Meet Maisie, the dog with ‘nine lives’

Pals: Maisie and Chester, circa 2010. Photos: The Star/Evelyn Len

A cat has nine lives, so says an ancient proverb.

If that is so, then Maisie must’ve been a cat in disguise. She certainly went through a lot in her life and had some narrow escapes.

Fourteen years ago, while taking my dog Chester for a walk in the park near my house, I spotted a stray dog foraging for food there. I had never seen her prior to that, so it seemed that she had been dumped.

She was all skin and bones. As her teats were pronounced, she must’ve had puppies already; it was possible that someone had used her in a puppy mill, and then unceremoniously discarded her.

The moment I saw her, I was drawn to her. Her eyes were gleaming like jewels, and she exuded a friendly and happy nature. Even the other people at the park that day commented about her – there was just something about those eyes.

I made some clicking noises, and said to her, “Come on, girl.” It didn’t take much convincing for her to follow me and Chester home. I gave her some food and a bath.

The next day, we made a trip to the vet’s. He said she was malnourished but, otherwise, was generally healthy. He estimated her age to be two years old.

At first, we named her Faith, for her faith in humans despite what she had gone through. Later, my daughter changed her name to Maisie.

Sweet, loving and loyal Maisie wearing a ‘necklace’. Sweet, loving and loyal Maisie wearing a ‘necklace’.

One day, Maisie escaped when the auto gate was still open but slowly closing. She went MIA for a couple of hours. We were worried, thinking that she might’ve been knocked down by a car. But our fears were unfounded when she returned, tail wagging, before dinner time.

We didn’t realise she was pregnant till about halfway through her gestation period when the vet broke the news. About a month later, she gave birth to six adorable pups. She proved to be a very vigilant and protective mother who watched over her babies like a hawk.

After her pups were weaned at around two months of age, we gave five of them away to family and friends, and kept one which we named Cougar. Maisie and Cougar were very close.

As he grew older, Cougar became the “alpha male” at home, upstaging poor Chester.

At one outing to the park, Maisie was attacked, for no apparent reason, by a neighbour’s large male dog that was off-leash. Maisie never forgot that.

Several weeks later, when we were at the park again, we saw that same dog. Maisie made a beeline for her attacker and a fight broke out. Maisie was smaller in size but she gave as good as she got.

In the middle of the fight, the owner of the large dog started hitting Maisie on her backbone with his umbrella! Horrified, I begged the elderly man to stop, but in vain. After an excruciating minute or so, I managed to pull Maisie away before he could inflict more pain.

In another incident, an amorous West Highland White Terrier – a small breed – that was off-leash, approached Maisie and me as we were walking along the street one evening.

While that dog’s owner and I were chatting, the terrier made advances at Maisie. He simply got too close, too soon – and Maisie bit him on his nape! Poor dog. Since it was partly his fault, being off-leash, and Maisie was at fault too, I offered to pay half the vet’s bill for the terrier.

There was a time when Maisie went missing for about three days. My family went in search of her but failed to find her. Dejected, we went home and just waited and hoped for the best. We had all but given up hope when she came home, with a dirty fur coat streaked with muddy stains. And she looked tired and a bit thinner.

Had she fallen into a drain? Or been involved in a hit-and-run? Nobody knew. We were just glad she had survived the ordeal.

A week before Chinese New Year in 2016, Maisie suddenly collapsed on her side while standing in the hot sun. She loved to sunbathe but perhaps this time the heat proved to be too much. Her body was stiff. It was alarming! So I rushed her to the vet’s.

After examining Maisie and taking a blood sample and her blood pressure – it was quite high, at 160, when the normal blood pressure should have been 120 – the vet said Maisie had suffered a stroke.

As Maisie was quite dehydrated yet refused to drink water, the vet quickly put her on a subcutaneous drip (fluid therapy), as well as performed acupuncture and heat therapy on her.

Maisie at the vet's in January 2016, on the day that she was supposed to be put down after her condition deteriorated due to a stroke. Maisie at the vet's in January 2016, on the day that she was supposed to be put down after her condition deteriorated due to a stroke.

After prescribing some medication, the vet said we could take her home, and to wait for the blood test results.

Over the weekend, Maisie looked awful – just lying there, unable to move, with eyes half-closed. As per the vet’s advice, my daughter and I turned her every few hours, to prevent pressure sores from forming. And then one of her legs began to flail helplessly and her body quivered for a few moments. She was having a seizure!

When Monday came, the vet called to say the blood results were out, and everything seemed OK. Maisie’s vital organs were still in good shape.

But since there was no improvement in her condition – she wasn’t eating, drinking or taking her meds, and still looked half-dead – we paid a second visit to the vet’s.

This time, Maisie’s blood pressure had shot up to 200!

The vet immediately drew blood – filling four vials – bringing the pressure down to a safer level. And then, another round of acupuncture and subcutaneous drip.

Maisie undergoing acupuncture for stroke, on Jan 30, 2016, a week before Chinese New Year.Maisie undergoing acupuncture for stroke, on Jan 30, 2016, a week before Chinese New Year.

At this point, the vet and I discussed the option of euthanasia. My heart was heavy as I drove home.

Her condition continued to deteriorate during the week. And my daughter and I were horrified when we discovered red ants crawling on her body.

She lost a lot of weight, and was back to being skin and bones – just like the day I had found her all those years ago. The next morning, I took her to the clinic again. This time, another vet was on duty.

All this while, Maisie’s eyes were half-closed. But now, at the vet’s, her eyes opened wide and almost sparkled. The vet was hopeful that she would pull through. She gave us instructions on how to administer drips to Maisie.

Back home, my daughter played nurse as we gave the drips twice a day, every day, for five days. We coaxed her to eat – finally, she accepted the food – and continued to give her water by spoon.

One evening, Maisie cried when our other dogs returned from their walk. We were elated to hear her voice again, as she had been silent since the stroke. She then tried to get up on her feet; she would take one or two steps, then falter and fall down.

But she never gave up. She tried again and again over the next few days. With each passing day, she got stronger and could walk further. So three weeks after the stroke, she was back to her normal self. We were so proud of her.

Three weeks after the stroke, Maisie was back on her feet again. Three weeks after the stroke, Maisie was back on her feet again.

Recently, she developed the habit of biting her tail until it bled. The vet said that her tail was infected, likely due to bacteria transferred from her mouth at the time of biting.

The vet put her on antibiotics and painkillers, and her wound had to be cleaned and dressed daily. It didn’t heal properly, though. She even bit off the tip!

The last straw was when a car accidentally rolled over her back leg while reversing. After that, she could not move about normally. She also refused to eat and drink.

So, with heavy hearts, we made the painful decision to have her put to sleep. The vet was understanding and supportive.

He said that old dogs take a long time to heal when injured.

Maisie was 16, going on 17 years old – the vet said it’s the equivalent of 90+ human years.

Then he gently explained the process of euthanasia: Two injections are involved – one to sedate and the other to stop the heart from beating. In between the injections, the vet allowed us some time to say our final goodbyes to Maisie.

My daughter and I were with her throughout the procedure, talking to her, holding her, stroking her and patting her.

The last of Maisie’s “nine lives” was finally spent, and she crossed the rainbow bridge.

We’ve had many good years with her, and for that, we’re thankful. She was my walking partner too. She was the best dog I’ve ever had – such a sweet, loving and loyal dog.

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