by Randy Warner
“Come on, Maddy - get your bow tie on! We gotta get to the beach for your momma’s birthday party.”
April 18, 1987 began as a festive day. Aja, Maddy’s mom, would turn 11 years old that day. Fifteen of her friends would meet us at the beach to celebrate. The beach was close, separated from our home by a short walk and some train tracks. My beautiful Dalmatian girls sat by me to wait for the train to pass. One hour behind schedule, it was going exceptionally fast. The wind gust from the locomotive pulled me over on top of Maddy and sucked Aja right out from under me. She was dead in an instant. The combined injuries to Maddy and me were broken ribs, broken nose, and 39 stitches. We had been twelve feet from the tracks when the train passed.
The shock to everyone was overwhelming. We could only find Aja’s collar. After a good cry, friends began the task of helping me locate another Dalmatian in need of rescue. They called all over southern California. I needed to save another life immediately so Aja’s passing would be softened. I have always done that and it works wonders. The only Dalmatian we could find who needed a home THAT DAY was all the way in Santa Barbara, three hours north. She was a youngster named Megan whom the shelter didn’t want to adopt out. She was aggressive and not expected to live. She had been beaten with a metal pipe and suffered a crushed skull. She would be blind in one eye and partially deaf for life - not to mention the noticeable dent in her skull. Some guardian angel had paid the vet a bundle to fix her up as best he could. I explained my situation and convinced the shelter to consider allowing me to adopt Megan.
Several of us drove to Santa Barbara that night. We arrived at 9:30 p.m. Megan was in a special cage supporting an IV feeding tube. She was in a complete head cast. She hated everyone. Growls, snaps, rearing on hind legs - the works. She was nearing her first birthday and I would be her seventh home! No wonder she hated everyone. She certainly wasn’t Aja, but I was pleased with what I saw. “I’ll take her.” I said.
Three weeks passed before I could approach Megan with ease, although she and Maddy got along fine. She eventually came around to love me and was never more than three feet from me for the next 15 years.
Over the years, Megan traveled to New York for our appearance on the Letterman Show, to Los Angeles for appearances on “Leeza”, “Arsenio Hall”, and “Hard Copy.” She was featured in People Magazine, many newspapers and other magazines, parades and anything else I was involved in. She adored everything she did - climbing cliffs, jumping in the waves, sleeping next to me or driving across country several summers with a musical youth group I support. She and Maddy sat comfortably as we welcomed thousands of other Dalmatians who weren’t quite as lucky, but were coming to our house for a second chance of finding someone who would finally love them.
The David Letterman Show set (Megan in guest seat).
Megan suffered from poor hips in recent years. But once I would stand her up, she would wag her tail with pride and demand to accompany us to town or on a walk. Slow as she was at times, she was still 100 yards ahead of Noopy, my chubby beagle-basset mix. Yet I knew the time was coming when I would need to say good-bye to Megan. One day in March, I walked into the room and knew it was time. With kisses, tears and more kisses, I said my farewell. In spite of her rough beginning, I knew she had had a better life than most other dogs could ever hope for. She would have been 16 in April and was with me for all but 12 months of her life.
The two angels I welcomed home this week are wonderfully mind-numbing diversions with their energy and excitement. Dainty and loving one-year-olds, they remind me of Megan and Aja. They all began slowly and worked into incredible companions. I wouldn’t get a little puppy for anything! Too much time and trouble for me. Pound dogs are the way to go. I’ve been blessed with some of the best dogs the planet has ever seen. All they ever wanted was just to be treated properly. They thank you 20 times a day.
I hope that Megan is sitting on the big beach in the sky, reminiscing with Maddy and getting to know Aja. There is a warm breeze and plenty of peanut butter to go around, and she remembers all our good times, as I will. It’s her idea of Heaven. I love you Megan. I think the two new girls would, too.
Randy Warner, a humane educator based in Arizona, travels the country with his dogs talking to school children about the importance of treating animals humanely. Although he still misses Megan, he knows other dogs in need of tender, loving care will share his life.
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