In August 2004, a couple of days after we passed papers for the House on the Hillside, Maura and I were driving down I-93 South through the Middlesex Fells when she sat up in the passenger seat and shouted “There’s a puppy on the side of the road.”
I pulled my Lumina over and we walked back through the clouds of mosquitos and road dust to the spot where Maura thought she saw the dog. There was no sign of the creature.
I was convinced she’d just seen a wandering fox or coyote, but Maura insisted that she saw a puppy. We drove up the way for a bit to Maura’s parents’ house, where her sister offered to drive her back there and help her look.
Using some leftover chicken as a lure, Maura finally spotted the bony haunches of a the half-starved critter slinking through a gap in the underbrush. “Ha! Got you!” she shouted, even though the pup eluded her attempts to capture it.
She phoned the local branch of the Animal Rescue League with a description and exact location of the dog. She was told they there had been a number of sightings and calls about it, but couldn’t pinpoint where exactly the creature was.
Using the information Maura provided, an ARL officer managed to locate and trap the dog a few days later. The dog’s name was Addy. She was a beagle/boxer mix, rescued from a kill-shelter somewhere down South, and adopted by a local family.
While walking with them in the Fells, Addy had slipped her lead and run off into the woods. A search only turned up her collar, which led the family to assume she’d been taken in by someone else.
In the six weeks Addy had been roaming by the side of the highway, her original owners had decided to adopt another dog. Since they couldn’t or wouldn’t take Addy back, Maura asked if we could adopt her.
The hitch was that House on the Hillside was undergoing massive renovations from a garbage home into something inhabitable, and wouldn’t be ready until late October. The ARL folks were very obliging and willing to work with us, fostering Addy out to get her re-acclimated to living among humans again.
They soon discovered, she had developed a number of quirks. She was afraid of doors, afraid of men, and had severe separation anxiety. They asked if we still wanted to adopt in light of that, and Maura told them we could deal with it.
Maura and I got married on October 30, moved into the house on October 31, and brought Addy home from the shelter on November 2. Other pets would follow but Addy was the Original Child, and a part of this new phase of our lives right from the start.
She never fully shook off her eccentricities. She was stubborn and demanding and extremely vocal. There were times at the beginning I regretted adopting her, but eventually her quirks became just another part of the ritual tapestry of our lives.
Eat a slice of pizza? Addy got the last bit of crust. If Maura and I decided to go out together? We had to lay down plastic sheeting and paper in anticipation of her punishment tactics.
Generally, though, she was a cheerful and playful pal even as her limbs got stiffer and the hairs on her face got grayer. She survived a couple of facial tumors that added a certain Frankenstein quality to her slobbering mug and eventually stopped navigating the staircase after a couple of nasty falls. Yet she still remained the Big Red Dog at heart.
Last Sunday, after a pretty typical morning, Addy became unusually lethargic and whiny. We took her to the vet to get checked out on Monday morning, and then again in the afternoon when she proved too difficult to be examined without sedation.
(Vet visits with Addy, even for a nail trimming or booster shot, were ordeals that required more preparation than a moon landing.)
Even after mild sedation, Addy was still too ornery for the vet to conduct an intensive examination. He suggested we take her up to the emergency room at a nearby animal hospital.
We decided to wait a bit, so that Addy could shake off the meds and re-center herself in a familiar environment. I worked from home on Tuesday to keep an eye on her.
Over the course of the day it became clear something bad was going on with Addy. She could no longer stand, much less walk, with her hind legs, and refused to eat anything.
We agonized over taking her to the animal hospital, but decided against it. If this was the end, then we wanted it to happen at home among her devoted feline pals Carmie and CooCoo and Ollie the Rock Stupid Puppy.
Besides, just shifting her from the living room carpet to her bed caused Addy to lash out in aggressive panic that will likely leave a scar on my left thumb. (More meaningful than any tattooed reminder, as far as I’m concerned.)
Over the course of the week, Addy rallied, faded, fought, failed, and finally passed away early this morning.
Her parting marks the end of an era, and it will be a long while before we fully disentangle the countless little rituals and behaviors shaped by her behavioral quirks over the past twelve years.