Family Makes A Mountain Of Snow In Their Yard So Their Dog Can Play In It One Last Time
"I can’t even express how overwhelming and emotional it was" ❤️
Maggie was born to be in the snow. Ever since the Saint Bernard/Newfoundland mix was a little puppy, she’d always seek out the coldest place in the house.
“When she was a puppy, she preferred to either lay in the bathtub or on the concrete down in the basement,” Elijah Saltzgaber, Maggie’s dad, told The Dodo. “She was always most comfortable in the winter.”
And when Maggie saw snow for the first time, it was a game changer.
“Being this 120-pound dog, she’d flop over onto her back and just slide in the snow,” Marianna Wilson, Maggie’s mom, told The Dodo. “It was just so much fun to see a dog experience so much joy from being in the snow.”
So when Maggie received a heartbreaking cancer diagnosis in July, her parents began to plan how to maximize the time she had left. Saltzgaber and Wilson love the outdoors, and for the past 10 years, Maggie had joined them on all their adventures. She was an avid hiker, would go on skiing trips in the winter and rode on her mom’s paddleboard in the summer.
“I can’t even number the days that she wasn’t my shadow because our lives literally revolved around her, our vacations revolved around her,” Wilson said. “From the moment we woke up to the moment we went to bed. And we didn’t take it lightly — we really wanted to give her the life she deserved, and as a result, we really enriched our lives as well.”
When it was finally time to say goodbye, her family planned one last camping trip with Maggie. But her parents knew something was missing — snow.
Maggie had always run hot, but she seemed especially sensitive to the rising temperatures since her cancer diagnosis.
“[We] wanted to make it as comfortable and easy on her as we could, and so I thought, ‘Man, those snowcone machines … I wonder how much snow they could pump out if we were to rent one of those?’” Saltzgaber said. “So I just put out a little message online, and that’s when it started to go nuts.”
Saltzgaber didn’t expect much to come from the message he posted on the Utah Classifieds Facebook group, but within hours the sweet request had touched thousands of people.
“The community outreach was huge — thousands of people reacted, hundreds made suggestions,” Saltzgaber said. “We had people offering to bring their little personal snowcone makers and have a snowmaking party. One lady offered to help us break up ice blocks with a hammer. Multiple restaurants, cafés and coffee shops offered to empty their ice coolers of all the ice cubes they had. It was big.”
While preparing for their final weekend camping trip with Maggie, Saltzgaber tried to coordinate with all the people making suggestions on his post when he noticed some comments mentioning getting good-quality snow from ice rink Zambonis.
He left messages with two of his local ice rinks, and the next day, Tiffany King from Salt Lake County Ice Center responded. “She met us on Monday morning as we were coming out of the woods and had everything prepped,” Saltzgaber said. “Her and the Zamboni driver, Jimmy, had done two laps around the rink — which is one more than they usually do. And they’d built up a huge pile of snow outside.”
Saltzgaber drove his large van down to the ice rink and could only fit about a third of the snow into his car. When he returned home, Maggie and Wilson couldn’t believe their eyes.
“When he backed in Monday morning and we opened up the doors to the van, it was just — I can’t even express how overwhelming and emotional it was,” Wilson said. “I just broke down crying, he was crying, my mom was crying and Maggie was like, ‘What’s going on, guys?’”
But it didn't take long for Maggie to realize that this snow was just for her.
“She wasn’t sure what to make of it, so I grabbed some of it and showed it to her and she just proceeded to eat it,” Wilson said. “We hauled what was in the van to a corner of the backyard, where we’d set up a shade tarp, and Maggie still hadn’t warmed to what was going on, so we leveled it out a little bit and threw her squeaky ball into it, and it was game over from there. She pounced on it, buried her ball the way she would, and then she came to rest on top of the snow pile, and she was perfectly at ease and comfortable."
"It really did help her out," she added. "Maggie was snoring for a good 20 minutes on that snow pile.”
When Maggie woke up from her snow nap, a woman from Lap of Love had arrived. Maggie’s parents didn’t expect her to stay on the snow pile so long, but that was clearly where she was most comfortable and content.
Maggie’s final moments were spent surrounded by love, family and soft white snow. The big dog closed her eyes one last time, knowing that she was cared for.