Mike Kewley, my pal from Shrewsbury Paws, just sent this glorious photo of his Maggie with the following message: “I hope this puts a smile on your face.”
Maggie, who turned 12 in February, has been joined by Golden Retriever Sadie. Mike says Sadie stays close to Maggie all the time. Maggie is hanging in there but has gotten a little stubborn in her old age, showing more of that selective hearing. You know how that works. As soon as Mike mentions sometime about going for a ride or getting cookies, her hearing ability amazingly returns.
Mike also shared this Feb 27, 2009 article — “Thinking about Maggie the Therapy Dog, on her Birthday” — that he had written to celebrate and reflect on the occasion.
I wanted to spend some time today to talk about Maggie, my golden retriever, and her pet therapy work with seniors in nursing and rehabilitation centers, as well as her work with kids with cancer, rape and suicide victims. The times we spend with families is to help them to find a way to deal with the pain and the unknown. We spend time with seniors in nursing homes who have no family, or those with the Alzheimer’s disease that took their memory and their life away from them. And also with adults from twenty to fifty that had severe trauma accidents that left them with no motor skills and had to be on ventilators to survive.
After going through a divorce in 2004 after 30 years, this was one of the most painful times in my life. In November, I started Shrewsbury Paws with Maggie to help me deal with the pain inside and reversed it by helping others. If we could make one person smile it was all worth it. She was my support staff and was there for me when I needed her.
She was certified with Therapy Dogs International and also had her AKC Good Canine certificate. This was a series of tests, twenty to thirty that had to be performed flawlessly.
The first year together doing therapy work we visited 3,500 residents and 350 kids in one of the local hospital. There was one special boy with cancer who was in the Pedi ICU unit for a year we visited. Maggie became a celebrity in the Boston and Worcester area, from the local television stations and newspapers. Her work has touched the hearts of so many people.
In August of 2006, Maggie was diagnosed with mast cell cancer stage III. A tumor the size of a golf ball was located deep in her muzzle. After visiting and experiencing families and their loved ones with cancer, we were going to experience what they were going through together. The percentage of her beating this was small and it was going to be a tough regimen of heavy drugs, chemo and radiation. Not to mention the cost of medical expenses that would be there from all of the treatments. This was an emotional roller coaster ride.
In October of 2006 we made a decision to stop the chemo treatments because her body was shutting down and the outcome and percentages of her making it were fading. I received emails from people expressing their support and prayers for her. It was a time in my life that would make the strongest man drop to his knees and cry. It was day by day and in time we started hanging on to the good days and tried not to think too much beyond that. Taking each day like it was going to be your last and we made. It is now just over two years and there have been no signs of the tumor coming back. Someone gave her a second chance at life.
This past year she started having problems with her hips which resulted in having to carry her up and down stairs and she is having a hard time seeing out of one eye. At eighty pounds, she does challenge me at times. Now I spend my time taking care and enjoying my time with her.
Maggie is celebrating her birthday today. At twelve, she has been my companion and has filled my family with love and happiness from the first day we brought her home. I am truly blessed to have her and I’m glad I had the opportunity to share the love I have with her with everyone.