We said goodbye to a dear friend yesterday – our dog, Max.
Almost 13 years ago this small abandoned puppy found us. I had just put down my dog of 11 years and was not ready to accept it, but who could say no to the beautiful eyes of my children who pleaded, “Can we keep him?! Can we keep him?! Pleeeeeaaaaaasssssseeeeeeeee!” As a family we named him, Maximus but Emmy (at 1 1/2 years old) could only pronounce “Mackz” – so we went with Max.
As an outside dog, Max took his job seriously as the protector of his family. If ever something or someone came too close to our yard, he would charge the fence and produce such the fiercest growls I’ve ever heard. Those were meant to let them know he would tear them apart if they were trying to hurt his family.
“No sir, this place, this yard, this family, IS OFF LIMITS!”
Max didn’t bark to just bark, he meant it. Even our neighbors mentioned if they heard Max bark, they knew there were people out front. Didn’t matter that they were just walking/exercising. Max saw you and let you know.
When I traveled and called home, Liz would mention she might have heard a noise. I would confidently ask, “Where’s Max? Is he barking?”
“No, he’s sleeping in the yard.”
“Then there’s nothing out there.” That would immediately calm Liz.
“¡Es muy Bravo, El Mackz!” My Mom would say – God rest her soul she would always use Emmy’s young pronunciation.
But his fierceness was only equaled by his playful nature with our kids. Like all family dogs, Max was more like a kid; he had many toys in the backyard, a purple ball, two soccer balls and a Tonka dump truck. When the kids went out to play, he’d grab his truck and run around the yard with it. But his favorite was the purple ball. We’d throw it across the yard and he would fetch it, drop it at our feet and look up playfully, almost saying, “Again!”
Back in Feb 2013 we took Max to our Vet because he had injured himself somehow – he couldn’t walk. We were sent home with an arthritis diagnosis, some pain medications and Max bounced right back. But three months later, Max must’ve re-aggravated the injury. Back to Vet we went but after two days, he was getting weaker, still in pain and would just lay in one spot in the yard. A weak bark would escape him if he heard the “walkers” up front though. We set up another appointment with the Vet and Joaquin and I dropped him off Tuesday morning in the hopes they could help him. Later that morning, the Vet called to tell me, “It was time.”
We gathered at the Vet’s office later that day to comfort Max and say goodbye. Max weakly wagged his tail and although still shivering from the pain, he obediently stayed close to Joaquin, finding comfort in the arms of his Master. As we all stroked his fur, Liz read a prayer and Joaquin asked if he could be there alone with his dog and we agreed. When the Vet came in, Liz and Emma said their teary goodbyes and left the room. I told my son I would wait outside, then reached over, scratched Max behind one ear and mouthed, “Goodbye dear friend.”
I hugged Liz and Emma before they left for home, then waited outside in the parking lot for Joaquin. Soon after, the door opened and I watched my 17-year-old son, walk towards me carefully cradling his dog as tears streamed down his cheeks. Rapidly blinking and lump forming in my throat, I put on a brave face watching my young man bravely face a tough moment in his young life. He gently laid Max down in our truck and I embraced my son. His strong hug finally squeezed the tears out of me and through sobs I told him, “I know Max was very happy to be with you at the end.” “I know Dad,” he sobbed. We stood there hugging, faces buried deep into each other, comforting each other and after a few minutes, we took deep breaths, wiped our noses with the back of our hands then drove home with tear filled eyes.
I was hurting but it was rough to see my children hurt as well.
At home, Joaquin carried Max to the backyard and as a family, we buried him under the Mesquite tree behind our fence. My heart swells with the love I have for my son and his dog. Joaquin stayed with Max until the end.
† Max, you were one of the best dogs we’ve ever had be part of this family. Whatever dog is guarding the pearly gates of Heaven better look out, there’s a tough smart candidate on his way that wants the job.
PS. The tree he’s buried under was always being used by those pesky squirrels to get into our yard, I won’t be surprised if I hear a muffled, “Ruff” from the area.