Maisy the Magnificent

Two weeks ago today, I lost my sidekick. And what a sidekick she was.

We spent every day since the start of the pandemic in the parking lot of our favorite Dunks, me taking Zoom meetings in the front seat, Maisy in the back of the hatchback eating her breakfast (an Old Fashioned donut). Every so often, someone on my computer screen would squeal as they caught sight of my 17-year-old girl walking the perimeter of her doggie bed, looking for her next spot to snooze.

From the very start, she was her own woman. The dog trainer warned me about this- the smarts plus the stubbornness that would make her hard to heel. But who wanted her to heel? I loved how she followed her own heart, right through a slightly open door, down several streets, and into a grocery store, where I eventually found her on the floor getting her belly rubbed by the cashier.

Some dogs give a goofy, careless kind of love. Not so much my Maisy. She was a supremely easygoing, good-natured, sweet-hearted dog; anyone who met her could feel it, and came away thinking they were her favorite. She liked to give that way. But Maisy was not a people pleaser for the sake of it. When she lost interest, she was done. I loved her for that.

The Queen is what my next door neighbor called her. “A class act” is what my Grandma used to say. She’d sit on park benches like she belonged there. I’d bring her breakfast in (my) bed, and she’d lift her head slightly to survey the food, then take small bites over time, as it pleased her, and only when I wasn’t watching.

Luckily for me, it pleased her to follow my routine. She could stay sleeping until 2 pm, no effort in it at all. She loved driving as much as I did, her head resting on the open window to see the cities speed by, from Seattle all the way to Boston, and so many oceans, meadows, mountains, people in between and after, for years on end.

Much to my not-so-secret delight, she kept her mischief through the years. A deep lover of (toxic) chocolate, she managed, in the space of an hour I was away the other day, to find, tear apart, and consume everything that came with a parcel of Chanukah gelt, leaving only a tiny swatch of gold netting.

She waged a years-long battle with a woman she loved- my mother- digging a deep hole in her backyard whenever my mother happened not to be looking. It’s one of the few battles my mother has decidedly lost.

As the only athlete in the family, Maisy also liked to run lightning fast circles around the perimeter of my mother’s house, a reminder of all those years ago when my friend Vu and I met her at the shelter, and she ran frenzied loops on a dreary December day, a dog “on sale” for Christmas.

Her social life was undeniably strained. Maisy had one dog friend- the late, great Missy, of Seattle- then swore off dogs for life. All of 48 pounds, she once attacked a Rottweiler, and continued to surge at friendly dogs of all sizes until her very last days. Apparently just because.

And so it came as no great surprise to me that Maisy was defiant in the face of old age. She resisted me helping her into the car; then resisted me carrying her into the car; then resisted me supporting her weight on the way down. Some days, against all odds, she’d tug me a mile around a meadow, one slow foot and deep sniff after another, until we’d completed the whole loop.

Occasionally, she’d let me nudge her weak hind legs into my lap, where we’d sit on the grass, watching the world go by. But mostly she preferred to watch the world with me by her side, standing if only for a minute on the porch after dinner, sniffing the air, a small treat before bed.

When Maisy finally did lose her independence, and seemed ready to leave, I took her on a victory lap to see just a few of the many people who loved her. She lay in the backseat under a pink striped comforter, her favorite flowered pillow under her head, receiving carrots and praise and thanks from her fans.

It was a good memory she gave me, one of so many gifts. Knowing Maisy, she was humoring me those last hours, as I told her she was going on a big adventure, that I’d just booked the flight, and then, in our last minutes together, fed her a chocolate munchkin for the ride.

I’ve always believed, when good luck lands in my lap, that people I love from above have sent it down for me to enjoy. My father, my grandma, my good friend Vu. So this weekend, when I took my first small solo road trip to get fried clams, and inexplicably got lost, and suddenly saw I was out of gas, I sent a little prayer up, driving on the highway with the gas tank at zero.

And there it was: a gas station, sent by my Maisy, my greatest girl, to guide me back home.

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