In the winter of 2009, Christmas came early for our family with the arrival of our beloved golden retriever, Maggie. She is one of a litter of 10 born in Anchorage, Alaska. My husband John is convinced that Maggie picked him as her companion.

When we went to see the litter for the first time, all the other puppies were playfully nipping at John’s pant leg to garner his attention while Maggie waited for John to pick her up, so she could snuggle in the palm of his large hand—it was love at first sight and they have been inseparable ever since. Whether it’s working around the house, driving in the truck or simply going on walks, one can find the two of them together.

Maggie is not a typical retriever, she likes to look at water but not jump in and the only thing she seems to retrieve is her human family. If we get too far apart from each other on our daily walks, she will take her leash in her mouth and use it to corral us so that we are next to each other much to the delight of bystanders. Perhaps it’s because she was born on a snowy day, Maggie loves winter. The first snowfall is her favorite. As soon as she sees the first snowflakes, she sits patiently by the door waiting to go outside and catch the flakes on her tongue. When the snow is deep enough, she will spend hours burrowing her nose in the snow and jumping through the berms. The long summer days are spent at her favorite lakes watching the water fowl and visiting with all the people walking their dogs.

Our family recently relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico and it has been an adjustment for her. The snow melts quicker than she can catch it, and the green grass and trees have been replaced by shrubs and desert. At first, it was quite the adjustment but with the arrival of Spring, prairie dogs and peacocks have captured her imagination. She follows the sun around the house and has made friends with every neighbor she has met. Her gentle nature and affinity for belly rubs has endeared her to many that meet her.

In October of 2017, we decided to take advantage of the cooler temps and drive our camper to Sedona for a few days. After a day of sightseeing and hiking with Maggie in beautiful Sedona, we made it back to our campsite just in time for her dinner. John realized something was wrong when she refused to eat, and became very lethargic. We drove an hour to Flagstaff to have Maggie seen at Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center of Northern Arizona. Thank goodness we did!

Maggie was running a fever and clearly in distress. Dr. Wassef did a thorough evaluation and performed an ultrasound of Maggie’s abdomen. Excessive fluid was present, and he recommended immediate exploratory surgery. That recommendation saved Maggie’s life. She had sepsis, her abdominal cavity was full of fluids and her spleen was dying. Dr. Wassef removed the spleen, did a thorough exam and flushed her abdominal cavity. The next day, he operated on her again to flush her abdominal cavity and check her vital organs. Maggie’s pancreas was severely inflamed, and she was not interested in eating. We ended up staying an extra four days so that his expert staff could provide care to stabilize Maggie.

On the last day in town before heading back to Santa Fe, we stopped by Dr. Wassef’s office to say goodbye. All the techs and front staff came out to give Maggie belly rubs much to her delight. While we may never learn what triggered this event, we are very grateful Dr. Wassef and his staff were there to provide compassionate care to our beloved Maggie.