Mary C. Wakeman, DVM
May 22, 1943 - March 5, 2021
This is indeed heavy news to impart to friends of all Hungarian breeds, but especially the corded ones. Dr. Mary Wakeman became a family acquaintance, friend, and comrade in arms (and sometimes co-conspirator) before I moved to New England in 1981. My mother, Joy C. Levy, went to her to X-ray a young Komondor, as she was the only person known to perform this feat without anesthesia, and Komondors had died on the X-ray table because vets gave anesthesia according to body weight, not effect (our first Komondor, Ch. Szentivani Ingo, went out on the dose for a toy poodle). They became fast friends. They shared an unconventional streak, superb confidence in their experience and utter loyalty to their respective breeds, the Puli for Mary, the Komondor for my family. While they never traveled to Hungary together (what a show that would have been!) they both went there several times, embracing the dogs there, the food, and the culture. One of their joint projects was to supply Parvo vaccine to the Hungarian breeders in the 1990s, when the virus was decimating the Hungarian breeds just making their comebacks from decimation in WWII and the USSR’s “correction” of Hungarian politics in 1956.
So, the primary relationship was between Joy and Mary, but when I moved to Rhode Island with 2 Komondors, Mary took me in, and was very good to me, for Joy’s sake. Our friendship grew on its own, however, as I appreciated her iconoclasm, her fabulous knowledge of Hungarian history and culture in addition to dog sense, and her uncompromising dedication to the integrity of our breeds. Mary was also an innovative scientist of canine fertility, helping many breeders achieve brilliant results when no one else could help them. Mary’s special interest was always in rare breeds, and her efforts there helped improve and diversify many of these populations in the United States.
Another interest we shared, passionately, was her talent for fantasy writing. I have no talent for it, but I have enthusiastic appreciation and I loved the periods when we intensely emailed her manuscripts back and forth, discussing and plotting and just liberating our imaginations. I hope that her worlds and stories may come out to the public someday. In honor of this work, I knit her a reproduction of the hood of Edward the Black Prince, and she loved that.
I loved Mary deeply. As a link to my mother Joy once she died, I guess that my attachment ran even deeper. Her final illness was by no means the only scare she gave to those who loved her. A bout of septic shock in 2014 drove us almost to despair, but back she bounced, furious that anyone might lose faith! After another operation, Mary was restricted to “clear liquids” and furious again, because at the hospital this meant salt water (chicken broth) and green Jello, which she tossed onto the floor. But without a return of vital processes the doctors would not release her. Mary loved maple products, so I had an idea: Maple syrup is a clear liquid, isn’t it? I went all over Providence trying to find a suitable flask, and finally found one inscribed, “Holy Water.” I filled it with the best golden maple syrup and brought it to her, and she began a miraculous recovery – until the nurse found the flask under her pillow. After the ensuing ruckus, they finally let her go home – where she could sip a nip to her heart’s content. She always had great faith in the “antioxidant” properties of Vermont maple syrup after that.
Mary took care of my dogs until she retired, but even afterwards she watched over them diligently. When I had a choice of two adorable puppies from Sylvie Vermirovska of the Czech Republic, Mary looked at the photographs and chose my Bara, Barbara Dolmar z Alkazaru. Sylvie agreed with Mary, saying that Bara was a “kind puppy” who would manage the trip to the US well, and help heal me after my mother’s death. They were both right, and this is just one example of all the gratitude I owe to Mary’s watchful kindness.
When Mary was taken with her final illness, she was in a state of jubilation because she had just received her second Covid-19 vaccine. A scientist to her core, Mary was thrilled with the innovation of the vaccine and eager to have it, not just because she was thoroughly fed up with the restrictions the pandemic had placed on her life. I last visited her on November 14 of last year, ostensibly to see the new puppy, Bela, but really just to see her. Bara was along and Inas was incensed by her largeness and would not let me pet him. Pumpkin was more gracious, but soon retreated to her favorite point of observation, behind Mary’s favorite chair. We talked about dogs, and my mother, and the election, and the emerging vaccines, and everything about which she had an opinion – which was, really, everything. And I left reluctantly, nurtured by my strongest connection to the dog world.
There will never be anyone like her. My heart is with her dear friends, who are as diverse as you can imagine! And Terry, her husband of 56 years. The up and downs may have been ferocious, but oh, what a ride!
Dore J. Levy
March 8, 2021 (International Women’s Day)