Max

My dog Max died two weeks ago.  Although his legs had begun to fail, he was otherwise in good health and spirits, and his passing was wholly unexpected.  We’d taken a long walk the day before and he’d been so full of joy!  Rushing ahead, leading the charge, till finally he was so spent he’d practically collapsed.  He woke us early the next morning, about 3:30 am, crashing around downstairs.  My husband rose to let him out, thinking he had to go to the bathroom.  Max went out into the yard and laid down in the grass.  He wouldn’t get up, even after John called him several times.  His breathing was labored, his tongue hung to one side and his lips felt cold. Something was seriously wrong.

John came and got me, and together we went outside and rolled Max onto a blanket and carried his heavy (150 lb.) frame inside.  We placed him gently on the rug, then fetched blankets and pillows for ourselves.  We laid, side by side, as if on a camping trip.  Petting him, speaking to him, sensing – somehow – that this was the end.  Just shy of 4:30 his breathing became almost imperceptible, punctuated only by a few deep gasps. He didn’t seem to be in any pain. John woke the girls in time for them to say goodbye. And then Max was gone.

His swift departure has left a hole in the heart of my family.  Max lived with us his entire life, from 7 weeks to almost 10 years.  He grew up side by side with our daughters, and neither can remember life without him.

We miss him terribly.  But even in death Max remains a steadfast presence in our lives.  I see him when I walk the woods, I feel him beside me at the beach.  Each morning as I rise, I meet him in the hallway where we parted, and every meal I fail to finish I take out to his yard.  2 weeks ago, Max died, and we buried him under the apple tree.  And next year, when flowers bloom from his grave, I will think of him all the more.

A dear neighbor gave us a book of poems to help us through our loss.  Many are consoling, some difficult to even read, but the one which has touched me the most was written by Rudyard Kipling and is entitled Four-Feet.

I have done mostly what most men do,
And pushed it out of my mind;
But I can’t forget, if I wanted to,
Four-Feet trotting behind.

Day after day, the whole day through —
Wherever my road inclined —
Four-feet said, “I am coming with you!”
And trotted along behind.

Now I must go by some other round, —
Which I shall never find —
Somewhere that does not carry the sound
Of Four-Feet trotting behind.

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31 thoughts on “Max

  1. I still grieve for Timmo, a delightful Tuxedo cat who truly behaved as though I was the most wonderful of all God’s creatures. (I felt the same about him.) He died at age 4, way too young for a cat, but he’d probably been born with the feline leukemia virus, so there was nothing I could do.

    I have a dog now, Mimi, and I’m already reminding myself that dogs don’t live as long as cats. But I know it’s not the years that matter, it’s the quality of the time we spend with them.

    Thanks for telling us about Max.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your story. Every now and again, I upset myself knowing that our little doggie will someday leave us. I can’t imagine how you are feeling but I hope you are OK. I bet Max had a great life with you.

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    1. Thanks TG. Like you, I used to sometimes think about Max passing. But when his time came, I realized nothing could have prepared me for the loss. So don’t waste of moment of time even thinking about it — just accept death as an inevitability, something you’ll be equipped to deal with at a later time, and get out and enjoy the here & now!

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  3. “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – I’m so sorry for your loss. Max certainly sounds as if he brought much love and happiness to your family.

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    1. Thanks so much, Rob. What a lovely way of putting it. Having a dog has been the closest I’ve come to knowing the true meaning of generosity and friendship, and I am a better person for having had Max in my life. xo

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  4. :,-(. I’ve been thinking about you and hoping things are getting easier as each day goes by. I know how hard it was for you to write this post, but I’m sure, in a small way, it has helped.

    I love the picture of Max, it shows how adventurous he must have been. And your daughters’ poem is precious! As far as the poem by Rudyard Kipling, thank you for sharing. I am going to print it and put it on my fridge along with my collection of photos I have of Bodie.

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    1. It was very hard to write this. I sobbed throughout, and at points nearly stopped. But you’re so right, Tammy. It did help.

      The little thing Georgia wrote – I hadn’t seen it before Max died. I found it in a pile of papers on Friday, and it’s really what propelled me to write this post. I’d been wanting to badly, but hadn’t worked up the words or courage to do so. Max’s loss has been one of the most gut-wrenching experiences of my life. But if he taught me anything, it’s to embrace life and live it to its fullest – as only a dog can!

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  5. Oh, Christy, wow. I wish I knew what to say… I like what Rob said about making life whole, and I feel that way about animals in general. (I know you do, too!) He was a beautiful, and greatly loved, member of your family and you gave him exactly what he needed when he most needed you. Rest in peace, Max.

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    1. Thank you, Hayden. It’s amazing how much Max taught me during our time together. And even at the end, he showed me how to die with dignity, and without fear. I’ll never forget that – or him.

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  6. So sorry to hear of your loss of Max. You never forget them or stop missing them. I remember when our previous Poodle passed away. That was 2 1/2 years ago now & we still miss her dearly. She was a rescued dog from a very neglected state & we were happy to spoil her rotten for the 6 years that we had her with us. She was 10 when she passed away.
    Max looks like he was a beautiful dog. RIP Max

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    1. Tony, I still think about the bevy of pets I’ve lost over the years. And thankfully, time does heal the rawness of their passing. Isn’t it wonderful how, even years later, something will trigger a memory and you can smile again, almost reliving it?

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  7. Ellingsworths w/o Max: now, there is a void like a doughnut hole rolling around loose & needing a place to fit in. Max is fitting in in doggie heaven. He always had a joyous attitude toward life, especially when he was in the middle of whatever y’all were doing. Max is God’s treasure that He shared with each of you (one of many treasures). Those were special, intimate moments of adventure exploring the meaning of life through his eyes. Your loss is my loss too, for he was an instant character and friend, Kate

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    1. Thank you, Kate. Max loved Maine and all he found here, including you. The past year and a half have been up and down for him — after we left Philly he took a turn for the worse, but by the time we moved into the house, he was BACK. It’s a real consolation knowing his last year was perhaps the best of his life. I’m just sorry he couldn’t stay longer. But I know, one day, we’ll all be together again.

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  8. I felt such sorrow when I read about Max’s death. I remember Max as a puppy when he would play in the “front yard” next door on Springfield Ave. And other memories as he grew (and grew!).
    My heart goes out to you.
    Love, Ron & Mike, Buddy & Jack

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  9. Ron, thank you & Mike for allowing us the pleasure of taking Max to the cabin one last time. When we were there in September, he was so HAPPY! The brook was one of his very favorite places and BOY did he take advantage of the time. Almost to the point of lameness — Max was so stubborn! He just got in that water and would NOT GET OUT. HAHahhahah — thank you both so much for your love and your friendship. We can’t go back to the old times, but thank goodness they live on in memory. XO

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    1. Thanks, S.Le. PS: I’ve been meaning to ask again, is there any way you can enable email subscription on the new blog? I don’t do feed reading and know I’m going to miss everything if I’m not signed up. THANK YOU IN ADVANCE – hah!

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  10. If it is the Crabapple tree Max is under, he may get a bellyache from so many of those apples. But hey, as far as being in the middle of the chipmunks jumping off the rock wall, the birds flocking by the dozens eating at the bird feeders, and the wild turkeys strolling by, Max couldn’t be in a better place to watch the goins on. Besides, it is his duty to watch over all of you and to protect you from any wild beasts coming from Dole’s Mountain. Rest in peace alittle, Max.

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    1. Hah! Abbie, Max was always in the middle of everything and we didn’t want him to feel left out, even in death. So that was the perfect final resting place! The chipmunks, squirrels and turkeys considered him one of their own. He’d be resting there quietly watching them all, they never paid him the least bit of mind as they went about grazing in the yard. They’ve been around extra since his passing; I like to think they’re keeping me company now.

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  11. Christie,
    I’m just catching up on blogs and so sad by your news! We remember Max fondly here on Beaumont Ave. What a great dog he was: protector, overseer, friend. My heart breaks for you.

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    1. Jane, so sorry I missed seeing you when I was in Philly. It was a regular Beaumont block party! HAH! Thank you for your lovely words. It’s a tribute to Max that he’s missed by so many. XO

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