Sunday, March 14, 2010

Our Four-Legged White Wonder: Mac, 1996 - 2010

I'm definitely not one to humanize a pet. Our West Highland White Terrier, Mac, humanized himself.

First of all, he really didn't relate well to the whole butt sniffing routine dogs usually relish. He wasn't much of a butt sniffer and detested being sniffed by others. He was rather offended by it.

Second, Mac said "hello" and he said it often. No, I'm not kidding. It was not a garbled rendition but clear enough to be heard in the room and on the telephone. There are many witnesses and recipients of Mac's hello's, although we probably should've done a video and entered him in a pet tricks contest. Imagine being the recipient of a heartfelt "hello!" when you arrived home from work each day. Such was my life. After we'd come back from a long trip, he'd often say hello ten or so times in succession. His happiest hello's vibrated deep from his throat when Angie, Phil, and I were together.
Third, Mac was cultured. He loved classical music ... Canon in D by Pachebel was his favorite song and if anyone tried to move him out of the room when I was playing this piece on the flute, he growled at them fiercely. Before he lost his hearing, Mac was my greatest fan, and would lay on the office floor and listen as I practiced songs for mass. Some might argue another sign of his cultural appetites was his dislike of country music. If I turned on a country station, Mac gave me a rather disconcerted look. FM100 (soft hits) and KBYU (classical) were his favorites, and he'd sit close to the radio when those stations were playing. Fourth, Mac loved luxury. He always found the softest bed in the house, whether a couch, a pillow, a lap, or even a dust mop. His resting comfort was paramount to his complete happiness. Occasionally, he snuck clothes out of the laundry basket and fashioned a bed of bathrobes, towels, whatever else he could find.
Mac came to live with us on a temporary basis during the fall of 2001. It wasn't an easy adjustment as he desperately missed his previous owners, Fred and Donna Cannon. He would walk around the house, go to the bedroom where they'd slept, and he wouldn't eat. Finally, he decided to be friends with Angie and I, and he took a liking to his new home. He left during the Christmas holidays to visit his previous owners, but because of their travel schedule, he was back by the Sundance Film Festival in January, this time for good. Mac was a well-traveled dog who went on plane trips to San Diego and Phoenix, and on lots of walks around Cottonwood Heights. West Highland White Terriers as a breed are known for hunting. Occasionally, Mac would find and proudly bring us the remains of a critter he found in the backyard. More commonly, Mac used to do his hunting in our kitchen and bathroom trash cans. If we left him to his own devices, we arrived home to a house strewn with trash. Also he had a fondness for uprooting house plants left within his reach. Mac made no apologies about not liking cats. Once last summer, Mac was very sick from a "medical cocktail" designed by the vet, who we later fired. We found out later Mac had been given a combination of four drugs, three of which caused nausea and vomiting in dogs. Pretty amazing considering I took him to the vet because he had been vomiting. Anyway, Mac had been laying around, refusing to eat, and was sick to his stomach. All of the sudden I heard this fierce and rapid tapping on the patio door. He'd arisen from his death bed and spied a cat in the backyard. From Mac's perspective, a cat's presence in our backyard was unacceptable, and, even as sick as he was, he raced down the porch stairs to reclaim his territory. Mac was "fixed" so perhaps not as fond of the ladies as other male canines might have been. Actually, we're pretty sure Mac preferred men. When Angie and I had our gentleman friends over, Mac would get all excited and ceremoniously bring his towel to the center of the room and begin humping it. He didn't do this when our female friends came by. In fact, our female friends didn't excite him much at all. We more fully confirmed Mac's love of men when he stole two chocolate male "parts" this past summer from Angie's room. These "parts" were intended to go to Las Vegas for a bachelorette party. At seven in the morning, I heard this deafening wail from downstairs. Angie was screaming and it sounded like she'd found a body or something along those lines. Mac had eaten two male "parts" whole. At least it was white chocolate, so it didn't kill him. "Guess that pretty well confirms our suspicions about Mac's preferences," I said to Angie. She agreed.
When Mac moved to Utah, his favorite people foods were popcorn and toast, but both of those were prohibited when we learned he was allergic to wheat and corn. We learned to read dog food bags very carefully over the years. But sometimes, we weren't careful enough to keep Mac away from food that was not good for him. His prized conquest was pizza. Angie's friend Thomas had pizza stolen by Mac's five-foot leaps on at least two separate occasions. Once Mac went to the airport to pick up Angie, who was coming home from skating camp. Mac stole an Arby's sandwich out of a lady's purse. I wanted to melt into the floor.
When Mac was out in public, he usually did worse things than steal food, like pooing. It didn't matter if it was the vet waiting room, the pet store, a crosswalk, the groomers, or wherever ... Mac always had to unload.
Mac had chronic skin problems, and we spent much time and expense to identify ways to get and keep his skin clear. One vet in San Diego, who Mac visited while on vacation visiting his original owners, said that keeping a Westie's skin clear involved getting the right "cocktail" of medicines. It also involved the right foods, frequent bathing, medicated shampoo, and the right seasons of the year (summer was worst). And new remedies to replace the ones he developed resistance to. In the winter, one of the ways we kept him from scratching was to put a sweater on him. He looked so adorable, that is, when he didn't decide to eat the sweater.
Besides the backyard, Mac's favorite place was under Phil's bed, especially in the hot summer. He would hide under there in hopes that we'd forget about him before we left for the day. He didn't want to come upstairs and have to stay in his kennel where it was warmer. Mac was nearly always in a good mood, especially if he knew that we were going on a walk. He'd jump high and repeatedly if he saw his leash. If we mentioned going on a walk, he would follow us around and say "hello" til we finally walked out of the front door. He also said "hello" at other times, like when he wanted to eat. We were fairly certain that our neighbors suspected us to be engaged in dog torture. More accurately, Mac had a prized howling ritual that he carried out when he thought he was alone. He'd howl like a coyote howling at the moon. The most hilarious scene was when we'd walk into the room and he'd stare right at us and keep on howling.
My social science educational background led me to do some experimenting on Mac to see if he could become like Pavlov's dog. I'd experimented on Phil and Angie, and it didn't hurt them, so why not the dog? For those who didn't take psychology, Pavlov's dog learned to salivate each time a bell rang. We taught Mac to come when he heard the bell, no matter whether he was in the backyard or in the basement under Phil's bed. His reward was a doggie treat. It worked without fail, til Mac could no longer hear.
Mac often smiled as much as a dog can smile. He was always excited when visitors came and he remembered them from the last time.
The day after Mac went to the Rainbow Bridge, I mentioned to my mom that on this day of grief, I kept visualizing my aunt, who has recently passed on, wearing her shorts and smiling as she walked in grass with a healthy, happy, tail-wagging Mac. I would like to hope it is so! She was very fond of Mac, and Mac was fond of her. She always asked me about Mac when I saw her. Once my mom asked my aunt why Mac always followed her around, and my aunt confessed that it was because she'd fed him hot dogs when she took care of him.
We hope he is smiling and eagerly wagging his tail once more, free from the physical discomforts and limitations that beset him especially in his last few months. He will be missed.
Cannons Mac Too
May 30, 1996 to March 13, 2010

Sire: Sir Hunter Mactavish
Dam: Cloie Allastaire
Owners: Fred and Donna Cannon, Susie Cannon, Angie Bastian, and Phil Bastian

Many thanks to our supportive friends who listened and cared during the last few weeks! We could've never made it through this difficult time without your loving concern.

1 comment:

  1. Susie,
    I am not sure what happened, but I do not remember your Mom telling me that Mac passed on. What a beautiful eulogy you have presented. I know that you probably mailed it to me previously, but it may have been scanned and placed into the trash can or I inadvertently deleted not knowing what it was. I am sorry because was such a good friend to all. I is good to hear from you but hope it will be happier the next time. I have not heard from your parents since they left, so I am sure they are having a good time.
    Uncle Rich