It was perfect weather in the middle of March 1998 to load up Maggie, Harry and Max, along with our furniture to move into the house I still live in 21 years later. It was a smaller house than I had ever lived in but it was surrounded by land owned by a neighbor who didn’t mind sharing it with the hounds. The field gave them some room to wander and exercise their noses and in exchange the hounds gave ‘Smitty’ something to laugh about. He would always stop if he saw us outside while driving by, just to talk to the hounds.
It didn’t take long for Winston, Maggie and Max to settle in with the orangish/yellowish shag carpet that was popular in the mid 1970’s, when the house was built. I didn’t need them to convince me it needed to be replaced with some new carpet and I had the new carpet installed within the month after moving in.
It also didn’t take them long to figure out the warmest place in the house was as close to that baseboard electric heater as possible. It might have been warm the day we moved in but there was still some winter left and they stayed warm together.
Maggie was my first two-tone basset hound. I can’t remember if that was something rare with basset hounds in the 1990s but it was what I asked when I made that phone call to a number I found the newspaper classified section. I wasn’t a good basset hound buyer back then. The internet had only been out a few years so not all basset hound breeders had their webpage yet. I never researched breeders and basically just looked in the “Pets for Sale” sections of the newspaper.
I noticed he kind of laughed when I asked “do you have any two tone basset hounds?” Once I arrived at his house, I saw what he meant by laughing. This seller was the true definition of a ‘puppy mill’. There had to be close to 30 lemon/red and white basset hound puppies to choose from. I cannot remember how I chose her but I am guessing she gave me a basset hound look that I could not resist. Two days after bringing her home he called me telling me he had given me the wrong AKC paperwork and asked if I could come back to exchange what I had for the correct one. I had no idea which registration was the correct one. It didn’t really matter to me since I was only wanting her as a pet.
Soon after moving in and Harry showing me his wandering skills were optimized living in the country, I would keep him tethered anytime he was outside. I put Maggie in charge of watching him since she never left the yard and showed no signs of stepping into the front yard. She was that good. Later I would let Harry out of jail and luckily the highway was never a factor with him.
It didn’t take long for her to figure out her spot on the couch was the same here as it was in Bloomington, 25 miles away. She would never lay on the couch until she had moved the cushions into the perfect spot. She did have the energy and jumping ability to get up on the couch when she wanted, even with her extra weight.
She loved the snow as much as any hound that I have had. Of course with those short legs, the snow couldn’t be too deep. There would be many times I’d have to go outside to bring her in otherwise she would have stayed out in the snow too long.
Not until years later when I had Winston, was I reminded how she use to love spending time outside on her own, never leaving the yard or the field in back. She was a lot like Winston in that regard, as she would stay outside for hours snooping around or sleeping in the hot sunshine. Yet she and Heidi are almost identical in temperament and personality. They both enjoy life.
As you can see not much has changed outside. That is the same yellow reflective plastic covering the cable that runs from the electrical power pole to the ground, that’s there today. It has saved many a car or truck from backing into the cable. The burn pile still stands just right of the utility pole. It’s hard to say since these are scanned photographs, but I think that is Max standing with her. Max and Bertha are always hard to tell apart when looking at old photographs.
Sometime around 1998 or 1999, I found a website that is listed on my other blog and was listed here when I listed websites in the footer of the homepage. It was a Basset Hound Rescue … from GABR I picked up another Max, which is the basset hound behind Maggie. Yes, too many hounds by then … three bassets and a bloodhound. I have no idea why I couldn’t stop buying more basset hounds … was it all the land I had around me?
Years later after Bertha had grown tall enough to look out the living room window, a rabbit would stop by every summer night to visit Bertha and Maggie. It never failed to show up around 7:30pm. Once Maggie passed on, I never saw the rabbit again.
From the time she was a 8-week old puppy, she was always the perfect house dog. With the number of other puppies the seller had, all outside in separate kennels, I was sure she never had the required socialization her first 6 weeks. That didn’t seem to matter as she was an old soul in a puppy body. She got along with all the hounds and really enjoyed following the bloodhound around, biting him/her on the back of his ankles, then running for the other end of the house or the yard, depending where they were.
She would always go to the door when she wanted or needed to go outside. Day or night, summer or winter, it didn’t matter. Just like Heidi.
She approved of the new Berber carpet. She thought it was a big improvement over the 1975 ‘shag carpet’ we got rid of.
You might notice some changes looking at this picture. She and Bertha loved to play, and run around the backyard, then into the field. My backyard was smaller then. Based on what I was told when I bought the house, the property line only went as far as what was mowed. All of that brush area belonged to the owner of the field … it is now cleared and mowed, and what I mention on the blog as the “north backyard”, is part of my property.
The gray pole was pulled out of the ground with my 1987 Toyota 4Runner. It was my Prime Star tv satellite system until 1999. DirecTv bought them and with the different coordinates for a signal, my DirecTv dish was installed in the front yard.
Maggie was borderline overweight. As with any puppy mill, the breeding isn’t going to be the best. I really knew nothing about different breeders or classic features of the breed. To me, it didn’t matter, she was a fantastic basset hound.
She use to roam the field for hours alone. I never had to go out to check on her, as she would always be at the door when she was ready to come inside. Unlike Sadie whom I use to let stay out on her own … Maggie never ventured next door to see the neighbors, in either direction. She was a true ‘homebody’.
She had just turned 7 years old in the summer of 2002. Prior to that, she had zero health issues. She had the annual checkups, the annual shots along with eating kibble that was considered at the time to be one of the best dog foods. She did the daily walks on the same path that Stella and I took this morning … but suddenly in June, something was wrong. She was starting to cough after finishing the daily afternoon walk. She also started taking breaks along the way, where she had always forced herself to the front of the other hounds to lead the walk.
I felt two large lumps on each side of her throat. You can see them in some of the pictures below. As my fingers checked out the rest of her coat, stomach, legs, behind her ears … I found more of those lumps. They were right behind her rear legs and one on her stomach. She was also looking bloated.
A quick trip to the vet, the same place I took Sadie this past September, Heidi and Stella for their surgeries in October … found the sad news. A very fast spreading cancer. I was told they would do all they could but not to expect more than two weeks. The news came from out of nowhere and surprised everyone that knew her. She always wanted to lead the walks, always making sure she was in first place. Her appetite was normal up until the last few days she was home.
She spent five days at the vet as the staff did more tests, more treatments. It was a shock since I had never had a hound get sick so quickly. My first basset hound Harry lived to be 13 years old and I just assumed they all would.
After her 5th day at the vet as we approached 4th of July weekend I told them I wanted to bring her home. I wasn’t going to let her spend her last week in a vet kennel, with no one around. They knew she didn’t have long live and thought it was fine that I pick her up. There was nothing else they could do for her. They said to watch her appetite as she was showing signs of not wanting to eat anything.
So Maggie, Max, Bertha and I hung out at home during the weekend where I would get the following Monday off from work for the holiday. It was one of those July weekends that was hotter than hot. In 2002 nobody was mentioning ‘Global Warming’, it was just a typical summer day here in ‘the tropics’ of Southern Indiana. I knew this would be her last weekend alive. I could see she was going downhill each day. At least she was able to spend it with the other other hounds and in a place she loved being at. It was a sad 4 days.
She would want to go outside, but only to sit and pant since it was so hot … or was that panting a sign of pain? She showed no other signs of being in any kind of distress. She always came back to the door when she wanted inside. Only this time, every minute she was outside, I was too, keeping an eye on her.
We didn’t have blogs then as I was at least three years away from starting my first one. Therefore I didn’t take the same number of pictures like I do now. I saw by the ‘information’ on these pictures I had used an Olympus digital camera but that was about all I remember. I don’t remember the model number nor does it look like I had a lot of pictures on file. Yet, that 4th of July weekend in 2002, I couldn’t stop taking pictures of Maggie. She kept posing and acted as if she knew this was our last hoorah. Needless to say, it was gut wrenching.
She wasn’t eating much, slept a lot, but she still knew the best place in the house on a very hot July weekend was right on top of the floor register that was blowing out ice cold air conditioning.
What ended up being her last afternoon at home, turned into a photo shoot. She didn’t want to go back inside. She would wander from the driveway to the yard, then back in the field … then the yard. She was wandering but looked so sad and scared. She knew something wasn’t right.
Bertha knew something was wrong. I had brought Bertha home as a 8-week old bloodhound puppy, when Maggie was 4 years old. Maggie instantly claimed Bertha as her puppy. She taught her how to go outside, where to sleep plus how to share food and water. They were best friends. Seeing this picture of the grass right up next to the house makes me wonder if that arrangement might be the best for erosion control. It looks so much different, I am not sure I could go back to that.
Then … without asking, or coaxing them … they did just what Stella and Heidi did this past October. They posed for a picture together. I think they knew this was their way of saying goodbye.
Some say that dogs/hounds/animals will venture out by themselves into a field or woods when they are ready to die. This seemed to be the case with Maggie at the time. In fact one time I came back outside with some water for her and didn’t see her anywhere in the yard, the driveway and not in the field. The hay/grass was too tall to see where she had gone.
Finally I saw where some grass had been mashed down a little and followed that. I found her laying down at the back edge of the field where it meets the bushes, straight back from the house. I didn’t know if it was time or not. How do you ever know how long it will take for them to pass naturally? Almost an hour later I stood up from where I was sitting next to her … she got up and followed me back to the yard for some more pictures.
She wouldn’t stop posing for pictures and my small digital camera wouldn’t stop taking pictures.
By the next afternoon she had deteriorated so much in the previous 24 hours, it was time. Over the 31 years I’ve had basset hounds or bloodhounds I have had to choose to put them down, not all, but more than I want to remember. When I took her to the vet that afternoon, she couldn’t walk.
While waiting for the vet to finish his previous appointment, she laid spread out on the cold tile floor. It was interesting to see her wag her tail once the vet came out to see her. She new his voice. It was the only time I had ever put a hound down and saw the whole staff of vet technicians (4) in tears as they tried to print my bill. Everybody loved this basset hound.
After I downloaded this picture into my computer, a PC at the time, I could not remember ever taking a picture as good as this. She was speaking a million words with that look of hers. It affects me even now, 16+ years later, when I look at it. I don’t remember how or who sent me an email soon after this but the email was an offer from a photography company to submit a picture that we thought was our best one or a favorite one. The subject didn’t matter. It could be from a vacation, landscapes, cities, children or our pets.
I submitted this picture and then forgot about it, not really expecting anything … about 6 months later a delivery slip was in my mailbox when I got home from work one day. Remember those? Letting me know what time and day I could pick up my package at the post office. It was a mid-size, hardback book named “Sharing the Past” from picture.com, edited by Dinah Elashvili. Russell Hall was the senior editor. It was published in 2006 by The International Library of Photography …
There she was … page 179.
Under the category of animals/pets but on the same page as a Texas sunset, a firetruck in action, a swan and two children.
There are a lot of times when I am feeding Heidi, talking to Heidi, or watching Heidi when she’s outside, that I am reminded just how much Maggie and Heidi are alike. Almost identical in they way they act, move and look at me.
I have always planned on it, but scanning pictures has always been the hold up, for writing posts just like this about the hounds I have had the past 32 years. You might see them during the days the weather here is too bad to take our daily walks, or I don’t have enough photos of the day, or I have writers block where the words are nowhere to be found. It will be then that I tell you about another one of my hounds.
Every single one of them were special in their own way and were great hounds to share life with. I keep telling myself and a few friends, that Heidi and Stella will be my last hounds but sometimes I don’t see myself ever living without a basset hound, or a bloodhound or possibly a different breed that needs rescued from the shelter.
It’s too bad there isn’t a way to have a “Hounds Reunion” here in the backyard and the field. What a picture that would be.