My last post on the blog was about writing. I wrote about a technical topic because my emotions were in turmoil. Behind the scenes that week, I was grieving; my dog was dying of cancer. That day, we helped him over that last hurdle.
I had all of these emotions inside of me: love, loss, and grief. I couldn’t bear to write about him then, but four weeks later, I want to remember Max through words and pictures.
Max was a noble beast. He looked like a lab pit bull mix, but Bernie declared him a “Lord Cheltenham terrier” to impress the fancy breed owners at the dog park. He was 11 years old when we learned he had cancer last February, technically a senior, but we felt robbed. We were hoping for a few more years with him. Thanks to the wonder drug prednisone, we got six more months with him after learning the diagnosis.
There was nothing extraordinary about Max; he never learned any tricks -- no fetch, no shake hands, no speak. Yet we found him to be a wise old soul, almost from the very beginning. In retrospect, his best trick was training us.
Since Bernie is retired and I am not, he and Max spent a lot of time together and they became well known as a couple. They spent their days together at the dog park and napping or working in the yard. I saw a funny resemblance in Max and Bernie’s facial expressions and they really seemed to have similar moods and emotions. Max’s bark even reminded me of Bernie’s voice. (His death has been doubly tough on Bernie.)
Max acquired champagne tastes, favoring triple crème brie as an evening appetizer and beef tips and chicken tenders sautéed in broth for dinner. For two empty nesters like us, Max could just look at us with those soulful eyes and bark softly, a kind of "Rrrrufff" and we would respond. “Good people,” I imagine him thinking.
(I am so appreciative of our friends and family who humored our eccentricity all these years.) At every holiday event or family celebration, he is front and center, a funny uncle in our family photos.
Once Max convinced us that he was too special to leave behind in a kennel, vacations became motor trips in the US. We found great (and some not so great) dog friendly cabins in the mountains in New York, West Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Our best adventure was a cross-country drive to see my nephew (another crazy dog lover) in Oregon.
It’s been four weeks now and our grief has waned to occasional sighs. But the house still feels like something is missing: the corner of the living room, the bottom of the bed, under the dining room table and so many places bear his shadow. I come home from work to a loving husband, but I miss the barking and happy face that made me feel special and needed.
Being needed -- I think that’s what a dog gives you. Some people look at them as burdens, but they give so much in return. As much as walking in the cold weather at night is not at the top of my list, I miss it so. Strolling at peeing pace, enjoying the changing seasons, noticing the moon and stars, meeting an occasional skunk or possum, and just being happy in the moment with Max.
I’m ending this post with a photo essay to show you a slice of our life with Max. You’ll know the song well; it’s a classic. I have sung this song to Max with slightly different lyrics, replacing one important word. You will know what it is. The words seem a perfect description of the dog-people love story to me.
Sing it to your dog and you will see what I mean.
My Dog from Christine Brady on Vimeo.