31 May 2012

Losing Max


Yesterday, we lost our very good dog Max to our county road and a tractor trailer.  Obviously it's all very fresh in my mind, writing has always been cathartic.

I wish I had better news for May.  We lost one gosling to something, I think maybe pasty butt, but it was hard to tell.  I found him in the pasture.  George and Gracie were very upset.  We lost Groucho, Holly's ram lamb to uclerative posthitis (sheath rot) -- caused by an unknown reason, we think it was congenital-- because he wasn't castrated, eating a ton of grain, alfalfa hay or a long wool breed.  By the time his condition was apparent; it was too late to ease his suffering or save him.  Then we adopted a 20 year old gray parrot much to the entire family's joy and found she had a contagious avian disease and couldn't really be around children and our farm flock; so her previous owner took her back home again.

But the worst part was losing Max.  Max was my reliable dog.  The one who never needed a lead because he never left the presence of us or the children for more than a doggie distance and was instantly called back again.  His official job was guarding the children while they were playing; herding the children of friends; keeping the rooster and potential intruders from the boys while they played.   If I kept him in when they went out; he couldn't stand it.  He would run under the trampoline and bark while they jumped.  He run circles around them while they rode their bikes, scooters and toy vehicles in the driveway.  While he helped with chores he was never far away and monitored the chickens.  He ate way too much chicken poop.

Unlike Shep, Max always responded to commands.  He even put himself in the crate if he had an accident.  In the mornings he and I were the only ones up at 5:30 and we had our routine.  Shep slept in with my husband.  It was OUR time, because Shep really can't sit still while someone else is getting attention.  So I would let him out to do his duty; give him his clean water, putter around and then get my iced coffee and he would wait for his ice cube.  Both dogs come to attention at the icemaker....why I don't know, they just love them.  Then he would lay himself across the kitchen floor on his back and wait for his foot massage (i.e., me to rub him with my foot and pet his tummy) and tell him what a good boy he was.  And he was a very good boy.

I've lost all my relatives to death save my children, husband and a pair of aunts, uncles and a handful of cousins.  Mother, father, grandparents, my dearest and closest Aunt, I've buried all of them within the last 30 years.  I'm not unfamiliar with it.  We've had losses here on the farm too, they are inevitable despite sometimes herculean efforts.

But losing Max was hard on a lot of levels.  He was only 18 months old.  He was a gift to us from the breeder for our son who before we got the dogs was terrified of dogs.  He was the only survivor of his litter, the rest of whom had died due to carbon monoxide poisoning by being in the same room with a leaky furnace.  He was only upstairs with the family at the time because he was the runt and getting picked on too much.  Because he was small and we were also buying Shep, the breeder said "take him, as a gift to your son, everyone should have a canine friend growing up."

He was small; and couldn't control his bladder for more than three seconds until about 3 months ago.  My husband and daughter carried him around like a baby the first few months.  "You're going to spoil him," I would say. 

We fell in love with him, his one goofy floppy ear, the constant accidents, even the eating of chicken poop; he was still our Max.  He was Shep's good friend despite their doggie dominance issues.  Even the cat loved Max....he was her willing playmate and sparring partner.

He wasn't old enough or sick enough to leave us. 

I don't know why he crossed that road, he had only done it one other time and had such a close call we thought it had scared him good.  Either way he always stayed with the boys; they were his charge.  Maybe it's because my boys were too close to the road where they shouldn't be and it was too tempting.  I don't know. 

I do know I keep playing it back in my mind over and over again; hearing the sound I later realized was the squealing brakes of a big rig with a construction trailer on the back; the screaming of one of my sons, the fear of thinking it could be one of the children and then the yowling of a dog in shock and pain; running barefoot out the door only to see his little black body in the road at the end of the driveway and screaming the entire way; pulling him out of the road; hoping for less than a second that we might save him; and then seeing there was no way such a thing would be possible and comforting him into the next world; so very, very sorry, Max, so very, very sorry.  Oh Max.

In all things; ALL things, we are to give thanks to God.  I can't thank God for taking Max from us.

I can thank him that it wasn't one of my children; that no humans were injured or killed as the driver tried to stop and swerve, or as I pulled him from the road some unknowing driver didn't come over the blind crest before our house and hit me too.  I can thank him that it was over fast for Max, he didn't suffer more than minutes.  I can thank him that the driver was a kind and compassionate man; who felt awful about what had happened, cared enough to stop and help me get him onto the grass; and who apologized.  I let him know how grateful I was that he stopped; and how I understood he had done nothing wrong.  Max shouldn't have been there and you can't stop a big rig on a dime.  I can thank him that my daughter's boyfriend helped me dig the grave in our hard, rocky ground and that my daughter and her friend were here to help when my husband was out of town at such a difficult time.  That my boys although grieved and witnesses to the event are young and resilient; and that they take comfort in Max being with angels, with no cumbersome collar, running and playing in the great chicken poop filled pasture in the sky. 

As with the loss of our human loved ones, the tears are mostly selfish ones for ourselves and our losses; and what will never be.

I can thank God for having given us 18 wonderful, funny and joyful months with Max.

But I grieve.  And like with the loss of people, it's the little moments that hit you.  Last night it was only needing to fill one water dish; seeing the empty crate; doing chores and thinking I heard him coming up behind me; unconsciously listening for the sound of his jingling tags on his collar; Shep looking and wondering where his good friend is.

I grieve.


  1. I'm so sorry about Max, June! He was a beautiful dog! Warm Blessings to you all!

  2. I am so sorry for your loss! I hope the boys don't blame themselves and can heal from the trauma of witnessing the accident. Eighteen months is SO not long enough...