Cosmic Shenandoah Magic

April 13, 1996-December 30, 2005

Magic, August 1998

A vision is an unusual way to become acquainted with a dog, but that's how I first met Magic--not once, but twice. In the form of dreams on successive nights, the visions were specifically about a male Belgian sheepdog puppy, without white markings. The premonitions failed to convince me to call Magic's breeder because my husband Pat, and I had placed a deposit on a puppy from another litter in March 1996. When that litter was resorbed, we decided to wait for the bitch's next breeding to get our special puppy.

In May, I discovered the original bitch had suffered a seizure and would not be bred again. Upon learning the news, I called Magic's breeder. I had already spoken to her earlier in the day, turning down a puppy, and I hoped that I wasn't too late. Thankfully, she was patient and respected the fact that I had changed my mind with a promise for a full explanation when we met in person.

The meaning of the dreams suddenly became clear. Our previous Belgian, Shaman, had guided me to a puppy that possessed none of his seizure or temperament problems. In fact, I truly believe their spirits crossed. Magic was conceived at the same time that Shaman had been relieved from his suffering.

From the minute the decision had been made to adopt Magic, I had puppy fever. In June, a family trip to Ireland delayed us from picking him up at the first opportunity. I couldn't wait to return to the U.S. to collect my puppy. Upon our arrival, we were distressed to learn that Magic and two of his sisters had contracted a serious bout of coronavirus. The puppies had been hospitalized. Not only did Magic recover, he thrived.

After Shaman, Magic was the exact type of dog the family needed. He restored our faith in Belgians, not to mention making us into obsessive Belgian fanatics. My then seven-year-old son Bryan and I made the six-hour drive from the breeders' home to Virginia. Occasionally, Magic whimpered or cried. After all, it was the first time he had been separated from his mother and sisters. He had every reason to be stressed from the trip, but like almost everything in life, he took it in stride.

Magic and Chinook
As soon as I pulled into the drive, Pat came out to meet our new puppy, remarking that he was cute. I released Magic into our fenced backyard, and we both held our breaths. Unlike any puppy we had ever met, Shaman had no curiosity at Magic's age, but Magic set right about to business and began to explore. In his new home, he was greeted by our aging Siberian husky Chinook and our crossbreeds, Heather and Isabella.

Due to his hyper-aggression, Shaman had been labor intensive to socialize. Not Magic. We took him everywhere -- battlefields, National Parks, vacations -- and we thoroughly enjoyed it. In that special Belgian way, he was social and outgoing. Unless he knew a person well, he never jumped on anyone. To individuals he knew, he also gave sloppy, wet kisses. Around toddlers, he was especially careful, being extra cautious not to knock them over.

Magic with Antlers

If a place existed that could special order puppies for traits and qualities, we couldn't have prescribed better. Magic was a dream come true. Because of his temperament, Shaman was unable to be a true companion to Bryan. On the other hand, Bryan and Magic romped and played together. In typical Belgian style, Magic was prone to deliver herding nips, so caution was necessary when Bryan's young friends came over to play. One friend received just such a nip on the backside.

Not only did we take Magic everywhere, I dabbled in every activity I could think of--obedience, agility, flyball, conformation, and tracking. As a team, we excelled at nothing, but we had a great time exploring. A super intelligent dog, he went through a routine once or twice before ingraining it in his memory. During advanced obedience training, he developed a quirk, which progressed to any activity. If he became confused, he would automatically lie down. Other trainers thought his response was humorous when he would "down" at the most seemingly inappropriate time. I soon realized that I needed to show him a confusing routine in a different way, and it certainly was handy to have such a convenient signal, similar to a child raising his hand with a question.

In the conformation ring, Magic did well. Although he never finished his championship, I attribute that to my novice handling, plus the inability to find majors within reasonable driving distance. On several occasions, he was awarded reserve at shows with majors. At another show, he received Winner's Dog, only not to get his coveted major when another dog was excused from the ring.

Magic, Quigley and Loki, November 1999
As an adolescent, he disliked the hands-on examination by the judge. No, he never showed any aggression, but the first time a judge reached his testicles, he slowly sank to the ground. Once he matured, he stood obediently for the exam in the show ring.

In our quest for majors, we traveled to a show in Maryland. After the show, we visited Assateague Island. The wild ponies failed to faze Magic, but he found the ocean less than thrilling. Until that point in time, he had never shown any sign of fear, but when he got near the waves, he tucked his tail. Rivers were never a problem as we often encountered or crossed them on hikes. However, on a trip to Jamestown, he exhibited the same fear. While the bay isn't quite the same as the ocean, endless waves with no other land in sight were too large as far as he was concerned.

Magic, Quigley and Loki, November 1999

In 1998, Magic met the greyhounds belonging to one of my friends. Loki and Quigley failed to react like Belgians, but they were fast and more importantly, fun. As with Isabella, he especially liked cleaning their ears. He also got downright excited anytime we met a greyhound on the trail. We would then have to explain to the perplexed owners that Magic thought they were Loki and Quigley.

Magic pulling Izzie around

In spring of 1999, Chinook died at the age of fourteen. Ever since the replacement of his pacemaker battery, he had been ailing with infections and severe arthritis. To make matters more tense, Magic was well into feeling his adolescent oats. Squabbles for dominance had become more frequent. With Chinook's passing, Magic became firmly established as the doggy pack leader.

Even though Isabella never played like a Belgian, Magic tended to her needs. My vet once remarked that she had the cleanest ears of any dog he had examined. I told him all of that special loving care could be attributed to Magic. Being a Lab/mastiff mix, Isabella has always been a slow moving dog, at least compared to a Belgian. This trait could sometimes test Magic's patience, and he would drag her around by the collar to get her up or to move faster.

In 2000, the family packed up the car for a cross country trip. Isabella has never been overly fond of riding, so she was boarded at a local kennel, but Magic had always been accustomed to coming with us. The first stop was in Georgia to explore the Civil War battlefields, then onto Vicksburg. Magic rode like a real trooper. After Vicksburg, we traveled through Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico, not stopping until Arizona to visit family.

Magic in Arizona, not happy about the cactus
After Louisiana, Magic was indifferent to the countryside. He had the habit of relieving himself in or on bushes or shrubs. Anyone familiar with these sections of the country knows that bushes tend to grow sparse in arid regions. What's more, where we stayed in Arizona, the bushes tend to have spines!

Our return trip brought us through another section of the country. In Oklahoma, Magic was stung by a hornet in the back of the station wagon. We had a difficult time convincing him that hornets don't live in cars. We finally persuaded him to return to the car, and we were back on the road again. While in Illinois, he met Stella the German shepherd, one of the original shy-k9s. She was anything but shy around Magic. She also had greyhound friends, which thrilled Magic.

I'd always heard an owner must be careful with an intact male dog around puppies. But Magic loved puppies, at least until 2001, when Mystic joined the household. A puppy living under the same roof was another story, especially since she was his niece and identified with him, constantly following him around. He found Mystic a nuisance in a kid sister fashion, but he tussled with her often. Still, Isabella was his true love, and he was enamored with her floppy ears.

Magic at home

During the summer, we took the Belgians on a trip to downeast Maine. Mystic loved the adventure, but by this time, Magic had become a homebody. While he tolerated the trip, it was quite obvious that his heart was in Virginia and the comfort of home. On the way to Maine, we stopped off to visit friends in New Jersey. With this part of the trip, Magic was excited to see his greyhound friends again. Quigley loved having his ears washed. Unknown to us at the time, these two friends would never see one another again until both had crossed the Bridge.

In 2003, Virginia was hit by hurricane Isabel. With the storm's name so close to Isabella's, we feared we were in for a rough ride. Being a large, plodding dog, Isabella doesn't know her own strength. Most hurricanes lose their intensity by the time they reach central Virginia. Isabel blew through our area as a full blown tropical storm. Magic had always seemed sensitive to drops in barometric pressure, but Isabel unnerved him. He rode out the storm huddled in the bathtub or bedroom corner.

Magic with Frisbee

In June 2004, while playing his favorite game of Frisbee, Magic yelped. Upon closer inspection, Pat found a baby copperhead coiled in the grass. Neither of us could find where he had been bitten, but his breathing was erratic and he was clearly in distress. We rushed him to the emergency vet. Once there, he was examined thoroughly. His lip had swollen, and he had two small puncture wounds from the fangs. Fortunately, he had taken little venom, and soon began breathing easier.

Not too long after the copperhead bite, Magic started slowing down. Although he quickly recovered from the incident, I often wonder whether it might have taxed his immune system. Only by looking back are we able to see the subtle symptoms, and after all, he was eight. When my vet examined Magic, the only thing he could find wrong was an enlarged prostate--a symptom not atypical for a dog his age. I had held off neutering Magic because I had hoped to breed him. My vet suggested that we collect Magic, then have him neutered to keep any future prostate problems at bay.

After a call to a respected breeder in the area, I located several reproductive specialists. I spoke with two of them and chose one in North Carolina. Magic was put on a waiting list. Several months passed between my initial call and finally making Magic's appointment. In the interim, his testicles had softened slightly, and I worried about his fertility.

The repro veterinarian gave us a call when a suitable teaser bitch became available. Being a coonhound, she had long, floppy ears like Isabella's, and Magic was instantly attracted to her. Unfortunately, as I had feared, he failed to have enough viable sperm for freezing. The vet said she could treat his prostate problem, if we wished to breed him naturally. With no suitable bitch as a prospect in the near future, we said no. In disappointment, we decided the only thing left to do was to have Magic neutered.

July 2005 rolled around before I found the courage to make the appointment to have Magic neutered. Many years ago, we had a beautiful German shepherd mix die while under anesthesia for teeth cleaning, so I'm always nervous scheduling any elective surgery. To make matters worse, that same week Mystic died unexpectedly. I immediately canceled Magic's appointment. My vet definitely understood and said the operation could be postponed until a later date.

In September, Magic accompanied me to New Jersey to visit with his greyhound friends. Even though Quigley had died in the interim, he enjoyed seeing Loki and making new greyhound friends, Dodge and Dart. We also dropped in for a visit with his breeder. It was the one place where he truly felt at home away from home.

A week after our return from New Jersey, Magic started vomiting. At the time, it didn't seem serious, but as a precaution, I took him to the vet. His blood tests returned as normal, and after a few days on a bland diet, he acted fine.

After waiting a month, I once again made the appointment to have Magic neutered. The nightmare began with this operation. Unknown to me, Magic had lost weight over a couple of months. His pre-surgical bloodwork was fine, but the day after the operation, he began vomiting again. Subcutaneous fluids and Pepcid were administered. A couple of days later, he appeared well on the road to recovery. His incision healed nicely, and he acted like himself. In reality, he was never the same dog again.

A few days later, the allotment of Pepcid that I had been given ran out. Within a day, Magic was vomiting again. Because my regular vet was unavailable, I took him to my avian vet. He believed that Magic might have ulcers and represcribed Pepcid along with Sucralfate. Since Mystic had died from tick-borne disease, I requested that a tick panel be run on Magic at the same time.

Again with a bland diet and medication, Magic improved somewhat, but he continued to vomit on occasion. Although both the Elisa and SNAPP test returned positive for Lyme disease, we feared that something more sinister might be lurking. The previous year, Magic's brother had died from gastric adenocarinoma. Magic's most recent bloodwork also revealed the possibility of an infection, so he began taking doxycycline for Lyme disease.

Almost immediately, Magic stopped eating. Because of his vomiting, we backed off the treatment and switched him to amoxicillan. Again, he started improving, but any change in his daily routine stressed him. He reached a healthy weight again, so I took him in for a round of x-rays of his gastrointestinal system. Nothing unusual was found, and we breathed a sigh of relief.

When the Christmas holidays loomed, my regular vet went on vacation. As I feared would happen, Magic started vomiting again. I was unhappy with the suggestions from the substitute vet and refused to hospitalize Magic under her care. We were given enough subcutaneous fluids and antibiotics to get us through the holiday.

During that time, I would often lie awake at night and wonder if Magic would still be with us in the morning. He stopped eating again, and after the long weekend, we returned him to my avian vet. His Lyme titer had doubled since his last visit. Even though Lyme disease occasionally enters the gastrointestinal tract, the vet was uncertain whether the tick-borne disease was a primary or secondary cause of Magic's symptoms. We hospitalized Magic.

To my surprise, his attitude remained positive. One of the techs babied him, and we visited him every day. However, if he tried to eat anything, he vomited. The vet studied his x-rays taken two weeks before and immediately spotted a shadow in Magic's small intestine. An ultrasound confirmed the finding. The vet believed that Magic's intestine had become twisted due to his vomiting, and the primary problem still lay in his stomach. Exploratory surgery was recommended.

Cosmic Shenandoah Magic, best friend a human could ever have

Those last few days were sunny and warm for December. When we saw Magic, we would take him for a walk. Throughout the years, hikes and walks were his favorite activity. Even with an IV, he enjoyed them. On the day of his surgery, we took him for his walk and said goodbye, thinking we would never see him again. After leaving the clinic, we immediately returned home to wait for a call.

About an hour and a half later, the call came. Cancer had been found in Magic's small intestine. Initially, we had given the order not to revive him if cancer was discovered, but the vet believed the cancer was Magic's primary problem, not a secondary one as he previously thought. He also believed that he had gotten all of the cancer. We gave the go ahead to resection Magic's small intestine.

Magic came through the surgery with flying colors. By evening he was up and about. His condition was considered guarded, but it looked hopeful. We were elated. The next morning another call came at 7:30. Overnight, Magic had taken a turn for the worse and had died ten minutes earlier. Two weeks later, the pathology report confirmed our suspicion of adenocarcinoma.

All this time, I should have known that Magic would grant me a gift. To the end, he kept a positive attitude and was a stubborn fighter. I honestly believe that he didn't want me to have to make that agonizing decision for him. I've had three dreams of Magic since his death. Two were very unclear, but in the most recent, I saw the healthy and happy Magic that I remember so well. In the same vision, he gave me another gift by showing me Mystic and Chinook too. Rest in peace, Magic Man.

Copyright Notice

The text in this web document ("page") is Copyright © 2006 by Kim Murphy, and the images are Copyright 2006 by Kim and Pat Murphy; all rights reserved. The background image is a caricature drawn by Kristen Schaller at the 1998 Salem, VA Dog Show. This page, or any part of it, may not be reproduced in any form, electronic, print, or otherwise, without the prior written or emailed consent of the owners. This includes mailing lists, web sites, usenet newsgroups, bulletin boards, blogs, etc.

Kim Murphy / E-Mail
Pat Murphy / E-Mail