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Maggie’s formerly chocolate fur-tinged white and the Chesapeake Bay retriever’s struggle to walk betrayed her age, but the 23-year-old pup’s spunky personality and generous spirit never wavered.
“People coming over to see her was her favorite thing in the world,” said Laurie Robl Brumfield, the founder of rescue group The Maggie Society. “She loved playing with my nieces and nephews who would dress her up and read to her. She just wanted to be up against somebody and with people.”
The Brumfields, who fell in love with the lively dog in 2000 after her less than ideal upbringing, took Maggie on a trip to Bald Head Island before taking her to the vet and putting her down on Aug. 3.
“We kept a close watch on her comfort level,” Brumfield said. “She had arthritis for 10 years, so she was on a lot of medications the past few years, but when the pain became unmanageable, we knew it was time. We took her to her favorite place and gave her the best week possible.”
While Maggie couldn’t swim like on previous trips, she enjoyed having the wind whip through her fur while riding the golf cart with family. She even was able to put her feet in the sand for a bit, but a collapsing trachea made breathing and eating more of a struggle lately. Still, she made appearances at Maggie Society events and awed attendees with her long life.
“People were always messaging us about what we fed her or whatever, but there was nothing special we did,” Brumfield said. “She was a Chesapeake Bay retriever and she was very strong-willed. We always made sure we provided the best vet care, quality food and exercise we could, but she just hung in there and we were blessed.”
Maggie’s own struggles before finding the Brumfields served as the inspiration for the rescue group that has helped to rehome more than 6,000 eastern North Carolina dogs, especially those with medical problems other groups might turn away.
“We always need help with fundraising because for every dog we take in, we also have to medically treat them,” Brumfield said. “We don’t turn away any dog for medical issues, so we treat a lot of heartworm-positive dogs and broken legs. When animal control gets a dog hit by a car or one that is sick, we don’t tell them ‘no.’”
And without a facility, the Maggie Society relies on its network of 30 to 40 existing foster families.
“We are always in desperate need of more fosters because we can only save dogs when we have an open foster,” she said. “My waiting list for dogs stays around 15 or 20 and sometimes we can get to those, but most of the time we can’t because we don’t have foster homes. We don’t have a physical headquarters, so we have to have a foster to save that puppy or that dog for a shelter.”
After the passing of Maggie and her brother Gatsby, the Brumfields have six dogs that were deemed unadoptable and the group relies upon fosters to help determine the dogs’ temperament and prepare them for a loving fur-ever family.
“Fosters need to be unconditionally loving and full of flexibility because some of these dogs have never been pets before, so you have to be prepared to work with them,” Brumfield said. “When I first got Maggie, she had some behavior issues we had to work through together, but she loved fiercely and was passionate. We were inspired by her journey, and we wanted to give other dogs the same opportunities through this rescue.”
It hasn’t always been easy, though.
“We started off not having a clue and making plenty of mistakes, but we’ve lived and learned while keeping the best interest of the dogs at the forefront to become an amazing team,” she said. “Most rescues fizzle out through burnout, financial strain and such. And rescue is always going to be stressful, but we’ve tried to eliminate as much of that as possible with a team where everyone has their forte and runs with it.”
Brumfield took a one-year hiatus from teaching to get the rescue group organized, but now balances two full-time jobs that have her heart: teaching Spanish at Hunt High School and serving as president of the Maggie Society. Through it all, she said having a core group of dedicated rescuers along with loving family and friends is essential.
And while the group’s namesake has crossed the rainbow bridge, Maggie is far from forgotten.
“She was absolutely obsessed with retrieving. We had to hide her tennis balls because she’d drop them into the shower or in your lap when you were sitting around. No matter what you were doing, she would find a way to retrieve something for you,” Brumfield recalled. “After we got married, my husband was working from home and he’d set up everything on the dining room table. Maggie came over and dropped a ball for him, but he said ‘no.’ But then she jumped up on the table and just looked at him.
“She would not be ignored by anybody. She was very persistent, strong-willed and passionate.”
For more information or to find out how to help, visit www.themaggiesociety.com/.