Maddy was the best dog I could ever hope to have, though to say "have" her doesn't feel quite right. I wasn't her owner, and I definitely wasn't her master, because - though she loved me - she never obeyed me much at all. She was just family, I guess. A furry little Ewok (black chow chow) about the size of a small watermelon when I brought her "home" to my college apartment, one which didn't allow pets, by the way. At full grown she was the size and shape of a big kid black bear. Once, when I took her for a walk around my apartment complex, a foreign exchange student very new to our country asked me, in a tremulous voice, "Is it bear?" She looked relieved to know that we crazy Americans aren't out walking our bears every morning.
Maddy-girl was sweet and stubborn, smart and playful. She thought about being fierce for about ten minutes when she was a pup, but once she was too big to growl at people from under furniture, she decided to go the docile route. She loved, loved to run and be chased... which made life difficult sometimes. At the least convenient moment possible she'd squeeze her way out the door as I was leaving or coming home and take off. I - and anyone else kind enough to help - would run after her for blocks. She was super fast. Every once in awhile she would stop, panting, and smile at us, watching until we got almost close enough to catch her, and then she'd take off again. She did this game for years until she got old. Eventually we stopped chasing her because the whole thing would end much faster after she'd had her run and come back home with a grin on her face.
By the time she was twelve, almost thirteen, she was not only my dog anymore; she was well loved by my husband and my two boys (one on the way). She'd been with me through college, graduate school, a number of very broken hearts, engagement, marriage, and two new babies. Always gentle, always sweet. In her last few years with us she mostly slept and watched the children play. She couldn't see or hear very well and so would kind of vacantly wag her tail when you'd talk to her. And she never played her chase game anymore, something I was grateful for.
On the night of November 1, 2004 - All Saints Day - in the chaos of the bedtime hour, I put her outside to do her business. I took a little longer getting back to her than usual and when I opened the door she wasn't there. She'd wandered off to our front yard and, heartache of heartaches, been hit by a car right in front of our house. Writing about the rest that night, and the days that followed, is too long and still too hard.
But I will tell you that several months later, still feeling awfully guilty and empty and sad, Maddy came to me in a dream. I was walking up and down the aisles of a warehouse like place looking for her. I rounded a corner and saw her way at the end of an aisle. She came running to me, grinning. She was young and spry and just herself. I knelt down and hugged her, feeling her silky woolen coat and kissing the bridge of her soft nose. After that dream, there was peace. I miss her still, but I know she's okay. And I fully expect to see her again.
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