Friday, December 18, 2015

Remembering MacGregor... three years later

MacGregor loved rawhides.  Today, I probably wouldn't let him have them... but he loved them back in the day.

I could write about something more substantial today.  Someone posted an article on Facebook that I could totally go off about... and maybe I will later.  For now, I feel like remembering MacGregor.

For those who don't know, MacGregor was our third rescue beagle (mix).  We adopted him from BREW in April 2004.  He was our third and, so far, last BREW beagle.  The folks at BREW knew very little about him.  He was being boarded in a vet hospital in Bel Air, Maryland.  Bill and I had to drive a couple of hours from Fort Belvoir, Virginia to pick him up.  We had our other beagle, Flea, with us.  Flea was pretty much the reason we got MacGregor.  He was an extremely alpha dog who desperately needed a sidekick.

Our initial meeting was tentative at best.  Flea was pissed that we got another dog.  MacGregor was terrified of most people, especially men.  I sat in the back seat of my car with MacGregor, while Flea sat up front with Bill.  MacGregor wrapped his paws around my forearm and leaned across me to look out the window.  He was still pretty much a puppy and not house trained.  Initially, he drove Flea nuts and Flea retaliated by chasing him and terrorizing him.  They eventually became best friends and MacGregor made Flea much easier to deal with.

Flea and MacGregor with Bill.

Over the years, MacGregor's adorable personality emerged more and more.  If he knew and trusted you, he loved you with all his heart.  I can't tell you how many times he bitched us out if we stayed out longer than he expected.  He was so smart.  If he needed something, he had this way of telling us. We'd run through the list of his possible needs and he would get excited when we got it right.  But before he got to that point, I had to replace many cords, books, and other items that he chewed up.

He figured out how to move his bed closer to my desk, so he could watch me work on the computer.  He knew how to put himself in the crate and eventually became very domesticated.  The one thing he never did quite outgrow was his distrust of strangers.  He wouldn't let people he didn't know pet him. Curiously enough, he liked vets.  I'm certain that besides beagle, MacGregor also had a bit of basset hound in his ancestry.  That basset influence gave him an awesomely bossy personality which would come out when he was with people he loved.

MacGregor loved being on camera and would put on a show whenever I pulled one out.  Because he and the camera loved each other so much, I have some great videos documenting his life with us.  Our dog, Flea, was a lot more vain than MacGregor was, but hated having his picture taken.  Consequently, we have far fewer pictures and videos of him.

When we lost Flea in 2009, we thought about letting MacGregor be an only dog.  But then we realized that MacGregor had a tendency to howl when left alone.  And when I say howl, I mean HOWL.  He'd put his head in the recycle bin and let 'er rip and the acoustics of the bin would make him even louder.

Zane and MacGregor... buddies.

That's when we decided to adopt Zane from Atlanta Beagle Rescue.  Zane was also a puppy when we got him.  Like MacGregor was in 2004, Zane was very destructive at first.  He had to be taught how to behave.  MacGregor was a wonderful, patient teacher.  He endured nips from Zane over food and rambunctious invitations to play.  As he got older, MacGregor had to deal with Zane's penchant for mischief.  But they, too, became good friends and when MacGregor got sick at the end of his life, Zane did his best to comfort him.

I don't like to think about the weeks before we lost MacGregor.  We didn't know what was wrong with him.  When I noticed him leaning when he sat, I took him to the vet.  They assumed he had arthritis and gave us pain meds.  His condition didn't change for a couple of years.  Then, in the fall of 2012, we noticed that his foreleg was starting to atrophy.  He stopped using it and would knuckle when he walked.

Our vet thought he had disc disease.  She put him on Prednisone.  We went to Scotland to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.  While we were gone, MacGregor was weaned off the Prednisone.  That's when he took a sudden turn for the worse.  While we were in Scotland, we had to deal with frantic emails from the pet resort where he was staying.  Bill finally had to call our vet, who explained what was going on.  He said MacGregor had cancer and needed to be euthanized.  That pretty much ruined the end of our vacation, though we made the best of it.  I will always be grateful to Sandhills Pet Resort in Vass, North Carolina for taking such excellent care of him until we could get back to the States.  They truly loved him like he was their own.

We took MacGregor to our vet's colleague on December 6, 2012.  We were sure he'd need to go that day because he was in so much pain.  But she insisted that she thought he had disc disease.  She gave us more Prednisone, Tramadol, and Gabapentin.  That gave us another 11 days, before we could take him to North Carolina State for an MRI.  That's when they found the inoperable tumor in his spinal column.

We decided to send MacGregor to the Bridge on December 18, 2012.  In retrospect, we didn't have to put him down on that day.  But we knew he was in a lot of pain that the drugs were barely controlling.  It was heartbreaking to watch him.  I also didn't want him to be euthanized by the vet we were using at the time.  The guy who ultimately turned out to be right about MacGregor's condition (and could have saved us $2700 had we just listened to him), seemed to lack compassion.  His colleague had more compassion, but I sensed that she had bonded with MacGregor and I didn't want to ask her to put him down.

We had the young neurology resident who helped us at NC State do the deed.  She was wonderful.  Compassionate, kind, understanding... and she let me give her a hug afterwards.  Afterwards, she told us that they did a necropsy and it appeared that the tumor we thought had been slow growing  for years was actually very malignant and unrelated to what we thought was arthritis.  So it wasn't our fault after all.

When we lost MacGregor, we made some gains.  We ended up adopting Arran from Triangle Beagle Rescue, a quirky dog who has some beagle in him... and German shorthaired pointer and probably coonhound, too...  He's alternately sweet and grumpy.  Arran had been rejected at least twice before he came into our lives about three years ago.  When we first got him, it seemed like MacGregor had jumped into him.  As time has passed, I see less MacGregor and more Arran.

We also made some friends when we adopted Arran... good, quality, awesome friends who were involved with the beagle rescue and are still friends today.  Had we not lost MacGregor, that wouldn't have happened.  Arran has taught us a lot, too.  I only hope we have him for a long time.

MacGregor gave us so much more than we ever gave him.  I will never forget him.  I even made him a Facebook page.  I mostly use it for cute dog videos and pictures now, but I do it with MacGregor's plucky spirit.  Having him in our lives was such a wonderful, rewarding experience.

And a video...

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