The Max Factor – The Final Chapter…

March 3, 2013

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I sit at my keyboard with reddened eyes and tear streaked cheeks, in mourning and in gratitude. 

Mourning because my nearly constant companion and best buddy over the last three years, one week and one day, Max, is gone.

Gratitude because I thank God for seeing fit to finagle  a way  bring us together in the first place.

Max was, as any of you who love dogs will understand, part of the family. He was just about the happiest dog I ever met. No matter what, he always had a joyful demeanor and the look to go along with it… (See above – He almost always looked like that when he was awake.)

Except, perhaps, when he was taking a bath…

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Or pointing at something…

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For which he was trained at an early age…

Or when he was just feeling lazy, or patiently waiting for me to acknowledge him or say “Ya wanna go for a walk outside?”

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He loved hiking in the woods…

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No matter what the weather…

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Even better if he was with a friend…

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And even if he had a frozen butt…

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He loved having fun in the snow, though he never quite got the concept of “mush!”…

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He loved hanging out with the family…

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And running in the back yard…

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He even liked Panther, though she only learned to tolerate him…

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And he had an affinity for waste baskets, though he never admitted it – even when he got caught he would give us the “who? Me?” look…

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He loved helping me work in the yard…

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He stuck by my side all day every day. While I was working in my office, he was right there beside my desk. I kept treats for him there, and every couple of hours I would ask him “You want a treat?”

Treat was one of the words he knew best… He never refused one. Even an hour before he died, he would still eat a treat, and be happy about it.

Max loved everything about life, I think. He was still a puppy at heart, though not in body. He kinda reminded me of my brother-in-law, Jeff, that way…

And kinda like me, too…

Being a “senior” dog (He was 13 when he died) when he first came to live with us, he had some arthritis in his hips. We spent thousands of hours massaging those hips, and happily so. He loved it. He would come up to us and we would scratch his head for about 15 seconds, and then he would start walking until his rear end was swung around and facing us, ready to be rubbed.

He loved our daily/nightly walks around the neighborhood… And he loved hiking with us in the back yard… And he always was a “puller”. No matter what mood he was in, once he was on a leash and walking around the neighborhood or the woods or anyplace else, he became a puppy again. He had to sniff everything that was associated with another animal, and when he wasn’t sniffing, he was dragging us along the path. 

And he would eat anything he could wrap his jaws around…

Until the last three days…

Every morning, he would be lying down outside our bedroom door, waiting for us to exit. And waiting for the magic word, “breakfast!”. Thursday, the 28th, I walked out and  announced  “breakfast time for Max!” as I proceeded down the hallway toward the doggie diner. . I fixed his breakfast and noticed that he wasn’t behind me waiting. I just figured that he would get to it when he felt like it.

Later that day I came downstairs for lunch, and I noticed that he hadn’t touched his breakfast. Alarm bells went off in my head, but I let it go.

Then, after work, I got him ready for a walk around the neighborhood. He was, as usual, excited about that and we started off. He wasn’t pulling me along. And he wasn’t sniffing. More alarm bells.

When we got back, I noticed that he had vomited in four places. 

At that point, I was really worried. When Judy got home, we talked about it and decided she would take him to the vet on Friday morning.

Judy and I stayed up with Max until 5:00 the next morning, trying to make him comfortable. At 9:30, Judy got him in to see the vet. They ran several tests and called Judy about noon. 

Long story short, Max was in critical condition with advanced liver cancer and in acute pain. We were crushed. They had him medicated with pain killers, and suggested they keep him overnight on IVs and check on him in the morning.

We talked about it and asked if we could bring him home and take care of him here, especially since no one would be there with him overnight. And we thought we could keep a better eye on him anyway.

They were wonderful. As long as he had no IVs inserted, we could bring him home. We picked him up at about 5:00 in the afternoon, along with several doses of the pain killer and an empathetic conversation with a wonderful nurse and doctor. But we knew that we would bring him back the next morning, and he would not be returning home with us again…

We wanted to make sure that his last night would be as comfortable and filled up with as many of his favorite things as we could… And it tore us up inside… He was in pain, his breathing was extremely labored and he couldn’t get or keep anything down.

We took him for his last walk around the neighborhood – it was slow and tough on Judy and me, but he enjoyed it…

Coming down our driveway, Max starts out on his last romp around the neighborhood.. His typically happy self..

Coming down our driveway, Max starts out on his last romp around the neighborhood.. His typically happy self..

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Last night, Judy and I both slept next to Max’s bed, in front of the fireplace. Not so much sleep, actually. We spent the night being with him, petting his head and stroking his back, talking to him, telling him what a good dog he is and how much we love him and going outside with him when he needed to go outside. And trying to get pain killers down his throat. We would pet him until he fell asleep, and his breathing became somewhat easier, and then wait for him to wake up again and start over.

The next morning at about 7:30, I took him for his last walk around the back yard. I cried most of the way…

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Then he rested in the piano room…

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And played ‘hide and seek’ under the piano…

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It was time to go…

We arrived at the vet hospital and met the nurse on the back side of the building. Eventually, we got into the room, where they had laid out a fluffy, soft blanket on the floor. Max knew what to do with that, so he got comfortable. I laid down on the floor close beside him, put my arm around him, facing him, each of us looking into each others eyes. Judy on the other side of him on a short chair, caressing his back while I stroked his head and neck area, speaking to him just above a whisper when I wasn’t choking up.

The nurse came into the room to flush out the catheter on his leg and make sure it was open. She asked if we would like a few more minutes. I said, “no. but if you can arrange it, we would like to have a few more years.” The nurse began to tear up and left to get the doctor…

After a few minutes, the doctor came in and re-explained what was going to happen.

She said, “I know that making this decision was the hardest thing you’ve ever done.”

“No,” I managed to get out, “This is the second hardest thing I have ever done. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is to observe the reason I did the second hardest.”

She paused a moment with a thoughtful look on her face…

Finally, she nodded her head in agreement and said, “Are you ready?”

Judy and I both answered, “Yes,” and I started talking to Max again while she retrieved the needle..

Both of us stroking Max’s now shaking body, I spoke into his ear, repeating the words he had come to know over the past three years. “You are such a good doggy, Max. What a good boy. You”re my best buddy and my best friend, Max. I love you, Max.”

One difference this time… I ended withI Love You, Max… Goodbye, Max…”

He stopped shaking. He stopped his labored breathing. He went limp. Judy and I both broke down…

It was exactly 10:00 AM…

Sometimes “goodbye” is the toughest love of all…

We had previously agreed to talk about something else on the way home, just so we could get home in one piece. I couldn’t help myself and started to say something about the events of the past three days when Judy interrupted me with “How about them Bears, huh?”

That got us home. As we walked into the house, I almost yelled out my, now, customary “Helloooooo Max!” but caught myself.

It didn’t matter – we both fell apart anyway. We wrapped each other in a consoling hug and regained our composure. Then we started gathering Max’s beds, toys and other things… More crying and consoling…

This has gone on the entire day. We are still very emotional about it. I am a wimp, but I think that in this case I can afford to be.

There is a sign in Max’s feeding room, above his full food bowl. Judy reached for it and I stopped her. I wanted to keep it there…

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It’s still there…

Thank you, Lord, for bringing Max into our lives. Thank you for the joy he brought us.

Thank you for the laughter, the games of ‘fetch the duck’ and ‘keep away’ and a thousand other moments of fun and games.

Thank you for the buddy to take on a hike, always ready to hop into the car and take off for adventures unknown.

Thank you for allowing us into Max’s life – to give him a place and a family by whom to be loved, and to make his “golden” years a time of joy and security…

And thank you for the pain and grief we are feeling now – because from that we know that love exists…

I have often pondered, over the past three years, one week and one day, the fact that “God” spelled in reverse is “dog”. If God is love, and I believe He is, then can it be said that “Love is dog”?

Today, you would have a hard time convincing me otherwise…

Max going back up our driveway alone, ahead of us, after our last walk together around the neighborhood...We Love You, Max... Goodbye, Max...

Max going back up our driveway alone, ahead of us, after our last walk together around the neighborhood…
We Love You, Max… Goodbye, Max…

*If there is an ad below, I didn’t put it there… It’s a WordPress thing.

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3 Responses to “The Max Factor – The Final Chapter…”

  1. Fran Simmons Chmura Says:

    Bill, I couldn’t stop crying when I read your story. I’m so sorry for your loss, as I am a dog love as well. Actually our whole family is. Thanks for sharing your story and pictures and feelings…Fran

  2. Karen Says:

    Big giant hugs to you both. Cherish the memories. xoxo

  3. Louise DeLaney Says:

    Oh my. I can’t wait to meet you, Bill and Judy. Max was a very lucky dog to have you in his life. I have gone through what you have. It’s a very hard path to walk. That is why I have become
    an American Brittany Rescue and Foster Parent, and I have 2 resident Britts because 1 was not enough!! LOL! Dodger is waiting to meet you 🙂

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