When I moved to North Carolina 11 years ago, I was a bit scared to leave my family and everything I knew in Utah. But a few months into my new state, I decided to get a puppy, as many mid-20s adults do, not really knowing what I was signing up for and not knowing how that pup would change my life. I picked up an 11-week-old boxer, the only brindle in the litter, and knew I was in love when she threw up in my lap that first day.
I was so sad she didn’t feel well and wished I could do more for her other than hold and comfort her. Then again, as she whimpered throughout her first night with me, I got out of bed and held her and tried to comfort her. I held her paws, pet her ears, told her I loved her and would never leave her.
When Maizey came home as a puppy, she was a complete, perfect terror, as all boxer puppies are. My focus shifted from my own hobbies to making sure that sweet girl was happy. I’d wake up early before work to take her on a walk and drive 20 minutes home from work over lunch to take her potty. I didn’t have much extra income, but I scrimped on other things so I could afford to take her to doggy daycare a few days a week.
I started exploring Winston-Salem and North Carolina with Maizey by my side. She ran with me, hiked with me, went on car rides with me. She went to the beach and the mountains. Pet-friendly AirBnBs became mandatory and when I had to fly somewhere, I booked her spot at Riverside Kennel (one of her favorite places in the world) before I booked my own flight.
I knew that Maizey was helping me fall in love with North Carolina, but what I didn’t know is that she would hold me together when my life started to fall apart over the next few years. When I moved to NC from Utah, I didn’t know a soul. I left the mountains, trails and city I loved and moved to a small town where the nearest mountains were 1.5 hours aways and seemed like hills. I left a job I loved and went to a job I hated. And I went through two horrific breakups. I moved multiple times, all while being thousands of miles away from family, who couldn’t get to me quickly.
But Maizey was always there. She made me laugh on the days I couldn’t. She laid by me when I cried. And she hogged the bed. She got me out of the house when I wanted to hole up. She explored and made me appreciate my surroundings. And she helped me feel safe. She helped me love life when there were lots of things to not love. Maizey was the one constant in my adult life and a constant source of joy.
Eventually, life blessedly became more peaceful, and shortly thereafter Tommy came into my life. Maizey fell in love with him instantly (as do most people who meet him) and while I was skeptical of another relationship, Maizey knew she had found her dad.
Three years later, Tommy asked Maizey’s permission before proposing to me. And on our wedding day, Maizey was my flower girl and maid of honor when we added Tommy to our family.
In the last year, as I drove myself into the ground, overworking, logging 80-90 hour weeks, while simultaneously training 50-60+ miles a week, she always forced me to take a break. Maizey begged incessantly for a walk at 3pm and again at 5 p.m. For a while, I thought she needed a break. But I think more than anything, she knew I needed a break. Maizey was taking me on a walk.
Despite Maizey’s clean bill of health, from the day I got her, I always feared she would get cancer after reading that boxers are prone to mast cell tumors. And every day, I would feel her all over, searching for any lumps. Sure enough, when she was 6, I found a bump that turned out to be a mast cell tumor. They removed it and she recovered like a champ. But the fear that I would find more lumps sat in my gut for years.
And in Maizey fashion, she decided to grow another tumor, but this time one I couldn’t see: brain cancer. She was diagnosed with a glioma in July, after a sudden onset of seizures and vision loss. Her prognosis was weeks without treatment, but treatment was only available in Raleigh, 1.5 hours away from home. So I packed up and rented an AirBnB in Raleigh so she could have daily treatments at NC State Veterinary Hospital. Tommy drove down after work to be with us at night and a dear friend came and stayed with me on the nights he couldn’t be there. And during that week I held her, tried to comfort her and told her I loved her. Again, she tolerated treatment like a champ. Her seizures stopped and her vision returned.
She went back to her playful self and we returned to our 3-4 walks a day. She did her usual – following me around the house, climbing in my lap while I worked, giving me the sweetest nose kisses and pawing at me if I wasn’t petting her while watching TV.
But then in September, despite her apparent brain tumor remission, she started limping without explanation. The fourth x-ray in three weeks finally showed something: bone cancer. It was completely unrelated to her brain tumor. It hadn’t metastasized. She had simply gotten a third type of cancer. The only treatment was amputation of her front leg, which was not an option in my mind given her age and what she had already gone through. So we simply had to do our best to make her comfortable, tell her we loved her and enjoy every last minute.
We weren’t sure if we had days or weeks since bone cancer can progress very quickly. Work didn’t get done, trips got shortened or cancelled and I left the house only 1-2x a day so she wouldn’t be alone. She had taken such good care of me for years and it was an honor to take care of her. Thankfully, we got two more months together.
Throughout it all, Tommy supported and cared for both Maizey and me. He loved our baby girl just as much as I did, but he also knew that he needed to be there for me, as her diagnoses shattered me over and over. He always made supporting Maizey and me his top priority, driving her to vet appointments, driving to and from Raleigh, and coming home to be with Maizey, forcing me to leave the house for a break.
We were so fortunate that we had the absolute best group of people supporting us and Maizey. Dr. Shannon Jarvis at Old Town Veterinary worked literally around the clock to help give Maizey the best care possible. Our neurologist, Dr. Williams at Carolina Vet Specialists, gave us the initial diagnosis of her brain tumor and her compassion is unmatched. Jordi Behrens, a dear friend’s sister and also a vet, spent hours on the phone with me when I was overwhelmed by information, and talked me through everything, including what to expect as her disease progressed.
Both Dr. Jarvis and Dr. Williams helped get us into NC State Vet Hospital as soon as possible for treatment, and at NC State Veterinary Hospital, Dr. Katherine Sweet was the perfect balance of empathy, compassion and delivering tough news with kindness. I’m so thankful for my employee Hannah, and Matt and Michelle with Ardmore Dog Walkers. The three of them were the only people we trusted to care for Maizey during it all when Tommy and I both had to go out of town for a wedding. We had a team who was there for us and helped us navigate treatments, always keeping Maizey’s best interest at the forefront of every decision.
But gradually, our sweet girl slowed down. Our last few days together were the same as our first few together. She was hurting throughout the night, so I got out of bed, laid next to her and tried to comfort her. I laid on the ground during the day, holding her paw. I was so sad, and I wished I could do more for her, but I knew it was nearly time to let her go. And I promised Maizey with every diagnosis that I would do everything I could to help her, but if at any point, she was ready, she could tell me and I would listen.
And a few days ago, she told me she was ready. While I was falling apart, I also knew it was time, without a doubt, and Tommy and I had comfort in knowing we were doing the right thing for her. We made plans to have her send-off celebration on Tuesday with a steak dinner and brussel sprouts on Monday night (her favorite).
But she barely slept Sunday night and on Monday morning, she couldn’t get out of bed. If we tried to help her, it hurt her and I knew it wasn’t fair to put her through pain for another day just to keep our plans to celebrate her. The best way to honor her was to let her go early. Our amazing vet, Dr. Jarvis and Maizey’s favorite vet tech Lauren, were able to come a day early. We had the most peaceful goodbye, in our home, while I laid on the floor looking in her eyes, holding her paw, petting her ears, thanking her, and telling I loved her. And then I let her go.