A different version of this piece appears on the Rescue Dog Olympics site.
“Every dog has its day.”
To quote Hedley Lamarr from Blazing Saddles, “I hate that cliché!”
Thus, I am happy to say that I have met a dog whose day is every day! She is Maggie Johnston, an adorable black-and-tan dachshund with a pair of doe-brown eyes and a loving nature who will steal your heart. Although Maggie is a differently abled pup, she rarely slows down. She inspires everyone, regardless of species, to overcome their hurdles and be the best they can be. She is truly a Positiva Diva!
I had the honor of talking with Maggie to find out about her mission to support the community, her passion for fashion, and her devotion to her family. Maggie invited me to her cozy home in Newnan, Georgia, where I also had the opportunity to meet her Mom, Angela, and her Aunt Becky.
Maggie and Angela, I’d like to thank you for inviting me here. So, the first thing I’d like to ask is, how did you two meet?
Maggie: [to Angela] I’ll take it from here, Mom.
Hi, Ms. Allyson, I’m Maggie Johnston. Welcome to our home!
How did we meet? That’s a big story right there, so get comfy.
Before I came along, Mom lived with a wonderful wheelie dachshund, Skippy. The day came when Skippy passed on and crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Mom was so sad. Skippy had lived with her a long time, and it was hard to see him go.
She wanted to create a space in her heart for a new dog. But she was still too full of pain to make room. So, she did her best to be patient and let the right dog find her.
Her journey was long, and the path took her to many rescue dogs. One time, Mom missed a rescue dog because the shelter took too much time getting back to her. Another dog adopted a human just a split second before Mom had the chance to say, “Yes!”
The saddest dog was one who Mom drove many miles to pick up, only to have him die of myelomalacia in her arms. Mom’s heart shattered–she had almost given up hope for a dog who would adopt her.
But hope hadn’t given up on Mom. Later in February, on a Saturday morning, she was poking around on Facebook. She was just curious, like all humans, about what all her friends were up to. She looked at her favorite dachshund pages and a post from another human caught her eye.
This poor mom she read about was having to put her canine friend to sleep.
Mom’s heart cried, and she had to share her story with the other mom. She was hunched over in bed, her tears making two big rivers on her face as she typed the story of Skippy with trembling fingers on little telephone keys. She had held her sadness in for so long, it burst out of her like a thundery summer storm.
Bravely, she hit the post button to release the hurt and create some heart space.
A few seconds later, a picture of a homeless, special-needs dog appeared on her timeline. She used her sharp tracking skills to follow the thread back to the original post. The more she read, the more she liked this dog. She was still cautious, but she was also excited. She really wanted this dog to adopt her!
Mom sent a message to the dog’s shelter and told them about her experience with wheelie dogs, and showed them Skippy’s Facebook memorial. Not long after that, her phone rang. The caller asked, “Are you really Skippy Johnston’s mom?” It turns out that they were fans of Skips, and had followed his page for many years!
Even though they liked her, the shelter had her jump through lots of hoops to make sure that she was still the right human for the homeless wheelie dog. If they had just sniffed her rear end, like a proper dog would, they would have immediately known who she was!
On February 21, 2016, she met her new canine owner. Mom and all her wheelie friends threw a big party to greet the lucky dachshund from Michigan.
And, of course, that lucky pup was me, Maggie, aka Mags, aka Magpie, aka…(ahem) Stinky Pink! We’ve been on so many journeys and adventures together since then, and we’ve made so many memories. And, I’m certain Mom thinks that Skippy helped bring us together.
Oh, Maggie, that was the most moving tale I’ve ever heard!
Maggie: Well, okay. My tail doesn’t really move, but I’m glad you like it.
And, while we’re on that subject, could you tell me a little about your condition?
Maggie: Why, certainly! Education is a big part of my mission!
I have IVDD, which stands for Intervertebral Disc Disease. It’s a condition any breed or mix of dog can get, but those of us who have long backs are most susceptible. The discs in our spine will bulge or rupture, and that puts pressure on the spinal cord and damages it. Some dogs can fully recover, others have to be put down, and the rest fall in between. We also have varying degrees of paralysis, ranging from mild to severe.
Surgery is the most common way of treating the disease, but I’m not a good candidate for it. Instead, my rescue group did a wonderful job of getting me many different kinds of treatment, like special medications, laser therapy, swim therapy, and acupuncture. I also see a great veterinarian who specializes in a variety of different therapies.
Us dogs with IVDD live relatively normal lives, but we have to do a few things differently. For instance, jumping up and down off the furniture and climbing stairs are huge no-no’s! I risk rupturing more discs in my back. And I go “potty” much like humans do. Mom will take me, stand me on the toilet, and express my bladder and my colon right into it. No muss, no fuss! And Mom has me do this on a schedule–this way, she doesn’t have to scramble to put on shoes and a coat in the middle of the night when I have to go! It’s perfect!
Wow, Maggie! Even though this sounds so debilitating, you don’t act like it bothers you!
Maggie: Oh my goodness, it doesn’t! I am a Dog! I rarely get bogged down or depressed by my condition. I consider this my “normal,” and I go on with my life. I can’t stand to miss out on anything!
I’ll show you something to help you understand. This cute little thing is my wheelchair, and us dogs who use them to get around are called “wheelies.” It’s pink! And it is fabulous! When either Mom or my Aunt Becky gets it out, I get so excited! It means we’re going out on an adventure! On top of that, I go very fast in my cart–I am a speed diva!
Now, Maggie, I hear that both you and Ms. Angela are active community members. What do you do?
Maggie: Gosh, we do so many things! As you can see, I am an advocate for the education and awareness of IVDD. You’d be quite surprised at how many veterinarians are not aware of this disease!
Mom and I have a booth we run at shows to educate everyone, especially the humans owned by dachshunds. I show off my wheelie cart, just so everyone can see that wheelie dogs get around just fine. Also, Mom and I are hiking all the state parks in Georgia to raise awareness for IVDD. So far, we’ve done 15 out of 60 parks.
I am a member of the PupScouts. I earn badges and sell PupScout cookies. The money from my work goes to The Covenant Pet Trust/Skippy J. Foundation, which was named after Skippy.
Mom and I make these awesome fleece blankets for The Wrapped In Love Project. The blankets are given to foster dogs so that they can have their very own blanket to take with them to their forever home.
At this time, we’re planning a fund-raising to purchase pet oxygen masks for all the fire departments in our county. The firefighters find them easy to use when they rescue pets from fires!
As much as I love those projects, my favorite is The Rescue Dog Olympics! I fell in love with it the first time we went! That first year, 2017, I volunteered as a demo racer for the Georgia Dachshund Races. A few doxies came by to try out the track, and I raced with them. I even beat a few of them!
We went back the next year, in 2018, and had a blast. I took my sweetheart, Artie, who’s a wheelie dog like me. The Rescue Dog Olympics was held on St. Patrick’s Day, so Artie dressed up as a leprechaun, and I dressed as his pot of gold. We even entered the costume contest and won!
Even though I have a blast at this event, I still act as an ambassador for rescue dogs, both with and without disabilities. I share my story with everyone and spread the message, “Adopt! Don’t Shop!”
I really encourage every dog out there to get your human out of the house and take them to the Rescue Dog Olympics. It’s a great way to have fun, get a little exercise, and show support for your four-legged brothers and sisters!
Maggie, it has been a delight chatting with you this evening, and thank you again for inviting me here. Do you have any special parting words for the readers?
Maggie: Yes, I do, Ms. Allyson! Everyone, if you are considering bringing a furry friend into your home and your heart, please, PLEASE, adopt a rescue! There are so many different friends out there who need a home: youngsters, seniors, big ones, little ones, any breed, any mix, any kind! Even the ones with special needs! They may be a little extra work, but the love you get is infinite!
All photos and Photoshop illustrations courtesy of Angela Johnston and Allyson Brooks