Enter your e-mail address below to subscribe or unsubscribe from the mailing list.

privacy policy

Read Past Newsletters
Edie at home in her kitchen.

Click below to see past month's essays

The View from Mary's Farm

The View from Mary's Farm -- Best Dog

September 24, 2013

Mayday's last day
Best Dog

We can send men to the moon and clone sheep but no one has figured out how to extend the life of our dogs to even begin to match the length of our own. In my adult life, I’ve had three memorable dogs – Gorm, Dune, and Mayday. They all lived long lives, for dogs. When Dune came into that time of twilight, her warm brown eyes clouded into a strange blue and her hearing all but lost, I despaired of losing her. She had been with me when my husband Paul was alive and after he died, she refused to come out from under the bed for three days, which is what I felt like doing.
My parents died soon after. I found it hard to recover from all the loss. Now Dune was getting ready to leave me. I definitely needed help. The doctor recommended anti-depressants. I was reluctant. What about a puppy? That sounded easier to take so I found a mini-schnauzer with a delicious little face and eager eyes. I named her Mayday, actually “m’aidez” which is French for “help me” and from which we took our word for emergency: mayday! In seeking her, I was looking for a way out of the unending grief. Of course, as soon as she entered our lives, Dune and I were restored. New life! Mayday entertained us, infuriated us, and brought us joy. Better than Prozac any day.
But, alas, our scientists not working hard enough on the right tasks, Dune could not live forever and she surrendered at 17. More precisely, on the very day I had arranged to have her put down, she walked off into the dawn and never returned. Weeks later, I found her tired old body floating in the pond, a veritable Virginia Wolfe, equipped with clairvoyance to boot.
When they are with me I have called all my dogs, “best dog.” Because they are. Mayday was very much my best dog, a sturdy little terrier who could run like a racehorse and snore like an old man. It seemed like no time before she was reminding me daily of Dune at her most elderly, the cloudy eyes, the hesitant step, the occasional lapse in continence. By then, I had brought the puppy Harriet in to ease the inevitable. It took a while but eventually they bonded, under whose terms I will never know.
Unlike Dune, Mayday did not take her own life but instead we drove together, Harriet and Mayday and I, on a somewhat overcast October day to Vermont where their beloved vet, Andrea Nealey, waited. I carried Mayday inside, where she went peacefully and without protest, ending it all with only a small sigh. After, Andrea stood back and said, “She was one tough cookie." She opened her file. The first entries: “3 months old, chewed piece of cordwood, developed bowel blockage; 4 months: chewed up rug, bowels blocked, removed fabric ‘cork.’” So many other maydays followed. When the black lab tore her throat open; the time the two shepherds ripped her butt off. And no one will forget the evening she acquired 1,000 ticks, in the blink of an eye – a story worthy of Stephen King. I used to say that if we shaved her, we’d find a crazy map of scars and stitches, badges of her tenacity.
I named her Mayday because I was feeling sad and felt the need for "m'aidez" -- I didn't think I was christening her with a name that would establish her fate.
Andrea gave me a hug and then gathered my best dog into a soft plaid blanket and bore her away. I swallowed my tears and went back out to the car where Harriet waited – Harriet, on her way to being Best Dog.

Selected Works

In 1992, the Bishop of Worcester condemned St. Joseph's Catholic Church and ordered it closed. The parishioners refused to leave, sleeping on cots and on the hard pews. For thirteen months this was their life. In July of 1993, they were removed by the police. In many ways this was the blossoming of their faith. Originally published in Yankee Magazine in November 1993.
Growing up, nothing I could do seemed to please my mother and nothing she said made sense to me. But when my mother, on the threshold of death, came to live with me, I found what seemed to have been lost forever. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, May 1995
(The follow-up article to Miracle at St. Joseph's.) The Bishop turned to them and said, "Your prayers have been answered, the hard hearts have softened." Originally published in Yankee Magazine, December 1996
A reflection on the power of cooking and friendship and the concept of family. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, November/December 2007
Memorial Day, Harrisville, New Hampshire 1995. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, May 1996
My Articles
Libraries occupy a special place in the heart of a town. Evening events at the library give a strong sense of community and make it seem like a great place to live. And in the wake of the online revolution small town libraries have found a way to not only survive but to be indispensable.
In December 2008 an epic ice storm left virtually the entire state of New Hampshire without power. The residual effects of that storm paralyzed the Monadnock Region almost through Christmas. A first person account.
In 1994, sixteen-year-old Billy Best was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. After several treatments, he ran away to avoid chemotherapy. What happened after that may have been a miracle.
Roxanne Quimby once lived primitively in the Maine woods. Today she owns 90,000 acres of those woods, and her goal is to create a national park to preserve the landscape forever. So why do so many people wish she'd just go away?
Multi-million dollar border stations are rising along our line between US and Canada. What was once the "friendliest border" has become deadly serious.
Renowned short story writer, Andre Dubus, reflects on the accident that cost him his legs.
A trip to Poland discovers a beloved family friend
An elegy for the master of the short story.
Fall comes to The County
Thousands seek healing from this innocent, comatose child.
A complete listing of articles published since 1978
An encounter with a sick fox brings a young woman to the heart of her grief