Many NDG’ers will recognize Lori Kalef as one of the special crew at Animal Health Clinic. But if you knew Lori, you definitely knew Maggie – the sweet bear of a dog that was never far from her side. Fuzzy gold fur to match her gold heart.
The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue. ~Author Unknown
Maggie was the clinic’s unofficial greeter. And not just in the clinic, where Lori worked for a decade. “She was a true legend walking down Sherbrooke St West,” Lori says, “Everyone knew her, and everyone invited her in. I couldn’t walk more than five steps without cars stopping or passerbys just to ask me what she was (a chow/shepherd mix). People who didn’t love dogs, loved Maggie.”
A few years ago, Lori found love (yay!) got hitched (yay!) and moved to BC (yaybutit’sjustsofreakinfar!) – while launching a very cool business of her own! All good stuff. Well, except for the fact that NDG would now be without one of it’s sweetest faces. Okay, two.
I rescued a human today. ~ Janine Allen
People who have shared their lives with dogs, will talk about a ‘once in a lifetime dog’. An animal-human connection that is so strong, it’s useless to try to capture it’s meaning through mere words. It’s something special and it’s clear that Maggie and Lori shared this bond – starting from when Maggie was rescued at 7 months old from a pound in Sherbrooke, Quebec. She was in a ‘holding cage’. The final place before euthanasia. Literally moments away.
But fate intervened.
Lori explains, “From that day forward, her every breath was for me. She never destroyed anything in the house, never ever had an accident inside, and didn’t care if a baby’s hand reached into her bowl if it was filled with meat.” Maggie was even the inspiration behind Lori’s pet fundraiser, Dangle a Bangle – which raised money for the SPCA. A nod to Maggie’s humble shelter beginnings. And to the thousands of “Maggies” waiting for their chance too.
These past years, Maggie enjoyed a fulfilling retirement on the West Coast, as you can well imagine. And she ever-gracefully welcomed Eddy and Bosco, 2 more rescue dogs, to the pack.
Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really. ~Agnes Sligh Turnbull
In 2009, Maggie was diagnosed with a rare and invasive form of cancer – Hemangio Sarcoma (she had a full splenectomy). With Lori’s care and devotion and Maggie’s brave and fighting spirit – she lived 18 months longer than expected. A true testament to the deep love and loyalty of each. A precious 18 months more of walks and fetch and swims. And everything we take for granted when we believe we have time on our side.
The battle was won, but not the war. And with time, Maggie developed laryngeal paralysis – her throat slowly closing in. It laboured her breathing. It worsened. It was time. And Lori, like so many of us, turned to face that pivotal question. After a lifetime of devotion and love and loyalty, to make Maggie remain would be merely selfish. Maggie was given the greatest gift of compassion and peace on February 21st, 2011. She was 13 and a 1/2.
One can go through an entire lifetime not knowing this bond, this feeling of unconditional reciprocal love that goes beyond any hint of verbal exchange. Maggie felt for me. When I was sad, when I was happy, when there was slight fluctuation in my mood. I tried to hide it to spare her feelings sometimes but she always knew, and a gentle left paw would touch me. I am lucky to know this, Maggie will never ever leave me because she is truly part of my soul. Those who knew her, knew this, knew how special she was and I want to thank each and everyone of you for your kind offerings because it does help. To remember, not so much the last few days that were hard, but the stoic dog that saved my life. A million times over. One day I will meet her in the lake at the country and we will swim together again. In my dreams. It is only I now who has the broken heart, her physcial one gave up and I know it was time for her to go, to be okay with not looking after me anymore from 3 feet away, but from within. I will love her with every waking cell in my body, always.
You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us. ~Robert Louis Stevenson
Lori wrote a beautiful poem in honour of Maggie. In sharing this, we hope to help others heal. The grief associated with losing a beloved pet is deep and real and so many of us do understand. Rest well, Maggie. You showed the world unconditional love and it was better for having you.
And thanks, Lori – for the opportunity to share:
She never asked for much
Maybe a kind heart and an occasional touch
She didn’t lick or jump the way others do
She knew the love for her just grew
She didn’t care about cookies or about food
She only cared if I was in a good mood
She always was just steps away
But never out of sight or gone astray
She didn’t retrieve or carry things in her jaw
Instead she moved things around with her left paw
She had enourmous feet and shaggy gold fur
People would stop at just the mere site of her
A dog so unique like almost a bear
Eyes would look upon her to stop and stare
But with a job to fulfill for only one
She would just look at me for an answer and then be done
She was soft and gentle from the outside in
A trust in nature that bared only a grin,
To little hands and big eyes that would catch her coat
Or strangers that stopped by just even to dote
She breathed in for me and I breathed out for her
And together we always were.
Often covered in gold fur.
By my side through joys and tears
Through pain and sadness and all my fears
Through moves and trips and another furry friend
Her allegiance to my being would not even bend
In the middle of the night when I’d wake from my sleep
A watchful eye on me, she would always keep
It all seemed to happen at once
My hero and protector’s years turned to months
There never was a question for what I must do
And give you everything you needed my sweet Shaboo
You outlived your illness but symptoms grew stronger
I told you I’d give you the world if you’d just stay longer
You began to slow down but never in spirit
Your bones ached and breath laboured but you just tried to bear it
Walks for you became something of a chore
You would be happier just with an open back door
You stood no longer to eat your meal
I tried to change it every day to make it less of an ordeal
That your appetite was merely to please
Your interest to eat was for me to appease
Stoic and proud you were always for me
Even though it hurt you wanted me to be
Content and safe and never alone
You would give your life for me, without so much as a moan
I asked you for a sign when you have had enough
I couldn’t bear the thought of my best friend feeling so rough
And you were tough-
But the day arrived that I dreaded ever so much
When I knew I would have to give up that left paw touch
Your heart was fighting for each inhale
Your gums were growing more and more pale
You were never afraid
Except that I would feel betrayed
My hero, my best friend, my extension of my soul
Let go now, my heart will forever have a hole
And even though we may not still be together the way we used to be
We will ALWAYS be connected by a chord no eye can see.