May 1, 2007 – December 16, 2015

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. When we brought both of our girls with us to Panama, it was with high hopes that we would all grow old together, and that Maggie and Rosie would live to a healthy, happy old age.

Last night, we lost Maggie. It pains me even to type those words.

Apparently she got a lethal does of toxin from a cane toad. She died in my arms, in our car as we were frantically driving around trying to find an open vet office. This morning, we buried her in the back yard of our new home outside Boquete. She was only eight.

There are so many things I need to say about this experience. About how unprepared we were for a medical emergency with our dogs, and about the paralyzing guilt that’s fueling our grief. But for now, I just want to reflect on the extraordinary dog Maggie was, and the joy she brought to our lives.

Maggie never met a stranger. Whenever she encountered a new person, she’d be so overwhelmed with joy that she would wag her whole body and she couldn’t even settle down enough to be petted. Our good friend Sandra, who loved Maggie dearly, called her “wiggle bum.”

Maggie was our protector. Every night before settling in, she’d “walk the perimeter” to make sure all was well. Sadly, that might have been what got her into trouble last night.

She was very intelligent and had a large vocabulary. Her favorite words were “dinner” and “cookie,” of course, but if we told her to find her toy, she’d go straight to the bright orange boomerang or the squeaky green ball. Then she’d wag her whole body, grunt-grunt-grunt, and dare us to take the toy. She’d always drop it, though, when we said “drop.”

Maggie loved to sit with her back legs splayed and belly flat on the floor. Before her, we’d never heard of a dog that was able to sit that way once the flexible puppy years had passed. Then she’d cross her front paws daintily in front of her and look up at us, as if to say, “How about that dinner, people?”

Maggie was sunshine, blue skies, and everything light, joyful, and pure. She was my lady bug and my honey bee. She loved me back, but she absolutely idolized John. When she was a tiny puppy, only a few days old, John held her in the palm of his hand. A new love affair was born.

Rest well, sweet Maggie. You enriched our lives more than we can ever say.


  1. I am soooo sorry for your loss of Maggie. I know our pets our our babies. I know how you must feel. I had to put down one pet years ago and didn’t get another pet for nearly 20 years because of how hard it was. We have made the extremely hard decision to find a loving new couple for our incredible Mia before we move in March. 🙁

  2. Becky Sieger Reply

    We are so sorry to hear that you lost sweet Maggie last night. Our fur-kids definitely leave lasting pawprints on our hearts and are never forgotten.

  3. There’s a quote from Anatole France that says, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” We humans are truly blessed when we find a special fur baby such as Maggie to share our love and companionship with. She sounds like she was a lovely lady who cared for you as much in return and through your pain you’ve written a wonderful tribute to her. With sympathy, Karen, Eric and Dos Gatos

    • Hi Karen, Eric, and kitties,
      I was just re-reading all of the wonderful comments on this post and came across yours again. The first time I read it, I was tremendously touched but it was just too hard to respond. Just know that your words were soo comforting during those awful days.
      Thank you.
      – Susan

  4. I’m crying for you as I type. I’m glad you were with Maggie in her final moments. I’m sure she knew how much you both loved her. I’m so sorry for your loss and for the pain you are going through. Rest in peace Sweet Maggie.

  5. How awful. Don’t blame yourselves. It does not soften the blow, but if it was a coral snake, there’s little chance you could have saved Maggie. I am so sorry.
    – Julia

  6. Lauren Donder Reply

    This makes me so, so sad. Try to take solace in the wonderful life she had with you all. I’m very sorry. I know you just loved her.

  7. So sad to hear that. It breaks my heart! Could it have been a bufo frog or something similar? They are poisonous to dogs.

  8. Thank you Susan for this lovely tribute. You have lost part of your family, yet were able to share this heartfelt piece with us.
    We’re wrapping you and John in a warm blanket of peace and love.
    Shalom, Mariah & By

  9. My deepest sympathy in the loss of your beloved Maggie.

  10. Deepest condolences. My prayers are with you guys. Very sad…but beautiful memories.

  11. I’m crying as I’m typing this. I’m so very sorry for your loss and it can be a while for your heart to heal. We lost our wonderful yellow lab a number of years ago at age 13 …she was the best dog. RIP Maggie. ((HUGS))

  12. Julie Drake Reply

    So very sorry to hear of Maggie’s passing. I know she was well loved.

  13. Bill Hollowell and Penny Reply

    Oh, please don’t blame yourselves! There is little that could have been done and bad things can happen to dogs anywhere. I know Maggie loved Panama, her new house and having so much time with her great mom and dad. You gave her a great life and she knew she was a very lucky dog. Our thoughts are with you both and her dear sister Rosie.

  14. Carrie Weiler Reply

    May she rest in peace! She knows how much you love her! I have my concerns as I prepare to bring our dog to Boquete! Snakes and frogs are among my grave concerns! Having read about Maggie, I will be extra careful with our Jordy!

  15. Hello to all. I just wanted to thank every one of you for your kind words and thoughts during this tough time. The pain still cuts like a dull knife but John, Rosie, and I are doing our best to move on. We’re pretty sure that’s what Maggie would have wanted. She was such a worrier when something wasn’t quite right with us. I can almost see her worried little face right now.

    I wish I could respond to each of you one by one but it’s just too painful. Please know that we appreciate you. We’re thinking about how we can turn this tragedy into something positive for the pets of Chiriqui, so stay tuned.

  16. Janis Peace Reply

    Oh my! I am so very sorry. We will miss her so. She was wonderful.
    Really wonderful. I hope she is playing over the rainbow with all her favorite things!
    I have been in SB taking care of my grandchildren for 3 weeks while Mom went to Australia. We are now up in Kernville for the holidays. Shannon is coming down from SF.
    I am sick in bed right now so going to sign off with a heavy heart about our dear sweet Maggie but sweet thoughts about her wonderful life with you three.
    Merry Christmas. Happy New Year!
    Lots of love. Janis

  17. I am so sorry to read about the loss of Maggie. I’ve had two canine companions in my lifetime (prior to setting sail) and would have been devastated by their loss at so young an age. But you had eight lovely years together and created a wealth of memories to cherish her by. I see your thank you note in response to all of the condolences above and that is all the response that I need to this note.

  18. Pingback: Maggie’s List – An Important Resource for Chiriqui Pet Lovers – Latitude Adjustment

  19. A beautiful post. Maggie will always remembered. I lost my dog due a car accident and he was only three years old. It was unexpected and no mater how long they have stayed with us, we would never be ready to let them go. Trust she will always be in your hearts and she was a lucky girl to have you as her parents <3

  20. A beautiful post to remember Maggie. Maggie was lucky to have you as her parents. Trust she will always be in your hearts <3

  21. John and Susan Pazera Reply

    Thank you, Indah. Sounds like you know too well what it’s like to lose a fur child, and we’re sorry to hear about your pup 🙁 There will always be a huge, Maggie-shaped hole in our hearts.

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