Time for a long-overdue update on Marjah, and not one that’s 100% full of good news.
Since April, Marjah settled in nicely here in San Antonio. Spring and early summer meant trips to the dog park and/or a Jeep ride somewhere almost daily. She became a regular visitor when I was attending classes or training with my wounded veteran teammates – even in a few of my college classes – as well as down at the pub every week to watch the Arsenal match with a big group of friends. She made friends everywhere, and even though occasionally a bartender or server at the pub may have forgotten my name, EVERYONE knew Marjah. She got to ride with me on road trips to Austin, New Orleans, and Fredericksburg, and once even went to a wake with me, putting grins on some people’s faces and cheering some folks up for a moment during an otherwise really tough day. She went with me to soccer practice once or twice, and got to see some deer up close for the first time in her life. In June, she came with me and some of my friends on a 5K “Hike for the 22” at the Alamo, and didn’t even slow down until the last couple of blocks. She inspired lots of folks in the crowd that day!
Unfortunately, towards the middle of July when she only had one more round of chemo left, her Lymphoma came back. We tried one more round with a different medication, but it had no effect. By the beginning of August, her lymph nodes had swollen so much that she started losing her appetite. Last week, in addition to the weight loss, it began to affect her airway.
Sunday morning was the first match of the season for Arsenal, with a 7:30 kickoff. As I got up, made coffee and got dressed, I looked over at Marjah in her bed. She was awake, but just watching me, not following me and wagging her tail as usual. Just as I was wondering whether or not I should take her to the match with me, she gave me The Look.
Some of you have seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I decided if I had to think about whether or not to take her, I’d better do it while she was still able to come along with me. I strapped her into the passenger seat of the Jeep, and we headed to the pub, her ears flapping in the wind, no top, no doors.
Without trying to upset anyone or spoil the morning, I quietly made it known that this would probably be her last visit. It became pretty clear very quickly that all of our friends and the staff at the pub are animal lovers. It probably was best that the scoreline of the game had ruined the mood already. We made the rounds and everyone got some time to pet on Marjah, a few even tearing up a bit and telling her goodbye. The manager loved on her for a while, and brought her some bacon strips from the kitchen. That was the first she’d eaten in about four days, and really not bad at all for a final meal.
Monday morning, I made the call and set an appointment with the vet. Thankfully, there was an opening in the afternoon. I staggered through work until lunchtime, then took the rest of the day off. I spent as much time as I could with Marjah before the appointment and cried for the first time in about ten years. I left her resting on my bed and went to the vet’s office, located about 100 yards away.
Less than an hour later, I returned with our veterinarian and her assistant. Loyal to the end, Marjah got up, alerted, and barked her little yappy danger bark when she saw strangers in the house. She hadn’t noticed until they were in the bedroom with us, and I knew she’d lost some of her awareness in the last day or two. It was time.
The doctor talked me through the process, and I was able to hold Marjah’s head in my hands and know she was relaxed and calm when she went. A thought crossed my mind, and the doctor had no objections when I asked… so I was able to give Marjah one last Jeep ride in the sun as we went back to the vet’s office.
Of the hundred or more people who have reached out since to offer me their support, probably 80 or 90 have actually met Marjah, played with her, and spent time with her at some point in the last four and a half years. That’s just the folks I know about, too. There are probably many others who were touched by Marjah that I’ll never even know about.
I can honestly say, having had her since she was born, that she never suffered a day of her life. I wasn’t going to let that start now, and we got to part ways on our own terms, with her just as loving to everyone as she’d ever been. One of my best friends told me yesterday that “Whoever coined the phrase ‘a dog’s life’ wasn’t talking about our dogs.” Truth there, to be sure.
Marjah can never be replaced, but pretty soon I will get to be a hero for another dog. One local rescue shelter here has about 30-50 at-risk dogs available for adoption every single day. I’m pretty sure I can make the connection once again in a crowd that size. A dog who is every bit as deserving of my love and care for life is already out there – I just have to go find it. I can’t save every abused or neglected animal in the world, but I’m sure as hell gonna save one more.
For now, this blog will become a sort of retrospective memorial and I will post pictures and stories occasionally. I do that as sincere thanks to all of you who have offered kind comments and words of support and encouragement over the years. I thank you, and even though you may not have even met Marjah she touched your lives, too. That’s the kind of power she had over the hearts of others, and I’m honored we all got the chance to see it for a while.