The One I Never Wanted To Write.

Squirrels of the Westside, you can relax now.  Madison has left the building.

This is Madison.  

I met her on March 6, 1999.  I was 27 years old and apparently I did not yet have a gray streak in my hair.  It was a Saturday.  I went to the West LA animal shelter and walked down the middle of the row of female dogs.  She was the only one who came running out and licked me through the fence.  I said, “I’ll be back for you,” because her card said that she had not been at the shelter for 7 days so she wasn’t yet available.  The shelter was closed on Sunday and Monday.

I learned how to adopt a shelter dog before I figured out I could paint my walls!

I showed up right when they opened at 8:30 am  on Tuesday and claimed her.  I didn’t get to pick her up until the next day, as she had to be spayed.  It being 1999, shelters didn’t tell you that you were getting a pit bull, so I thought I was adopting a “lab/dalmatian mix.”  For the next month, when I walked her, people would say to me, “Oh, what a cute pit bull you have!” And I would say “no, no, no, she’s not a pit bull.”  Little did I know.

Madison was quite the handful when she was a pup.  We failed puppy class twice.

Madison sunning herself on my patio in Santa Monica.

When I was building the little brick planter you see here, I had an unopened bag of mortar in my atrium, and I came home one day to find her with her nose in the bag, her black face covered in gray.  All I could see was the whites of her eyes.  She looked at me with that guilty look – “Mom, I didn’t mean to do this!” and I whisked her off to Petco for a bath.  “Wash her before she hardens,” was my special request.
Madison bounced off the walls with energy for the first five years.  I distinctly remember returning from one of our many 2-4 mile per day walks when she was about five, and running into one of my neighbors in the alley behind my condo.  After we spoke for a few minutes, Madison sat down and just waited for us to finish.  “How did you get her to calm down?” my neighbor asked, because everyone knew what a rambunctious puppy she was.  “I waited five years,” I responded.

Madison liked paying taxes about as much as I do. Picking up our tax return, 2005.

For two thousand, four hundred and fifty days, I had Madison all to myself.  I was the only person she had to share the bed, the couch, the chairs and everything else in the house with.  I was the only person who carried around as much of her dog hair on me as she had attached to her.  Then in October of 2005, that all changed when Benjamin came into our lives.  Madison had no idea that she would ever hit the jackpot twice in one lucky lifetime.
We were a package deal, I told him, and I’m quite sure that I was not the most enticing part of the package.   I can’t tell you how much he loved her but it sure looked like an 89 on a scale of 1 to 10.  I wish I could upload the 22-second video of him and her sharing a few spaghetti noodles, á la “Lady and The Tramp” to illustrate this point (but I can’t figure out how to do this).
Always happy to be fed from the table, Madison was about 8 when the whole dog-food-made-in-China-has-melamine-in-it scare came along, and I threw

out all of the cans and bags of dog food I had in the house and just started cooking for her.  Because life always takes you in directions you never expected, learning how to make nutritionally balanced food for her went from being a hobby, to a passion, to a business.  Always my best customer, Madison would stand in the kitchen with drool pouring out of both sides of her mouth when I made stir-fried broccoli.  Yes, just broccoli.  She was a vegetable-loving pooch.
My parents were quite smitten with Madison as well – they referred to her as their “grand-dogter.”  We would send her to their house whenever we went out of town, and she would come back a pound or two heavier.  Grandma always had an egg yolk or two in the freezer, labeled “M.”

The reason for this post, of course, is that we are no longer blessed to share our lives with her.  After 13 years and 18 days (with me) and 6 years, 4 months and 5 days (with Benjamin), Madison left this world.  She had cancer, and while

 they told us it was the mildest case of lymphoma they had ever seen, in fact, the cancer had spread to her bones.  So while we were treating her for what we thought was arthritis, her bones were getting weaker from osteosarcoma.  On March 28th, she finally told us that the pain was too great.

Losing a pet is unbelievably hard.  I can’t even begin to put it into words.  I’ve expressed condolences to so many friends, but until now, I had no idea what they were feeling.  We were there with her when she passed, and for the first few days, I had to fight to remove that last image from my brain.  I would so

much rather dwell on the fact that Madison excelled at being a dog.  She was an excellent sleeper.  She could take up any amount of bed space available!  She could leave you dangling off the side of a king sized bed.

She was an excellent kisser.  You could not escape from our house without being kissed.  When she was a puppy, I used to describe her as “aggressively friendly.”  She REALLY wanted to kiss you.  And G-d help you if you opened your mouth anywhere near her – her tongue would go right in!

My favorite picture of Madison ever, taken by Erin Searcy.

She was an excellent squirrel chaser, at least when she was younger.  She caught four in her lifetime (two actually survived the encounter!).  As she grew older, she became more of a squirrel observer.  (see the post about how harmless she was)

She was an excellent eater.  She would take food so gently, you would never know she had a superstrength pit bull locking jaw.

Madison taught me what unconditional means, which is really what dogs are for.  No matter how long I was out of the house, or out of town, or whether I yelled if she did something bad, she always gave love unconditionally.

The other day we had some friends over for dinner, and I braised chicken in a large saute pan.  It was the first time since she’s been gone that I truly felt her absence.  For the last 13+ years, I would have put the pan on the floor for her to lick before washing it.  But there was no reason to do that now.  What a strange, empty, feeling I had cleaning up that night.

Whenever you tell someone that you’ve recently put a dog down, they express condolences, wait a moment, and then ask you if you’ve gotten a new one yet.   I’ve been told that adopting the next one will make me forget the pain of losing Madison.  I think there’s actually a pool at Benjamin’s office about how long it will take.

It’s hard to imagine that there will be a time when I won’t think about her every hour.  I know that time will heal this wound, and that there will be a next dog.  But there will only be one Madison.

Good night, sweet beast.



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18 responses to “The One I Never Wanted To Write.

  1. Chris

    Oh my dear friend… I wish I could find some words that could help, but I know they don’t exist. I love the pictures and memories you have shared in your blog. She’s still chasing squirrels.

  2. Cheri Cimmarrusti

    beautiful blog – sweet memories – so sorry Evelyn – Hugs!

  3. Susan Hazel

    Much as the original news made me cry, this caused some tears, too. What a lovely tribute to her, though! You’ll know when it’s the right time to move on, but boy do I wish I was part of the office pool! 😉

  4. Daniel Tamm

    Dear Evelyn, I am sorry to hear of your loss. There is nothing quite like that relationship. It is just going to hurt, I know. Five years ago we had to put down our beloved Louie. This morning I brought Willie, a new fellow who entered our lives last year, to the vet to have a neutering operation today. Being in the examining room with him brought it all back to me. These wonderful creatures bring us more than they will ever know.

  5. What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful friend. As for getting another dog, you’ll know when its the right time. Some people need that new dog to help in the healing process…others need more time to come to terms with the loss. There isn’t one ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way, and when you meet that next one you’ll know its the right time.

    Big hugs!

  6. jennifer

    I am so sorry. Losing Howie this year was one of the hardest things I’ve done thru. He picked us at the pound too. Honestly getting a new ekg too soon makes it more painful. Allow yourself time to grieve and roll around in the mudpit of loss. She sounds wonderful and I’m thankful she made this world a better place for other dogs by inspiring your business.

  7. Thank you for sharing more of Maddison with us. I knew she was a good friend to have around the BBQ’s you and Benjamin hosted – always ready to clean up scraps! But I am happy to know she was a good kisser and a squirrel chaser too. Thank you for giving her what sounds like a wonderful life!

  8. Evelyn, I am so sorry for your loss. We lost our precious rescue dog in 2008. She was a people dog, all 20 pounds of her. I can still see her in her favorite chair, a La-Z-Boy recliner near the front window of our family room, looking out the window, chin resting on the cushioned arm. That was her guard post. So much so that after she died, neither our younger son nor I could bring ourselves to sit in that chair again. I have such fond memories of sitting there in the morning, reading the paper with Licorice sitting on my lap, reading along with me. And I know you must have your special memories of Madison. We get over our grief in time, but the memories, the sweet memories, thankfully linger with us for the rest of our lives.

  9. The news and this post almost made me cry. And I don’t even like dogs. She was truly a special puppy. (Although I won’t miss the licking.)

  10. The news and this post almost made me cry. And I don’t even like dogs. She was truly a special puppy. (Although I won’t miss the licking.)

    Best of luck to the Jerome-Alexanders. I know all 4 of you miss her a lot.

  11. Mark Dierking

    Ouch! Here is a good book for these times –

    It really helped when my sister died five years ago!

    Mark Dierking

  12. meridee

    You know I know. I enjoyed reading about the lifestory of you and Madison and Benjamin. You gave her a wonderful life and were blessed to be able to spare her further pain. Thinking of you…

  13. kelly syers

    we are so sad to hear about Madison. Rosie and Rocky will get a bone for Madison. She was a special dog and and was very loved by all who knew her!

  14. Alice

    You were so brave to listen to Madison and do the right thing and not let her suffer any more. Madison always said hello to my dogs every day when she saw them and I’m sure they had such nice conversations though we didn’t understand their words. Your blog was such a fitting tribute to your best friend and I shed tears through every word. Take your time and grieve for as long as you need. Those of us who have been through this are behind you all the way.

    Rest in peace sweet Madison.

  15. Connie Hazel

    What a loving, special dog Maddie was. You have all those great memories of her crazy personality. How blessed you were to have her in your life.

  16. kananipup

    Evelyn…words cannot express how sad I was to hear about Madison. Your tribute to her really pulled at my heartstrings. Although I’ve never met her, she touched my heart and I know she was an inspiration and led you to things that you probably would never have expected. She will always be with you…in your heart, all the wonderful memories you shared, and the life lessons Madison brought to you will continue to live in you forever. The day you saved her from the shelter, she knew that her main purpose was to give you love and watch over you…and she did that until her last moment with you…she didn’t want you to see her suffer and let you know when it was time.
    Getting another furbaby is your decision and it’s different for everyone…you’ll know when it’s time. It’s been 2 years since we lost Casper and Dawson and I’m still not sure if I’m ready. These 4-legged furries are our babies. All we can do is take it one day at a time…and there will be days that are harder than others, but with each day, it does get bit easier.
    I know that Dawson and Casper were there to greet Madison with open paws and they’re all running and playing together in a pain-free world where treats are never ending. And they know, that one day, we’ll all be together again.
    ((hugs)) to you and Benjamin. Rest in Peace Sweet Madison. You’ll always have a place in our hearts.

  17. Chris Fowler

    Evelyn — I just logged on to LinkedIn and saw this, and had to say how sorry I am. I know the pain of the loss of a pet very well, having lost my beloved Zeke (jack russell) and Horton (tabby). It’s impossible to explain to a non-pet owner what that feels like, no matter how the loss happens. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve lost Madison. Please let Benjamin know as well how sorry I am.
    I hope you’re both well.

  18. I’m so sorry, Evelyn. I lost my first cat that was just mine several years ago now, and I still think of her often – singing for me from the other room. I still have her vet card in my wallet to remind me. We still had her sister, and swore we were going to be a 1 cat home. That lasted 11 months, when the newest addition found us on the streets and we knew she was going to be a part of the family, too. Sometimes, it just happens when it needs to happen.

    If you’ll excuse me, there seems to be a very localized dust storm in this room….

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