sleep in the comfort of her own home, surrounded by her canine and human family members. Although Maui’s exact mix of breeds was never known, she looked like a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Greyhound. I knew Maui both in sickness and in health and am grateful to have gotten to know her and her doting daddies.
Here is Maui’s memorial as written by one of those dads, Michael Rozales:
The year was 1997; Bill Clinton was president, Princess Diana died after a car crash in Paris, the first Prius went into production, and James Cameron’s Titanic premiered. That year my boyfriend talked about how much he wanted a dog. I always liked dogs but our family never had a dog growing up andit didn’t seem that important to me. I soon started visiting various animal shelters around Los Angeles to check out the available dogs.
My life changed on a sunny fall day in November. I went to the Santa Monica Animal Shelter, and like all the shelters where they allow you to just walk up and down the aisles of cages, all the dogs are usually barking all around you. But not this time. Sitting quietly and staring up at me was a scrawny 25 pound black labby-houndy looking dog with huge floppy ears and big brown eyes. She just looked at me with this cocked head and wagging tail, so I asked to take her out to play and to get to know her. We played, we sat, we ran, and she loved when I rubbed her all over — especially on her big soft ears. I can’t recall how long we spent together in the outdoor pen that first time but I knew she was coming home with me.
At the front desk I filled out all the necessary paperwork and paid the fees. And then they said, “You can pick her up in a few days from the birth control clinic,” where she was to be spayed. I was so disappointed she wasn’t leaving with me that second, but even more upset that she had to go back into that cage. I wanted her to know everything was going to be okay. I left the shelter happy and excited but so anxious to get her. I knew she would be fine but still wished she was coming home with me.
A few days later, I arrived at the now gone Animal Birth Control Clinic on Pico near the 10 Freeway in West Los Angeles, pulled into the back in my Saturn and went inside to get her. They brought her out to me. She was a little disoriented from the surgery, so I cradled her like a baby and brought her to my car. I slowly drove her to the house I was renting where my boyfriend and roommates were waiting. Her deep black fur looked like pictures of black sand beaches, and from that visual the name Maui came to me. Although later on someone told me that there are no black sand beaches in Maui, I thought “Oh well.” The name fit her to a T.
From the moment she entered our lives, she was loved by all. All our friends, our awesome roommates through the years with their dogs, and anyone else who would meet her would always comment as to what a great disposition she had. She loved everyone and almost all dogs. Yes, she was stubborn at times, did nervous pees anytime I came home or someone came through the door those first few months, threw up in my car from my driving, and was growing into and becoming what would eventually turn into an almost two decade long run of pure amazing unconditional love and affection. When you were feeling down or sad, Maui would cuddle with you; just rubbing her ears made everything okay. When her little sister Chloe, a tiny, four-pound Papillon, arrived, Maui showed the same unfettered love and attention she was awesome at giving.
In 2003 my life changed when I met my future husband and soul mate Mike Payne fresh off the boat (literally… fresh off working on cruise ships). Mike and I started building a life together. He loved, adored, and took care of Maui and Chloe as if he was there from the beginning of their lives. As a new Dad, he was the best. Whether it was hiking at Runyon Canyon or out to brunch on a Sunday, our family was great with Maui the matriarch at the helm (although Chloe was always the real boss). When our youngest dog Posh came into our lives in 2007, she instantly became the best little sister to Maui and Chloe and was the best at getting an 11 years young Maui to play and run around with her. Even as she started getting older and slower, Maui loved having play time with her little sister Posh.
While the last few years have definitely been a challenge for Maui, she relentlessly got up every morning with Mike to go for a walk — even up to her last week with us. She was a trooper, and while friends, family and neighbors would look at her lean and frail body in disbelief, Maui the trooper was not going anywhere.
We always said we would know when it was time to let her go, and as hard as it was to face, it actually wasn’t that hard on Saturday when we she let us know it was time for her to go. It was the absolute hardest and emotionally draining thing we have ever done, but it was the right thing to do. She gave us over 18 AMAZING years of love and she got it right back.
I’m sure all owners say their dog was the best, but she was one of a kind and she was our best. We will miss her terribly, but she is in a much better place now. We won the lottery with her, as did she with us and everyone else in her life. We love you forever and ever and all eternity, Maui. Now go eat all the cat poop you want, baby!
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