Maizey is crazy.
We call her that and we are the ones who love her. Whether I tell Maizey’s story backwards or forwards, you would see that Maizey had no chance of being a normal dog. We had some hope when she first came to us, but I can guarantee you that we know now that Maizey is doing the best she can with what she has and her affectionate moniker of “Crazy Maizey” is well earned. Never forget, as you read this though, do not for one second forget how much we fiercely love her.
Maizey came to us at six months old; still just a pup, but already having been through some high-stress living. She was relinquished to the Wheaten Rescue by her owners who had lasted six weeks with her before giving her up. She was an impulse purchase, a pet store puppy, which you know means the worst thing possible — a puppy mill puppy. Maizey came with “papers” proving nothing, but attempting to demonstrate that she was a full-blooded soft-coated wheaten terrier. The picture of her sire is dark and fuzzy. The picture of her mother is of a wild-eyed, shaved down ball of sadness being held by a large man.
Imagine being a wee, little pup kept with your mama and siblings in a wire crate, housed somewhere in a shed or other unheated or air-conditioned outbuilding. Imagine that the only time humans touched you was to manhandle you, to move you. Maybe that touch wasn’t harsh — maybe — but there were no hugs and cuddles, no tenderness. And so during this terribly important formative time, you learn to watch for them, to be on guard for the inevitable grab that removes you from the one thing that represents safety to you, the warmth of your mama.
Then the day arrives when you are grabbed and removed and this time you are not returned. You are put in a shipping crate by yourself and sent halfway across the country to a pet store in Miami, Florida. I cannot even imagine the terror and loneliness and trauma of that experience. Not that the place you landed was much better; a glass-fronted cage in an overly lit store with strange sounds and smells. People pick you up at random and peck their fingers against the glass front to wake you up when you are sleeping. You get sick and it takes days for someone to give you medicine. You never see the light of day or breath in fresh air or feel green grass beneath your feet.
Then you are “adopted” and given to someone as a surprise gift only they aren’t really equipped to have a puppy. They live in a condo with no outdoor space and they both work. You are confined for hours, alone. Your outdoor experiences are on the end of a leash and meant for you to do your business. When they come home in the evening and let you loose in the house, you run around like a banshee. You aren’t that much better on the leash. They give up on you.
They bring you to this place which will be your new temporary home. They cannot get you out of the car because you are catapulting around — front to back, driver to passenger seat — desperate to not be touched. The new person finally sits in the car with you until you give her the tiniest amount of stillness. She clicks the leash to your collar and lets you out into open air and green grass. When the people giving you up try to hug you good-bye, you run wild circles to avoid them, tangling them up in the leash. They leave without the hug.
Welcome to the farm, Maizey.
Maizey was skittish, clever skittish, and she had catlike reflexes. We worried that, left loose, she would never let us near her again. But Maizey had experienced so much cruel confinement in her short life and that felt more urgent, so loose is what we committed to. Really, what we did is to give her over to the pack.
During those first days, Maizey’s wild ways earned her sharp admonishments from her new pack members. Not so wild, Maizey. Try again. And she would, desperate for what they had to offer her. She ran and played herself to exhaustion. She began to follow their lead. She wanted more of what we had to offer her, too — little scratches behind the ears, eye contact, loving words. Maizey was beginning to bond.
When we foster an animal, we always think we will be a stepping stone to what will be their forever home. Maizey was challenging, but she was coming around. Surely, there was someone out there who would accept her quirkiness and give her what she needed to thrive. I believed it. Then, I found a lump in my right breast and that lump proved to be cancer. In a cruel twist of fate, I was alone when I was given my diagnosis, my husband travelling many states away. I don’t remember leaving the doctor’s office, getting in the truck, finding the freeway. I do remember the sheer wall of dread that gripped me as I struggled to comprehend. Fighting to stay in control, to just hold on until Gordy called and so the burden of this horror would not be mine alone to bear, a thought thumped into my head, ricocheting wildly as if shot into me:
Maizey is staying.
It was a completely selfish thought. A vast and traumatic pool of grief and fear was marching over me, but it was in my power to avoid another sadness — I did not have to give up Maizey. She could stay. Maizey could continue to heal and become whatever version of herself was possible and I would do the same. We could do it together. When Gordy called, the first thing I told him was that we were keeping Maizey. The second thing was the cancer.
While I was recovering from my mastectomy surgery, Maizey became ill, diagnosed with a severe autoimmune disease. We fought through that together. We took naps together, we hobbled around the yard together and, bit by bit, grew stronger and more interested in the life that was ours, still meant to be lived. She was growing up and an adult version of Maizey was beginning to emerge.
Maizey has been with us four years now which means that I am four years, cancer free. She is the best version of herself that she can be. She is wild and quirky and has a hard time being touched out of the blue. Still, she sleeps at my feet every single night; when I shift, she lifts herself away and then lightly settles back in so as to have her paw or chin resting on me. She is deliriously happy to go on truck rides, to herd the horses in for dinner, to splat herself, full-bodied into any body of water, no matter how small. She spends all of herself on each day, leaving nothing in reserve.
I will call this Maizey’s Rescue Story — and it is — but, of course, you see that it is also my Rescue Story. Maizey is my heart bounding about, outside itself. Her exuberance is a constant reminder to me, an insistence to enjoy what I have right now. Period. No regrets. No looking back. And her quirkiness? Well, that is Maizey showing me how to be imperfect and to be perfectly happy at the same time. No one does that better than Maizey.