A touching story of the unbreakable bond between canine and human companion.
| Miracle Maddie
by Julia Harrington
The definition of miracle: 1. a wonder or wonderful things; 2. an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs; or 3. an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing or accomplishment.
My interpretation manifested itself in the form of an outstanding, if not unusual canine. She would
come to be known as “Miracle Maddie”. This little bundle of tan, white, and black fur came into my
life at a time when I was certain I did not want another dog. I know now, that we were meant to help
heal each other.
I’ve had dogs all my life, getting my first puppy before I was a year old. Trampus was a hound mix of solid build, with kind brown eyes. His medium length fur was mostly black with a white “V” on his chest. We grew up together, learning what we could and could not do in much the same way. Our days were filled with long walks exploring the woods around our house or playing in the front yard. Unfortunately, there were times when I was so sick with asthma attacks that he would sit or lay by my bed for days. He was such a comfort to me, and took on the roll of protector. He once bit a man, delivering oil because the man picked me up off my tricycle too quickly and Trampus had him by the pants. That gentleman was not very happy to be attacked like that but he never picked me up again. I learned early in life the value of a loyal, faithful canine companion. As a result I don’t feel complete without a dog or two or more with which to share my days. Over the years I would have many dogs, mostly shelter animals or mutts. They all have a place in my heart but there are a few that are really something special. Some dogs have the ability to become much more than the average pet, they become your soul-mate and friend.
In my early thirties, Gemmer, was just such a dog. She was a 6 year old Chocolate Labrador I brought home from the veterinarian's office where I worked. She was my constant companion for the next 8 years. She helped me through the troubled times of divorce as I cried in her velvety brown fur. And she was one of the first to meet the new man in my life, who I later married. She reached 14 ½ years of age before she started to decline. Eventually, I made the decision to have her euthanized. The sadness lessens but never truly goes away. I missed Gemmer terribly.
My husband, Keith, could see my pain and only wanted to help. His idea of helping was to get a puppy. Over and over he commented on how I needed a puppy to help take my mind off my loss. We still had two dogs at home and I wasn't sure a puppy was going to help. He had never had a puppy so he had no idea how much work, clean-up and training went into a puppy, or maybe he did. I told him there was no way I could have another Labrador at that time. No way, I just wasn’t ready for that. Finally, after a couple of weeks of non-stop chatter about needing a puppy I got on the computer and started searching local shelters. I didn’t expect to find anything at first. I just couldn’t imagine what kind of dog or puppy was going to help fill the void. Then on the computer screen was that face. There was this little fury head with a black mask around her eyes and massive ears that stood straight up. Her ears were far too big for her little head but it added to her unique look. She wasn’t cute or ugly, she just looked sad and I knew I had to have her.
Excitedly, I called Keith and said “I’ve found her. I found a puppy, the puppy, the one I want.” He was a little shocked due to how reluctant I had been to the idea of another dog, no less a puppy. He was happy but said I should call the shelter to make sure she was still available. “Oh yeah, good idea,” I said. My next call to him was to tell him that she was available and we were going to Corinth, NY to see her as soon as he got out of work. I had already given her a name by the time we arrived. Her name was Maddie, it suited her. She and her litter mates were in an outdoor enclosure with the momma dog. As I walked up to the fence, I spoke soothingly to momma dog, not wanting to scare her in any way. The pen was filled with at least eight puppies and as I bent down to offer my hand there was Maddie. From the back of the pack, crawling over litter mates and whining loudly, she was the first to reach me. She put her nose to my hand and it was love at first sight. As soon as I put that tiny ball of fur in my arms I was hooked.
Unfortunately, we were told we couldn’t take her home that night as she still needed her vaccination shots. My son Kyle and I went back the next afternoon to pick her up. I noticed at that time that she didn’t really look like the rest of her litter mates or the mother dog. They told me the female could have been bred by a different male at the end of her cycle and produced one puppy that was entirely different. That must have been the case because Maddie had longer fur, different markings and body type than all the rest. This was only the first of many ways that Maddie would be different, unique, wondrous and special.
She was only about 7 weeks old when we got her and was just being weaned off the female. Having worked at a veterinarian’s office before I was fine with feeding her more often and knowing what signs of distress to look for if need be. She seemed perfectly healthy all day Sunday, running and playing, eating well. We found out she did not like being crate trained. She whined almost all night which is to be expected. I got up early Monday morning, took her out of the crate and she was very lethargic. I brought her downstairs to go out and she could hardly stand to go to the bathroom. After bringing her back in, I tried feeding her, she had no interest in food or water. I put her up on the counter to get a better look at her and she slumped down into a laying position. I tested the back of her neck for dehydration and it wasn’t good. I called the vet and got her in right away. This was the same veterinarian who stood and watched me cry at length, as we put Gemmer down just a few short weeks before. My worst fear was recognized when he tested her for Canine Parvovirus and she was positive. In just 24 hours time she had become so small and fragile. He gave her less than a 25% chance of survival.
The Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus affecting dogs. It can be spread quickly from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with their infected feces. It is especially destructive for puppies that are no longer protected by the maternal antibodies that are transferred through the mother’s milk, or have yet to be vaccinated for the disease. The most common presentation is intestinal versus cardiac. The cardiac version causes respiratory or cardiac failure. Signs of the intestinal form are severe vomiting and diarrhea. If this is not detected and treated, dogs can expire within 48 to 72 hours. Maddie hadn’t yet presented with the vomiting or diarrhea, we caught it very early.
Even with this being detected early Dr. Scott told me I had some tough decisions to make. Not again, I just made that horrible decision not long ago but this was a puppy! She hadn’t even started to live her life yet and he was telling me I might have to put her down too. NO! I couldn’t do that, I wouldn’t do that! He called the shelter where we got her from and was a little irate. With a no nonsense tone, he told them of the situation and that they needed to make this right somehow. He explained how I had to put my chocolate lab down just weeks before and now they sold me a puppy infected with Parvovirus. How could they do that?
They proceeded to tell him about a human drug called Tami-flu that had been used in clinical trials on pups with Parvovirus with some success. I was asked if I wanted to try that. I wanted to try anything so I might not have to put this puppy down. So off to the pharmacy I went for Tami-flu. Dr. Scott was made aware of the details of weight/medicine ratio, so when I returned with it, he was ready to start treatment. I left Maddie in Dr. Scott’s care for 3 days, checking on her status frequently. On Wednesday, I received a call from his assistant. All she said was, “Can you hear that?” In the background was a very loud and excited barking sound, it was Maddie. She pulled through this terrible trauma and thus her name was changed to “Miracle Maddie.” I picked her up that afternoon to bring her home and take care of her. She had to have the medicine orally 3-4 times a day so I took the next two days off from work to devote my attention solely to Maddie. I only had to take her back to the vets once on Sunday because her breathing was labored. Dr. Scott told us she had pneumonia as a side effect of the parvo. He gave her a shot of something to improve her breathing.
Miracle Maddie never did take to being crate trained, opting for our bed instead. It was so cute to see her little head peek up over the end of the bed as if trying to figure out how to get up there. At first we had to help her but soon she grew big and strong. We obviously lavished her with attention, love and praise. I soon learned just how intelligent she was late one afternoon. We kept all the dogs leashes on a row of hooks in the laundry room, close to the back door. I was in the kitchen cooking dinner and talking to a friend when I heard Maddie in the laundry room. I kept hearing a clinking sound, then all of a sudden she came into the kitchen with her leash in her mouth. She had gotten it off the hook herself and was telling me that she needed to go out . . . RIGHT THEN! My friend, Jen, and I just looked at each other and laughed. From that moment on Miracle Maddie has been training us to do all sorts of tricks.
As Maddie grew bigger she also became bolder. It wasn’t too long before she was the Alpha dog in the pack. We believe her mix to be Akita/German Shepherd, both are intelligent guard dog breeds. It is important to establish dominance over any dog but even more important with some breeds versus others. By dominance, I do not mean that you have to yell at them or beat them into submission. I have learned a few tricks over the years, such as rolling them as puppies. By holding them in your arms, turning them on their backs and holding them there for a short period of time you are displaying your control over them. Training your dog is important if you want to live in harmony. All of my dogs know to sit when asked, to be gentle when taking food or treats and are sociable with guests. Maddie has proven to be as quirky as she is intelligent. She loves to greet you at the door with something in her mouth, then strut around trying to howl through the sock or toy. It makes for a very funny sounding greeting. She can play catch with a ball and will sit patiently to wait for you to throw it directly to her. She doesn’t like to have to move to get it and she can’t catch a piece of popcorn to save her life.
She has a funny ritual whenever my friend Brigette comes to visit. Most of the time Brig wears sneakers, but Maddie doesn’t wait for her to take them off, she unties them for her. She greets Brig at the door, gives her kisses and immediately starts mouthing the strings on her shoes until both are untied. No one understands this behavior to be anything more than Maddie likes Brig and wants her to stay. Brig is the only person she ever does this to. To say that she has become endearing to everyone who knows her is an understatement. She certainly helped me heal after the loss of Gemmer and I like to think I helped her heal, as well.
Maddie is now six years old and we have been thankful for every day that she has spent with us. My son, Kyle, has used her as his snuggle-buddy for the last few years. I would often go to wake him up and find her wrapped in his arms with the blanket over her, using his shoulder for a pillow. She has a special place in all our hearts.
This week I was reminded of why I call her Miracle Maddie. Thursday afternoon she got out of the house with Cali, the beagle mix. They took off together but while Cali came back in a few hours, Maddie did not return. Having never been off a leash for very long we were so worried about her safety. We looked all over the back roads, walked up and down our road and over by the school. Friday morning she still wasn’t home. I made flyers at work with her picture and put them up around town. I had an ad put in the local paper and sent the word of her missing via Facebook. The concern and support poured in but still no Maddie. The weekend came and went with no sign of her, no word from anyone that may have seen her. On Monday morning I had little hope left. I thought she was too far from home to find her way back, or someone had her. That night I left the house at 7:30 pm, in the rain, to go looking for her. I felt that if she had to be out in the cold and rain than so would I. I tore up an old tank top and put part of it out behind the school building at the edge of the woods. I reluctantly went home without her.
The next morning nothing had changed, still no sign of her. I went to work that day with a heavy heart, one that was broken yet again. I was talking to a customer telling her about my missing dog and the flyers I had made. She willingly said she would put one of my flyers at a local store for me.
As I came back from my car with the “MISSING” flyer in my hand, a co-worker called to me.
“Julia, you got a call on line 2”, Bruce said.
“Who is it”, I asked.
“I don’t know,” was the reply.
I took the call on line 2 in the body shop manager’s office. Two of my co-workers were standing nearby chatting. It was my neighbor Beth.
“Julia, Maddie is on your front lawn”, she yelled.
I couldn’t believe it, I immediately started choking up and the tears started forming. My co-workers stopped their conversation and just looked at me. “Really”, is all I could reply. Not sure I could believe what she was telling me. She proceeded to tell me that she tried to call to her but Maddie doesn’t really know her and would back away. She didn’t want her running further away from the house so she had her mom on look-out as she called my in-laws. When they arrived, I was given the play-by-play of Maddie’s subsequent capture and return to the house. I was overcome with emotion and tears of joy. For lack of a better description I lost it completely for a few minutes, in front of two male co-workers.
Maddie was home! She was safe! I can't tell you how long I hugged her when I got home. I didn't want to let her go but had to check her out and make sure she was okay. I often wish dogs could speak but never so much as in this instance. I wanted to know where she had been, how far she traveled, what kinds of things or animals she had encountered and more. I pieced together what I could from her physical appearance. She had over 100 ticks on her, she had lost a few pounds, and the sides of ther pads were worn and cracked. She had been on foot much of the time she was missing, through a fair amount of fields and softer ground. Had she been traveling on gravel or black top roads her pads would probably have been in worse condition. For five nights, she wandered lost and alone but somehow she kept going. My Miracle Maddie found her way into our hearts six years ago and by a complete miracle found her way back home yesterday.