Little Miss Madeline

It’s been a somber day in the Snell household. Our old dog Madeline is nearing the end of her trail and we thought this might be the day we had to say goodbye. We took her to the vet who did all manner of tests. It turns out that there’s a tumor growing inside her but Madeline is 13 now, 75 in people years, and a little too old and too frail to safely go through surgery. The vet thinks that she has some time left, though, and gave her some pills to see if we can buy her a few more months of happy life.

Madeline came to live with us in 1996. We were building a Christmas house in De Soto that year, and I went out on a Saturday to check on progress. There were several dogs out there, but one clearly didn’t belong. She looked like a cross between a Dalmatian and a hound, which, it turns out, she was, and she was just too refined, too regal, for life in the woods. She was thin, wounded and incredibly sad, so I decided to bring her back to Americus to find a good home for her.

When I got to the house we took the poor thing right into the back yard. She was covered with fleas and we didn’t know what else. Our own dog thought that this was a curious event, but he’d grown accustomed to curious events in our lives, so he sniffed her a time or two and went off to take a nap.

We were going out that evening, so we left some food and water in the yard and went on our way. We got back home to find the little dog curled up on a lawn chair. When she saw that we’d actually come back to her she got a look of such profound gratitude that she worked her way right into our hearts and found herself a new home. We called her Madeline because—well I’m not sure why, it just seemed right.

I don’t know what Madeline’s life was like before she came to live with us, but I get indications that it might have been rough. She’s terrified of spraying water and goes into meltdown when the smoke detector goes off. I know that her time in the woods convinced her that food is a scarce commodity and that just about anything organic should be consumed as soon as it’s detected. She’s the only dog I’ve met that begs for lettuce, carrots and potato slices. It makes entertaining difficult—her table manners are under-developed and despite her regal bearing she is an inveterate beggar.

But she’s had a good life at our house, and she may be the sweetest animal I’ve ever known. She’s incredibly gentle and very kind. I’d like to be more like her. When I come home from my travels, and I come home from travels more than most folks, she greets me with whimpers of joy. Her tail, which wags most all of the time she’s awake, beats so hard during these reunions that small children have to be kept at bay.

So we’re entering a new phase in our lives together. We don’t know how much time Madeline has left, but our goal will be to use that time to show her that we love her as much as she loves us. I’m convinced that God gave us dogs to show us what love is all about. I’m also one who believes that their good service will be rewarded in heaven, so when the time does come that we have to bid Madeline farewell I’ll have the comfort of knowing that we will meet again.

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