Smiling Maya

The little dog bed in my office is empty. It sits next to my desk, and I haven’t had the heart to move it. The other dogs won’t sit in it. It was Maya’s spot. The days of little Maya snoozing next to me while I tapped away on the keyboard are gone. No more nudging her with my toe because her snoring was distracting me and no more sharing bits of my lunch with her as I ate at my desk.

The bed has been empty for nine days. We buried Maya last week, in a tiny grave in our yard, next to two other pets that have left our home, but not our hearts.

I was prepared to say goodbye to our sweet companion; I’ve been preparing for two years. But it didn’t hurt any less when that moment came. As her breathing stopped, the sadness and relief crashed into me like car wreck. I sat on the edge of the bed, holding her in my lap and sobbed into her soft fur.

From the moment we brought her home, (a tiny, squeaky fuzz-ball) to the moment she died, Maya owned our hearts. And she always will. Pets do that. They bring something into our lives that we didn’t even know was missing. Then, when they’re gone, that “something” becomes obvious and we focus on the memories because nothing else can fill that void.

She was one of three dogs in our home. And I love them all. They each have their own special personalities, but I was closer to Maya than the others. We were travel buddies. Lucy and Cookie don’t like to ride in the vehicle, but Maya lived for it. Nothing filled with more joy than the sight of her leash and the words, “Do you want to go for a ride?” It didn’t matter if it was a trip around the block or a journey across the state, she loved to “go”.

She accompanied me frequently when I explored the highways and backroads in Custer State Park, planting herself next to my camera bag on the front seat and watching out the window as the world rolled by. And on occasion, she’d sneak onto my lap as I drove and stand against the armrest with her nose pressed against the glass.  She’d turn her head, rest her chin in the crook of my arm and look up at me as if to say, “I love this. Thank you for bringing me along.”

That silly, little dog would watch intently as the buffalo meandered across the road. She never barked or seemed concerned. Just … intrigued. She adored greeting the burros on the Wildlife Loop. They didn’t just stand out there with their tails swishing like the buffalo did. They stuck their heads inside the Jeep to say hello. Her tail would wag furiously as she sniffed each soft nose that came her away, then sniff again as they’d retreat with a carrot.  If she could’ve talked, she probably would’ve asked me if we could take one home.

Those drives in the park will seem awfully lonely now. I’ll miss having her in the front seat with me. I’ll miss the way she would creep up onto my pillow in the middle of the night and bury her snoring nose in my hair. And I’ll miss the way she greeted me when I came in the front door. Whether I’d been gone for minutes or hours, the routine was the same. Race into the kitchen to say hi, then into the living room for a toy. That one? No. This one. Nope. Here’s one! She’d run around her chosen stuffed animal, prancing proudly as we praised her with, “Oh, that’s a nice toy, Maya.”

These are the things I choose to think of as I remember her. Not the vet bills, the heart pills or the day she said goodbye. I will remember her as my Smiling Maya. People lover. Burro greeter. Fun seeker. Friend.