This blog is dedicated to our beloved golden retriever Maple, who passed away from cancer on July 4, 2021 at a few months over 8 years old. Though her life was shorter than normal it was nonetheless full of adventures and many different experiences. Most of all she was loved by many and she returned the love in full. My hope is to convey that in this blog.
As a puppy
We picked up Maple on May 31, 2013 when she was about 6 weeks old. She had a pretty easy transition to our home. She was the 5th dog we have had so we’ve had a lot of experience but she was the first one that we crate-trained, which worked well. She adapted very easily to our home, barking only on the first night when she was in the crate overnight. In fact, one of her many unusual traits was that she rarely barked, even when a strange dog would be barking furiously at her.
Probably her favorite activity was to chase a ball. She preferred the rubber Chuck-It balls to tennis balls. While she would enthusiastically run after and retrieve the ball whenever it was thrown, she never liked to drop it on command. Indeed she seemed to like to play keep-away and make you go after it. So then I began to bring two balls so that when she had one of them, usually on the ground in front of her, she would go fetch the other one when it was thrown. However, her mouth was so large that she could, with some difficulty, hold both balls in her mouth. So I eventually had to resort to bringing 3 balls on the walks. Even then, she sometimes managed to command all three of them. She spent many happy hours chasing the balls in the park or golf course.
With two balls in her mouth
Hoarding two balls
Delighted on the rare occasion when she managed to get all three balls
A massage from MaryAnn was always extra special
Still a lapdog
Sticks are fun to retrieve too
Maple loves corn on the cob
During our daily afternoon walks she would often flop over on her back to do a “bootie wiggle”, as Laura would call it. She enjoyed scratching her back against the grass especially if she had two or more balls and could do the wiggle on top of them, a clear example of an animal’s use of tools.
Even better when wiggling over two balls
On one of our walks in 2020 during the time that she was undergoing chemo, I took Maple to the dog park. As soon as we entered the park, she went over to a family of 3 kids and a dad with their dog. The kids were about 6-12 years old and were very dog oriented so Maple loved having a lot of attention. She spent considerable time playing with the kids and being petted.
Later we encountered the same family in a different part of the park. I had brought a ball along even though I couldn’t throw it a long distance since she was not supposed to exert herself for danger of her tumor causing a bad bleed on her heart. So when I rolled the ball, she retrieved it and as was her custom, she dropped the ball and then rolled on top of it to scratch her back. When the kids saw her doing that, they laughed and then one of the kids sprawled out on the grass on her back and imitated Maple’s bootie wiggle. So Maple trotted over to where the kid was lying in the grass and promptly rolled onto her back right next to the girl so they were both wiggling away. Then the other two kids followed suit so there was Maple in the middle of 3 kids all on their backs, all of them wiggling and giggling. Unfortunately I did not get a photo of this wonderful scene even though I had my camera along. When I tried to take a shot, it was out of battery. Should have had a cell phone.
After this hilarious episode the kids were petting Maple and I told them that she liked to shake paws and high five so they spent quite a bit of time going over all of her tricks. I also spoke to the Dad and told him about her medical condition, which was of course a bit of a sobering moment.
Then about 2 weeks later , I went back to the dog park for the first time since then. There was the same family, though I wasn’t sure because the kids looked only vaguely familiar. But one of the girls kept looking at me and finally asked if that was Maple she was petting. The father also came over for a brief chat and he told me that the kids still talked about meeting Maple. In the car on the way to the dog park they had asked their Dad if he thought they would see Maple today. Just shows how Maple made friends with so many people and what an effect she can have on them.
Maple loved wintertime and the snow. She was unfazed by bitter cold weather, even doing the bootie wiggle on an icy lake. In the spring when the snow began to disappear, she would find a patch of snow to roll in. The only thing she disliked about the snow is when ice and snow would collect on her paws. She would chase the ball into deep snow and many is the time that we lost one of her balls in the snow, which she usually was able to sniff out and recover.
Fun in the snow
The snow was so wet and heavy that it would clump onto her as she walked in the deep snow
Chasing a ball in deep snow
Pining for more winter
Chasing minnows in the shallows
One of her odd habits is that she would sometimes howl when she heard sirens nearby. The howl was wolf-like and she would look very much like a wolf while howling. This was an unpredictable habit as she would not always howl even if the siren were very close or loud. The howling is particularly odd because she very rarely barked.
Maple was a great companion and loved to go on road trips. She would sit or sleep quietly in the back seat, no matter how long the drive was. Likewise she enjoyed the watercraft that we had on the island or watching the bobbers when we were fishing.
She loved to travel and was an avid back seat driver
What’s taking so long?
Admiring the total solar eclipse
Chasing balls in the Badlands
Hiking in Arkansas
Exploring the woods
Maple meets Wyatt Earp in Dodge City
Watching for fish
Surveying her domain
Camping on a road trip in Oklahoma
Admiring the view
To give Maple exercise in the morning, she has to retrieve the red ‘bone’ when tossed into the backyard, for which she gets a handful of dog food. Here our grandson Michael does the honors.
Commanding the purple loosestrife expedition
Keeping the bird feeder free from raiders
Hey, time to go play!
Keeping an eye on the bobber
Hauling our gear over the ice on the way to the cabin
What’s taking so long?
Keeping rabbits out of the garden
One of her consistent behaviors was when someone came to visit. She would invariably greet the visitor eagerly with a wagging tail, and then go look for some ‘present’ to show the visitor. Usually this was a shoe or slipper that was lying by the door. While she would bring the shoe to the visitor, she usually didn’t give it up. Perhaps it was just to show the prize.
Cleaning out the peanut butter jar
The sweetest dog in the world
Maple was by far the most affectionate dog that we ever had. She loved to be in contact with humans, not just those she knew. On walks around the neighborhood, she would greet all strangers with a wagging tail and eager eyes. At home she would often come up to you and offer her paw for you to stroke and then change to the other paw after a few minutes. She would alternate paws for as long as you were willing to pet her.
She especially liked kids, perhaps because they were closer to her size and most kids readily came to like her. In her last year a second cousin came to Madison for a visit and their youngest daughter was very upset and crying in the bathroom when they were about to leave because she didn’t want to leave Maple. She just had that kind of effect on everyone.
One of her favorite activities, she could do it for hours
High fives all around!
Waiting by the gate for us to return home
Nice place for a nap
Helping with the dishes
These cocktail parties are boring!
High fives all around
She had a very engaging personality. She would greet everyone with a wagging tail and sunny smile. Until her last hour her tail would wag enthusiastically whenever a friend came in the room, and everyone was a friend, or at least a potential friend. She wasn’t the smartest or most obedient dog in the world but that just seemed to add to her personality. When you gave her a command that she clearly understood, you could almost see her brain working over whether she wanted to do that or not. And she could be very stubborn if she decided it wasn’t a good time to obey.
Dancing with Sarah
She likes to read about cats.
A boy’s best friend
Keeping in touch
Sisi took care of Maple for 6 months when we were in China
She would usually be found under the table at dinnertime
In late July of 2020 when we were preparing to go to the cabin for the first time since the pandemic began in February, Maple had a sudden and scary collapse. She could barely get up in the morning and had no interest in eating breakfast, which was very unusual. We took her to the 24 hour vet clinic where they drew blood and did a physical exam. At that time she was still very weak and could not jump into the back seat of the car by herself. But the exam did not reveal any obvious problems and she began to recover slowly over the next couple days. The vet suggested that we have an ultrasound exam next. On Monday the ultrasound exam at UW Vet school revealed an hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive and lethal tumor on her heart. We were of course devastated by the news. The usual treatment of this cancer at UW is radiation therapy followed by chemotherapy but the radiation machine at UW was being upgraded and was not available so we had to arrange to take her to the Univ. of Minnesota Vet School in St. Paul for radiation treatment.
Here there is a bit of irony. In the Super Bowl of 2020 there was a famous advertisement from Weather Tech, a company in Illinois that featured an 8 year old golden retriever Scout who also developed hemangiosarcoma. Scout’s owner, David MacNeil, the CEO of Weather Tech, had heard that the UW Vet School was very good and he reportedly drove up from IL without an appointment and showed up at the ER with Scout in near death. Scout was treated with radiation and chemo and survived for another year.. In gratitude, the owner made the ad for the Super Bowl and urged people to donate to the UW Vet School. The school received so many donations that it was able to purchase a state-of-the-art radiation machine, reportedly the only Vet School in the world with such an instrument. Ironically, it was the installation of this fancy machine that prevented Maple from being treated in Madison. See stories here and here from NBC Nightly News.
The radiation regimen at the Univ. of Minnesota consisted of radiation treatment for 4 consecutive days followed by 3 days of rest. So we rented Airbnb apartments in St Paul for the treatment days and then drove back home on the off days. At one of our Airbnbs, the owner was so taken by Maple that she gave us a bagful of goodies, treats and a get-well balloon.
In the end Maple lived just a few weeks short of a year from her initial diagnosis. We had been told by several vets that surviving for a year was considered to be a successful treatment. Generally she had chemo once every three weeks so she spent quite a bit of time at the UW Vet School and she got to know quite a few of the staff. She did have to have a major surgery to remove her spleen when a large bloody mass appeared there. On a later checkup at the ER, the student who escorted her out to the car commented to me that so many people at the School had come by to see her after they heard that Maple was at the ER. She had made friends at Oncology, Cardiology and in the ER. Except for the last couple days, she was behaviorally pretty much herself. Even on the very last day when she was unable to get up, her tail would still wag enthusiastically when one of her many friends came to say good-bye.
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