On January 31st at 4:00 p.m., we had to put our family dog of 12 years, to sleep. He was diagnosed with liver cancer and his quality of life had greatly diminished. He was hardly eating, extremely uncomfortable and I could tell he was experiencing some pain. We were worried about him over the last few weeks and I had flown home to be with him. Over the course of my lifetime, we have had many pets. I have had other dogs, cats, ferrets, rats and even reptiles, yet no other pet has affected my life the way Max has. The greatest emotional attachment I have had to any of my pets, I experienced with him. He has been the greatest gift anyone has ever given to me and to know that he is gone is heartbreaking.
I have never actually been present when a pet of mine has passed away. Most of the outside cats have just vanished, the smaller animals didn’t affected me as much (though I was still sad) and my three dogs all died peacefully in their sleep. We have put other animals down due to cancer or fatal injuries, but I have never been there for those. Most of the deaths of our pets occurred during my years at university and my residency in NYC. Getting a phone call that a pet has died is always hard, but I guess it actually softened the blow because I didn’t see them. With Max, however, I was with him at the end. I owed him that, but it was so hard. Seeing the light go out of his eyes and looking at his tiny body on his favourite pillow, so silent and still, was one of the most painful images I have ever seen.
Max was a different kind of pet. He had been given to me by my boyfriend, who then became my fiancé. Even though he and I are no longer together, we shared a common interest in the dog. He would call from time to time, just to check on the puppy and see how he was doing. I loved Max to pieces and I know he did as well. When when found out Max had liver cancer, I called him right away and he was devastated. He told me that whatever the dog needed, he would be glad to help. I know that he wanted to be with Max in his last days, but he respected that we aren’t together and let him be with us. I appreciated that.
Even though Maximus was my dog, he loved my mother the most. Since I was moving around so much, my mother offered to take him and look after him. The plan was for me to take him back when I settled, but I couldn’t take him away from my mother after she was so attached. It was hard, but I relented because I knew that they could take better care of him than even I could. And they did, they spoiled him rotten. Even though this experience has left me devastated, I know that it can not even hold a candle to the pain my mother is experiencing.
I have scoured the internet, look for words to help me describe what I feel right now. I’m not going to write a poem, I’m no poet. I have photographs of him, but I’m not a photographer. I could draw him, but I’m planning on painting a canvas for my mother. She was the one who was with him the longest and she is the one who he depended on the most. So how can I bring some closure to his death?
For me, the best way is to write to him.
It was always you who greeted me, not so patiently at the door when I came home. Tail wagging, nose pressed up against the glass leaving marks to let me know you had been ever so vigilant. Your excitement to see me, even after I had just ventured out to get the mail, was so infectious that it made me happy to see myself. Your loyalty was unfaltering, up the stairs and down the stairs, curled up at my feet or sitting quietly by my side. You were my little, courageous protector through all those nights I was alone. You made me feel safe, you kept me warm and you made the house feel more like a home.
The personality that you contained in your small being, was greater than most people I know. You were such a lover, so playful and the smartest dog I have ever seen. You understood so much, probably even more than we gave you credit for. With every click-clicking of your nails on the floor, I was comforted to know that you were there. You brought me joy with every bark and howl, even at 3 in the morning.
Maximus, my puppy. I hope that you know that everyone loved you. You were the most amazing gift I have ever been given. No dog will ever live up to you and I will think about you constantly. You have given me some of my best memories, which will last me a lifetime. You have brought such an amazing amount of love into my heart, which is where you will always be.
I love you Max and I will miss you.