He was found about 12-and-a-half years ago at a shelter called Stray From the Heart. He was roughly 3 to 4 months old and was literally hours from being euthanized. Our son found him and saved him and Max showed his appreciation every day for the life he was given.
See Max and I had a lot in common: We both started out city dogs and ended up country dogs. We were athletic, then got fat, then got athletic again. Max and I were meant to be together. But if I was going to tell an honest tale I would have to tell you that Max was a miserable puppy: He’d chew through walls, CD collections, slippers, shoes, pants ... he once ate an entire car, I think. He was no fun to be around. But thankfully our son (Shu) had to suffer through a majority of that and eventually (after 3 years) got him trained. Every time Shu would go away, my wife Vickie would insist that we take the long drive down to New York to get him so he didn’t have to spend time in a city shelter. Begrudgingly, I would agree and we’d go get him. He’d spend a week or two in Vermont and then we’d bring him back.
Eventually our son found a wife and created a life that included children. Shu loved this dog more than life itself, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to care for Max properly. One day after a long talk with my wife Vickie, I spoke with Shu. I told him that if he wanted us to take Max we would. He suggested that maybe we could take him for the winter. I told him if Max stays with us longer than three weeks it would take an act of Congress to get Max back. Shu knew that, and he agreed that the best thing for Max was a country life. So to Vermont he came.
Max came to work with me every day. We called him Max the Radio Dog and Station Greeter. This dog had more personality than most of the people I know. When he was a younger pup I used to take him on my runs with me, and as he got older he hung back at the homestead and awaited my return. But it wasn’t just me he loved, he loved my wife. We could be walking in the field a half mile from the house and he would tear home to greet her. It was a process; at first he’d hear the car -- ears up, then see the car -- head up (we would call this giraffe neck), then slowly walk in the general direction. I would start yelling, "NO MAX" and "STAY" and "MAAAXXXX." Then he’d look back at me as if to say, "That woman is not arriving home to an empty house." With the same speed as he had when he was a puppy he was gone, making a beeline for my wife.
If you read my column on a regular basis, then you know about six weeks ago we pulled him back from the brink of death after an emergency operation. His last six weeks were epic. He barked, played and cuddled more than in the previous five-and-a-half years we had him. He was back -- the old Max that was full of energy and life.
But because he had cancer, it wasn’t going to last and at 10 on Monday morning all that life left him. A light that I once thought would never burn out was gone. My heart, my wife’s heart, my son’s heart were broken. It’s true what they say: Every time a pet goes they take a piece of you with them. He took a lot of me, but he left a lot too.
Less than 24 hours before Max was gone, he got to play with Trevor, our neighbor’s 3-month-old pup. Max loved to play with puppies. He was so good with them; he truly loved them and exhibited as much energy as the puppy he was playing with. I’ll miss that about him as well as the love and devotion that he showed us. This hurts so much, but the calendar heals everything and one day we’ll replace the tears with laughs.
Man’s best friend ... it’s true! If you don’t believe it, here’s a little experiment. Lock your dog and your spouse in a car trunk for an hour and when you open it, which one is going to be happy to see you? What the Hell is up with that?