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The Terrible Tragedy of Brighten McGuiness

 

After months of searching we found our dog of choice, a Kerry Blue Terrier, in Vancouver, Canada. He had been bred as a show dog but his attitude precluded that possibility and the owners decided to pass him to a family and exhibit his sister instead. 

Rory, his original call name, was a very passive animal and although he was a beautiful specimen, his personality was not such that he would compete properly in the ring. 

As puppies, the female was the alpha and the aggressive of the two. Rory didn’t seem to care about following direction and chose, instead, to take his own course. On occasion, they explained, he reached the stove top and ate what was there. Once he finished an entire pan of macaroni and cheese. He was happy to allow his sister to take the lead. and so, was destined to become a family pet.

Rory came to us when he was six months old, house broken and trained, on the condition he not father any pups and he not be shown. 

We changed his name as soon as his former owners drove north. Rory became Brighten McGuiness, a fitting Irish name. We believed his former designation may have, in part, been responsible for his attitude. Besides, the thought of standing on the porch and shouting RORY in the evening seemed an uncomfortable possibility.

A loving dog, Mac as he became known, quickly melded into the family. He proved to be extremely intelligent and because of that, rather head strong and determined to do what he felt rather than what he was told.  We learned early on that if he wanted to go somewhere and see something, no amount of demanding would prevent him from accomplishing his mission. He became a lap dog indoors and a leash dog outside.

He also decided it his mission to eat from the counter despite demands otherwise. We came home one afternoon to find he had devoured a pound and a half of butter. His breath was awful and later results proved absolutely disgusting. 

We moved to the country three years after Mac joined the family and I explained to him that he could now be a “free” dog. There was enough acreage that he could be off leash and discover the joys of the forest. He only went out when we did and was expected stay near us. Within the first week, he slipped our sight and disappeared. We searched everywhere, calling, whistling and combed the entire area.

Our house is on a 20 foot bank that leads to the beach with stairs. Mack loved the birds so I went that direction to see if he had gone off to play with the seagulls.  I wading through the water and after more than 20 minutes of searching, I looked up toward the yard and there, on a small ledge midway down the bank was Mac sitting quietly watching the waves below. 

He was too far up to reach and I couldn’t convince him to jump. He was also too far from the top to rescue. He seemed content to sit and watch the world go by. I finally borrowed a neighbor’s ladder, lowered it down and hoped the ledge would hold our weight. After his emancipation, we decided Mac would no longer be a ‘free” dog.

 

When he was 11 years old we were informed that his sister had died. She, being the aggressive one, loved to chase things. One day she came upon a ground-wasp’s nest and attacked, digging in as was her nature. She put her face in the hole and an entire nest of stingers filled her mouth. The results were fatal. 

 

Mac was getting older and the story of his sister’s demise brought his age into focus. We searched for information about longevity and it said Kerrys have an average life span of 13 years. Another site we found said they commonly lived to 15 and the oldest on record reached 17 years of age. 

 

During the years, Mac relaxed and somewhat agreed to listen to commands and only occasionally stole food.  

This past year he became even more head strong. Although his hearing declined and his eyes became cloudy, his nose remained vibrant and he found more and more treats. Strangers still thought him a puppy because of his exuberance and were surprised to find out he was nearing 13. His hair began to thin and we found a tooth that had fallen out. During the course of a few months he lost nearly all of his front teeth but he was still happy and energetic and loved his mile walk every morning. We were sure he would surpass the oldest Kerry and set a new record. 

Three months before his 13thbirthday we were expecting house guests from the east. A huge party was scheduled in two days to welcome the visitors, something we’d planed for months. My wife was at work as I waited for our company to arrive. 

I thought I’d heard a car so I went to the front door to see if they were early.  There, as was his habit, Mac sat waiting too. He was always somehow aware that people were expected and wanted to be at the forefront to greet them. This time something was different, not quite right. I watched as he sat there and his head bobbed and weaved erratically side to side.  I immediately went to him and made him stand. He seemed to have lost his balance and his eyes were glazed over. Not knowing what to do, I asked if he wanted to go out and he moved toward the door. When I opened it he noticed my truck in the garage as it always was. He stumbled to it and circled, barking as though it had just arrived. He could hardly walk and it appeared his comprehension was not functioning properly.

I picked him up, carried him into the house and laid him on my lap.  His head weaved uncontrollably and after some minutes he began to occasionally shake as though he were experiencing pain. I wrapped him in a blanket and held him. 

My wife was about to get off work so I called her and sadly told her there was something desperately wrong with Mac. It would take her 40 minutes to arrive and I just hoped he could hang on that long. 

As I waited for her, I wondered how we would handle the situation with guests about to arrive. Someone had to be home to greet them but I just couldn’t imagine my wife taking Mac to the vet alone. I decided to deal with Mac. Pam would have to say goodbye to Mac and somehow wait for our guests while I took him to the vet.

 

I wondered how we would present a party after something so horrible, but with people from across the country and all of our friends, it was too late to cancel.

I called Pam again after 15 minutes and told her Mac was doing better. He was sleeping and the occasional tremors had slowed. I asked her to drive carefully, held him tight, petted him and assured him that everything was all right. Since he was asleep and still shaking, the words were more for me than him. As we sat there, I suddenly remembered that Mac had been in the basement before I’d found him. Our son worked at a nursery and had some of his equipment down there. 

When my wife arrived Mac had actually gotten worse.

I asked her to check downstairs to see if there might be fertilizer or bug spray that he could have gotten into. She spent a moment with Mac then went to the basement to look. 

 

She returned with a sheet of blue cellophane. “Smell this” she said. I raised it to my nose and found the distinct odor of chocolate.  We called our son to find out what it was. Someone had presented him with two special brownies at a party the weekend before. He put them in his backpack and forgot them

It turned out that Mac somehow opened the zipper to the backpack, unwrapped and devoured two high grade, industrial marijuana brownies. Rather than a stroke, he was stoned beyond control

Epilog:

I called the Vet and explained the situation. He told me the chocolate could be an issue but the other ingredients were benign. 

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