goodbye to maija
Infindigo Monta Maija
31 July 2008 - 24 June 2022
I can't believe I'm even writing the words.
Our sweet little Maija has been taken from us, and we are heartbroken.
With our other dogs, the end came more slowly. We had time to prepare. With Maija, one day she was her perfect, perfectly happy, playful, sweet and funny self and two days later I held her in my arms, even then not really believing that she was leaving. I can hardly stand it, and it still feels too difficult to write about her.
She was just over 5 weeks away from her 14th birthday, but it was no exaggeration to say that she was still like a dog half her age. Still running, still playing, still up for a long hike and still taking everything in her stride. She was the only one of our dogs with the social skills to come to the pub — in fact, she could come anywhere, really. She might shout a little at first just to let everyone know she was there, but then she'd settle down and watch the world go by. Or sit gazing winningly at a neighbouring table in case they were more inclined to share their meal.
And speaking of social skills, she was the master. It was really quite something to see her meeting other dogs. Her body language when meeting another dog for the first time always looked terrible to us — slightly hunched, hackles up a bit, stiff-legged and slightly heavy-footed as she approached with her head turned to the side. But we really need never have worried because she always knew exactly what she was doing. She never once put another dog's nose out of joint. She knew just how submissive to be to win over anyone.
As a youngster she even had the knack for taking things from her dad, Keskiyo, who ordinarily wouldn't stand for anyone taking anything from him. But she would roll around on her back being cute and pawing at him and/or the prize he held until she winkled it away from him. One day after many successful years of this behaviour, Keskiyo had a proper go at her for trying to take a bone. She didn't retaliate, but, bizarrely, from that day on they — literally — completely ignored each other. Individually, they would both interact with other dogs (Tuuli and Neka) but with each other, they acted as if the other simply didn't exist.
Her real superpower was carrying stuff. Although she hated learning to fetch during our brief flirtation with competitive obedience, she would always search out something to carry on her walks - an apple, a leaf, a twig clamped between her teeth like a cigar, a mouthful of acorns. She once carried home 7 - SEVEN! - acorns in her mouth and spat them out one by one on request.
Before her mother (Neka) died, her role in our pack was very different to what it evolved to later. This is what I wrote about her then:
She's the sweetest and most gentle of our dogs, the most cuddly and the best behaved as a youngster. Even through her adolescence, she has never once run off and refused to come back ... to date, anyway! In spite of her kind nature, she is definitely in charge of the canines in our household and doesn't let her father get away with a single thing.
She loves everyone and everything and is at her most content lording it over all the toys and bones at once while everyone else has to wait their turn. She will lie on a small mountain of doggie possessions and chew the best one, not letting the others take anything until she's good and ready to part with it.
Here's my take on that now after almost 14 years of knowing her:
"Best behaved as a youngster": Well, actually, we called her "Maija the Destroyah" because as a puppy she would devour anything within (or not) reach. Amongst other, forgotten, things, she destroyed a TV remote, a camera lens cover, the handles of a brush and a comb (still in use). What's more, she once ate part of the zip of a brand new and expensive Gortex jacket and chewed a chunk out of our piano. Both from within the confines of a crate, I might add. She had skills.
"Never once run off": Hmm, never apart from that time she found out where a deer would often hang out on one of our regular walks. Of course, she never forgot that ever again, and on 3 separate occasions, she chased said deer out of its hiding spot, across the path and down the hill on the other side. Oh and then there was the time she did properly disappear on a walk. After giving up on calling her and searching for the longest hour of my life, I found her waiting by the car, across a road and 2 busy car parks away.
"In charge of the canines in the house": She had an interesting relationship with her mother, Neka, that we didn't fully comprehend until Neka was gone. We always saw Maija as the leader of the pack, and Neka was happy to be at the bottom, challenging no one. But in fact, although Maija generally called all the shots when there were shots to be called, she never once challenged her mother over anything, and deferred to her at every opportunity. What's more, 2 weeks had passed after Neka's death before Maija realised no one else was going to take up the mantle of the timekeeper and notifier of intruders at the door, so she stepped up and held that role as well for the rest of her life.
As long as she was with us, she was relaxed and content. But then, she had her other favoured family, too, where she would stay on holiday, and we always joked that she preferred them to us because they let her sleep on the bed. How anyone could sleep with her on the bed was always beyond us! She would stretch out, panting like a steam train and churning out heat like a furnace but would not relinquish her spot on the bed, however hot she got.
I edited this post so many times because I wanted it to be about her life, not about her death. But it's hard to move past the memory of her terrible last day.
Sudden, unexpected pancreatitis came seemingly out of nowhere. It wasn't really nowhere, though. A few months ago she was skinny and lethargic and a blood test showed that her kidneys were not great and her pancreas was already a little inflamed. A few days of a special diet and new tablets, and she was as good as new and getting plump again. So that we forgot about the pancreatitis, really. That truly appalling, excruciatingly painful condition that took her mother and will no doubt take her father, too, one day.
Maija told us she wasn't well, and even after visiting the vet, her condition deteriorated quickly in just 24 hours. We still hoped she would recover, but then she ate the flowers of the beautiful but deadly toxic oleander that grows literally everywhere in southern Spain. The same shrubs that the dogs have been completely ignoring for 18 months. We had no idea until she started to vomit them back up. By then it was too late, and after only 48 hours of illness, she was gone.
The shock of losing her so suddenly is almost unbearable. But we can only be grateful that she didn't suffer through a week or two of agony before we finally had to decide to euthanize her, like her mother. And I'm also happy that I went and took her from the hospital while she was still able to recognise me. Although I was racing her to another hospital in a desperate attempt to save her, she thought I was taking her home. She died 30 minutes later.
Maija, the best little dog in the world. The little dog who everyone adored. The dominant 4th-born puppy in the litter we called the Devon 9. Clever, funny, engaging and so eager to please.
We will miss you more than I can ever express. I hope that one day I will again see your little face peering around the door checking up on my whereabouts. I hope that I get to hear your funny little Marge Simpson noises when you want attention. I hope that you knew how much you meant to us. I hope that we gave you a great life. I hope we can one day remember you with smiles instead of tears. I hope you find your mama and then somehow find your way back to us again.
Maija, clever little dog that she was, even invented her own game to get attention and treats. You can find her on Instagram under the hashtag #somethingonmaijasnose