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The Passing of a Pet: He Was Not Just a Dog

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Our thirteen-year old dog Max passed on yesterday after spending a week in the veterinary hospital. They tried to help him, but there was nothing they could do in the end, so he was put to sleep as I held him in my arms. I told him before he died that he was going from my arms into my mother’s, and I don’t know if that thought comforted him, but it did help me.

Max was a rescued dog. He left a life of abuse and came into our family. He lived with my mother and father, but I visited them frequently and, later on, brought my children there to see him and Charlie, my parents’ other dog. Though Max came from horrific conditions, he never displayed that. He was the kindest, gentlest, and most considerate being you could imagine. It’s a shame more people don’t share those qualities.

Max was a black Lab mix and replaced another Max, a yellow Lab who died the year before. The “Yellow Max,” as my daughter called him, was legendary in my family for being such a wonderful dog. We named this new dog Max in his honor, and he more than lived up to the name: he actually supplanted the old Max in every way.

He was a constant companion to my father. He and Charlie shadowed Dad wherever he went. If Dad was in the yard, they were following along. If he sat at his desk, they were at his feet. While Charlie was a bit more independent, Max was loyal and would constantly put his head in my father’s lap for a petting. Max “shared the wealth” as we used to joke, always putting his head on other people’s laps too.

When my mother passed away, Max and Charlie mourned her loss, but they also stepped up to the challenge of loving us even more. After my father suffered a stroke, I would bring the dogs to see my father in the rehab facility. They proved to be the best medicine for him and also a tremendous incentive to get better and come home.

Although my father has been confined to a wheelchair in these years since his stroke, Max and Charlie were my father’s best friends. Max particularly gave nothing but love. While Charlie is feisty, Max was lovable and affectionate. He seemed to innately know how to make us all feel better when we were down, and he never stopped coming up and greeting me as I came into the house, tail wagging and tongue ready for a few kisses.

My daughter particularly loved Max. I can recall her sitting on the sofa in my father’s house petting the soft, sweet fur on the top of his head. While Lauren seemed thrilled with this going on for a long time, Max remained constant and available to her. He enjoyed the affection and knowing he was giving it back to you.

Only a week ago I brought the kids to have lunch with Dad. Max and Charlie sat under the table in their usual way, my father giving them bits of his meal. Max seemed fine that day, but the next morning he collapsed outside, and the mobile vet was called. Max was taken away to the hospital for what we all hoped would be a quick stay, but sadly it was not.

We went to see Max in the hospital, and we learned he had vestibular disease and that brought on an attack similar to a stroke in humans. This caused him to keep vomitting and made his walking unsteady. Last Saturday I took my father to see Max, and we fed him some food from home. It was a good visit and we seemed hopeful for him getting better, but he kept throwing up and could not get stronger because he was not eating.

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.