When The Dog Days Are Over

Dogs are pretty amazing.  Without a doubt, the bond I often see my friends make with their four-legged friend makes me envious.  I want that.  But my schedule doesn’t allow for it.  And maybe that’s a good thing.  Especially when I look at these two stories, and am forced to realize that for all those happy hellos there comes a point when you have to say “Good bye”.

If you’re not moved to damn near tears after watching Last Minutes With Oden, then I posit you lack a heart.  Immediately make like the Tin Man and go see The Wizard of Oz to claim one.  Jason Wood allowed Phos Pictures to film a documentary of his dealing with having to make a tough call regarding his long time pal Oden.  Oden offered Jason salvation from his prison days with long lasting companionship and support.  Whether kicking addiction or making Jason’s day brighter, Oden was there.  Deeply moving.

But my first experience being hit in the heart with a hammer was in college.  Checking e-mail late one night, my friend Daniel surprised me and many friends with an open letter do his dog Max.  Much like Oden, it was Max’s time. Having actually known Max myself, Daniel’s words hit home.  I hope Daniel’s story, much like Jason Wood’s, feed your soul.

Subject: Vive El Max

I had been on my computer way too long the night before today.  I guess that would make it yesternight.  I was playing SUBMARINE CAPTAIN: HERO of THE WAR.  That would be the second war-to-end-all-wars.  Past the hum of the digitized diesel engine of the Gato class submarine, I heard the faint whine of my dog Max.  I got up and put the game on pause(a luxury most submarine commanders do not have), and walked to find Max lying on the lineoleum floor of our house’s doorway.  He looked his usual lethargic self, but I decided to play with him a while. Back in the days, playing with Max used to be the throwing of the frisbee or even the playing of softball(he would have made all-star Outfielder had it not been for his terrible arm and poor batting average). He would also swim in the lakes.  Any body of water was this golden retriever’s bath.

But last night the playing consisted of simple petting and rubbing.  It is a far cry from the Max of old, but  nonetheless I knew he enjoyed the attention. So while petting him I became alarmed.  You see, after petting a dog for fourteen years you get to know their “G- Spots”.  The spots where even the slightest pressure or rubbing would cause Max to either shake his leg or give a low hum of pleasure.  Max’s spots were right behind the ears and on his belly.  My concern started to rise when, after hitting Max’s spots, nothing would happen.  He would look at me with those super huge murky eyes and show me no sign of happiness.  I tried to feed him a piece of dried dog food, but he wouldn’t even try to eat it.  I tried again only this time with a piece of bread and he tried to eat it, but could not swallow the food.  I sat him up, and told him very matter-of-factly,”Max, you really need to eat this dear.”  And only then did he comply.  Pleased at having him eat something, I figured everything would be ok and went back to tearing up the Japanese Fleet.

Dad came in soon afterward saying two things,”Go to bed,” and “We’re taking Max to the Vet tomorrow, and we might have to put him asleep.  I figured you should know.”  Dad always seemed to be a bit of an alarmist, and I told him that it would probably not be necessary (still high on my recent success of getting him to eat a piece of bread).  So I discounted the entire notion, believeing the Vet would just say,” he’s got another year or two to go.”  There was no cause for any concern, so I went back to my game thinking to myself,”I HAVE to study for my Finals.”

After being Depth charged by an over-zealous Destroyer, I put the game up and looked at my mint condition economics book(hardly been touched).  I opened it and it just closed back again.  I opened it to chapter fourteen and began to read.  Three sentences later, I convinced myself that it was indeed time to sleep.  But before doing so I, for some reason, took a shower.  My best guess is that I wanted to get the Red Lobster smell out of my body.  After the shower I went to bed and was quick to sleep.  And Max whimpered in the night.

My Dad woke me up telling me to help him load Max in the car.  It was time to see the vet.  I informed him of the fact that I have finals coming up and should not be trifled with such trivial matters.  He insisted.  The dialogue was as follows.

Dad: Danny get up(with an emphasis on up).
Danny: [umph]
Dad: Danny we got to take Max to the Vet, help me get him in the car.
Danny: I got finals Dad…I need to rest…5 minutes(its strange how much people think five minutes of pleasure will fulfill their desires).
Dad: Danny, we need to go we have an appointment at 9:30.
Danny: No dad, five minutes.  Max is fine anyway.
Dad: Danny, now.
Danny: Oh all right! Geez!

I grabbed some shorts and a shirt and went to the backyard.  Dad had fastened a stretcher out of a cardboard box and couldn’t lift Max alone.  Max was awake and just looking around.  So I got on one end of the box and he got on another. We hoisted him up and took him to the truck(even though the truck’s tags had expired the car was just too small).  He was heavy.  We managed to lift him on the bed of the truck and I couldn’t help but think of the days he could jump in the truck over the side (tailgate closed).  He even jumped a 6 foot privacy fence a time or two. The truck was full of junk so we couldn’t close the tailgate.  I rode in the back with Max.  I didn’t want him
to fall out.

We were driving down the road and I noticed the wind blowing in my severely screwed up hair (maybe that shower last night was not such a good idea).  I looked around at the moving landscape and petted my dog. We walked in the empty clinic with Max in his stretcher and me with my screwed up hair.  We laid him down on the cold metallic table and waited for the doctor to come.  I began to suspect the secretaries thinking that I was retarded because of my hair and my inability to “match”.

After he came and began his examination, I began to get the erie feeling that my implicit ideas were all wrong.  It was Dad that first talked of putting him to sleep. And from then on out, all the Doctor could say was stuff about Quality of Life mixed in with a few lessons on how God views creatures, and I looked on the wall for a degree in theology.  He kept mentioning the humane side to “putting him down”.  And then he left my Dad and I alone for us to decide.

It was then that my sleepy eyes became teary.  It was then that the reality of losing my friend Max was so real.  It was then that I could do nothing but sit, watch, and cry.  The vet came back in (probably a bit too soon). Although my father and I never spoke a word in the time we were alone, we both knew the decision that was made.

My father told him that we should go, and that I had to go to school.  The vet was talking about the place where they bury the dogs and how pretty it is there.  He was also telling of us of the possibility of buying a marker or seperate grave site.  We could even have a small service.  All the time I was sitting in the corner with my wild hair crying the silent tears. I reminded myself that I had a prior commitment and could not stay for the deed to be done.  I could not have stayed, but I should have. And as they were ushering us out and getting Dad to fill out a Euthanasia form, I said inbetween tears to the secretary who was standing over my Max,”I need five minutes.”

And this time I got my five minutes. In my last five minutes with my dog Max, I petted my dog.  In my last five minutes with my dog Max, I spent all the wishes I had saved up over the years on his health.  I went to the sink in the room, filled my hands with water, and he drank from them.  I put my head on his and he licked my tears away for the last time.  And when I left the room the last I saw of Max he put his raised head on the table.  I walked straight to the truck and rode this time in the front seat.

As we drove away from the clinic, I couldn’t help but think,”we forgot Max.”  But as I am sure you all know by now, I could never forget Max. The kindest, gentlest, most laid back dog I have ever known.

Your broken hearted (insert relationship here),

Daniel Lee Lucio

PS  It is amazing how a pet can compliment your life so much, yes?
PPS If Max were a man he’d be a prince.

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