For over 30 years now, I’ve loved living on this wonderful island that many of us call home today. During that time, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know a number of you as we’ve worked together to make this a better community for all.
I’ve always felt that was a great privilege to get to know so many of you and be able to share a friendship with those that have been kind enough to extend that special bond between us. I’ve always considered it a great honor, one which I will always appreciate.
During these years, I’ve always noticed the wonderful connection that you’ve all had with your pets. To be honest with you, I never really always understood it. Now don’t get me wrong, I always thought it was great, but if you had asked me to explain it in a definitive manner, I am not sure I could have.
That statement would have been true prior to the Christmas of 2009. That was a special year for both Janet and myself. That would be the year in which a little ball of fur that we named Maddie came strolling into our lives. Maddie was an eight-week-old Miniature Schnauzer, that wonderful friends of mine had played a part in helping to make her a member of our family. They did so by directing me to a breeder they recommended in Knoxville, Tennessee.
I had chosen the breed due to their size, disposition, intelligence and the fact they didn’t shed. The dog itself would be a part of my Christmas present to Janet. We flew into Knoxville, visited the breeder, picked out a puppy and then drove over and toured the Biltmore Mansion in Ashville, N.C. to see it all decorated up for the Christmas Holiday Season; something Jan told me she had always wanted to do.
I had made our appointment with the breeder and were delighted to meet Dr. Karl at his home in Knoxville. He was a Doctor of Animal Husbandry at the college there in Knoxville. The puppies we looked at were only a few weeks old and would require our return should we had chosen one from the liter, which would not have been a problem. God were they cute, absolutely adorable as we petted them and met the mother.
When Dr. Karl put them away, he asked our permission to bring in another little girl for us to meet. He had turned down the folks that were going to take this little one because he felt that it would not have been a particularly good match due to the roughness of the children. As soon as that little eight-week-old ball of fur waddled across the floor and climbed up into Janet’s lap, it was love at first sight; but I panicked. It must have been the reality that we were going to do this and do it right now that sent a chill down my spine.
“We don’t have a bed, we don’t have food, we don’t even have a leash,” I said. Janet and Dr. Karl chuckled a little as they calmed me down and reassured me we could acquire those details over the weekend, then pick up our little girl on Monday and take her home to Marco. We stopped at a pet store on our way back to Knoxville from our Christmas tour of the Biltmore and the rest was history. That is except for how nervous I was taking our little girl on the airplane and the drive home.
Naming Maddie was an easy choice. I wanted to name her after Janet’s mom, Madeline. She was the cutest little lady I’ve ever met, and I just thought it was a great name.
Maddie was an absolute treasure. She never chewed on a thing, just her toys. Janet would be a wonderful coach and trainer and Maddie would soon have the run of the house. I enjoyed laying on the floor and playing with her as she’d jump all over me as we’d play tug of war and chase each other around the house.
Once, shortly after arrival at her Marco home, she chased a blowing leaf across the pool cover before she found herself in the chilly February water of the pool, almost giving me a heart attack. I jumped into the pool and handed her up to Janet who took her into the hot tub to warm up before drying her off. Of course, neither one of them paid attention to the freezing guy looking for a towel. We still have a great laugh as we think about that today.
Those are just some of the early memories we have of our special little girl. There are so many of those special moments that made her such an exceptional member of our family. Our walks down to Chef’s Express for breakfast or lunch in Old Marco, and how Annie and Lauren would pay special attention to her, as would anyone that had met her.
How she would love to run up and down the seawall and greet the many dolphins swimming by as they chased baitfish while turning on their sides and looking up at this little ball of fur who would be gazing down on them.
Her love of chasing the frisbee out in the yard, whether it was here or up in the yard during the summers in Indiana. I swear to God that she also acquired her love of flying from Janet when she would take her in the Beech Bonanza. She was such a good flyer, both in the Bonanza and commercially. Of course, she loved riding with us in the car with the top down and her nose out the window.
She unexpectedly became sick a couple of weeks ago while up in Indiana with Janet. There hasn’t been a day that goes by that we don’t think about her and cry. Writing this, I have a terrible time holding back the tears as I can’t believe she is gone.
Janet would cradle her in her arms, speaking to her and telling her how much we loved her and patting her little head laying in her lap on that final day. Through the modern miracles of technology, I too was able to watch and say goodbye, all the time praying to God she could hear my voice. The veterinarian helped Maddie make a peaceful transition while our tears flowed down as a tribute to the joy she brought us during these almost 11 years of our time together.
I tell you this because I’m not ashamed of my love for that little girl. I understand now, after almost 11 years with Maddie, the connections you all have had with your four-legged members of your families. I am so happy to have shared that same love that you have shared with your pets, as I have come to realize the great gift of unconditional love they have given to us.