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