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Losing a Family Pet

February 4, 2010

Last night, our family experienced the profound loss of a family pet. Max was my family’s dog for nearly 11 years. He was a golden retriever who loved life, his people, fellow dogs, food, swimming in the family pool, and chasing tennis balls. He was every dogs’ (and cats’) best friend. He was gentle and loving, the sweetest dog I’ve known.

I am fortunate that I have yet to experience the loss of one of my own dogs, Casey and Romeo. I cannot imagine that day. But the sorrow I feel now about Max is, what I imagine, pretty close to what it will feel like.

My talented sister, Sari, expressed perfectly our feelings about Max and what he meant to our family. With that, I’d like to share with you below Sari’s Ode to Max. After reading it, I hope you get a glimpse of what a special dog he was and why he will be missed so much.

Max and Casey (2005)

To Max,

In birth, a dog.

In death, a legend.

They say that the best place to bury a dog is in the heart of its master.  Well, if my heart were big enough for Max, this would be a great idea.  But even though I loved Max with all of me – my bones, my skin, my heart, my soul – I am fairly certain that Max loved more. And not just me.  He loved everyone and everything.  He was delighted by crickets.  He barked at leaves dancing by the window.  It wasn’t just that either. Everyone and everything loved him back.  Our sleek and savvy cat would lay curled up next to Max after he had surgery on his leg and couldn’t romp about as he normally would.  My sister’s dog, who seems to hold a wary distrust of everyone but her, spent hours cleaning Max’s eyes.  My own puppy once woke Max up at 3 a.m. to start a (very loud) play session.  And when she was less than a year old, my niece would lie on the floor patting Max’s nose while he laid still and calm, pleased to be on the receiving end of this baby’s touch.

From the moment we picked Max out of the litter in 1999, we all fell in love with him.  It was clear early on that he was an extraordinary dog.  He cracked us up on a daily basis.  He sensed emotional situations.  If I or anyone else in my family was sick or depressed, Max found his way onto the bed and wouldn’t leave our sides.  He was the embodiment of devotion.

Always up for anything, Max loved to live.  If you opened the pool cover, even a foot, even in the coldest weather, Max would drop a ball in, bark at it, and eventually go in after it.  He inhaled everything we fed him.  I don’t think any of us ever saw him chew anything.  He would position himself directly underfoot at all times in the kitchen, knowing that sooner or later, a morsel would drop and he would sigh contentedly.  When other dogs came around, he embraced them with gusto.  Even when he was older and would only lay on the floor, playfully growling and swatting the other dog around with his paws, his playmate jumped all around him, thrilled to be in the vicinity of “Uncle Max.”  He was ready for action at all times, regardless of whether his physical state could handle it.  The doctors told us he had bad legs and truth be told, he stood bow-legged like a cowboy for most of his life, but Max never showed pain.  If he thought he would have fun doing something, he would go for it full force, regardless of whether or not it was a good idea.

More than anything else though, Max loved us.  He loved us with every golden hair on his enormous body.  Every wag of the tail seemed to say, “Where have you been? I have missed you so.”  He would have done anything for us and us for him.  We loved him with everything we had and when it was time to let him go, our hearts swelled with the agony of such a thing.

The thing about owning a dog is that they bring you such mass amounts of joy.  They fill your life in ways no human being could.  They become ingrained in your perception of the world.  So when they must go, it seems they take parts of us along with them.  I know there are people who, upon losing a beloved pet, say they will never own another, that they can’t bear the pain of losing another friend.  To them, I would only mention that this point of view means that all the joy your pet brought to you was not worth it in the end, when his inevitable departure separated you.

It is worth it.  Owning and loving a dog opens your heart in a special way.  When they leave, it is excruciating.  But the memories of your time together are endless.  The memories never die.  Instead, they are warmth on cold nights; cool breezes on hot nights; and the full moon, giving light on the darkest nights.

We will miss you so much, sweet Max.  You gave us so much in the 10 ½ years we had you and for that, and for so many other tiny things, we will love you forever.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Darwinsgi permalink
    February 4, 2010 11:32 pm

    Im so sorry! I think I interrupted you trying to tell me this today.

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