Sunday, January 8, 2017

Goodbye Old Friend

I lost one of my best friends this weekend. He and I knew each other for nearly 13 years. He saw me through some of the happiest and tragic moments in my life. His name was Max and he was my dog.

We adopted Max when he was 3 years old from a local shelter here in the DC area. His previous owner had to move and could not bring him so we was put up for adoption. At that time, I had been wanting to get a dog for months. My parents and I had visited multiple shelters, saw many dogs, but had not adopted one yet. I still remember seeing him for the first time. He was in his own run and followed me wherever I was in front of his space. He had an adorable split face - half brown, half white with some light brown and black spots on his hind legs and a black tip on the white side of his face. A man who I assumed worked at the kennel said "He's a bad dog" for reasons unknown but at the point, I know which dog I wanted to give a forever home. We ended up taking Max home the next day, and for the record, that man was wrong.

A funny story was that the moment we got Max home, he bolted out of the car and immediately started running away. I think he thought it was a game, or maybe it was a test to see if we truly were ready to take him into our family. We chased him around the neighborhood for 15 minutes until a man in a truck distracted him long enough for us to catch him. A great start to out relationship, eh?

Over the following years, Max became a part of my family. He was the only dog in the entire family and everyone came to love Max and Max came to love everyone else.

 Max became my best friend from the moment we brought him home. He was mischievous, clever, and had an energy in him that stuck around well until his late adulthood. He always found a way to sneak food off a table, jump on to his favorite perch on the couch, or run upstairs and hide under beds. He knew he wasn't supposed to, but he never turned down a challenge. His energy also translated to his love of games. He was always down for fetch, tug-o-war, or his favorite - playing with his basketball. He would run around pushing it with his body and flip it around on the lawn, staining himself bright green in the process. His energy seemed limitless at times.

He saw me through countless key moment in my life. He was there always willing to listen to me talk when I was too afraid to tell something even to my closest friends. He looked at me with the cute brown eyes and never judged me over the silliest or serious of topics. He was there to help see me through when I came out, 3 graduations, meeting my first boyfriend, and the passings of some of my closest family members. Whenever I needed someone to talk things through with, he was ready to listen to my worries, my excitement, and my stories.

Max lived a good life and saw more of the world than many people do. He traveled all around the DC area and to Florida where he ran around on the beaches and plodded through the Atlantic surf. He went to lakes and parks and loved meeting other dogs wherever we went. He always loved car rides and would perch himself on the center arm rest so he could look out the windshield.

As he got older, he naturally slowed down. His brown spots on his hind legs faded away as he started to go white and he was more and more content with napping in the warm sunlight and cuddling on the couch than the constant running of his more youthful days, but he was still the same loving him. We would chat and he would listen as attentively as always. His brown eyes would always watch whatever I'd do with the clarity and sparkle present since the first day we brought him home. Eventually he went deaf and over time, his voracious appetite also started to decline. Dementia also started creeping in around the time he hit his mid-teens. Things progressed as he approached 16 and his health was declining quicker and quicker. He soon couldn't comfortably walk and he started having stomach issues and sensitivity.

After a series of events and incidents, my mom and I had a talk about Max's future. Max was part of our family and his happiness and comfort was our #1 concern. We knew he wasn't comfortable and he longer loved the things he loved his entire life. It was one of the hardest decisions I had ever had to make and I cried longer and harder than I had for years prior. I was going to be saying goodbye to my best friend and I didn't want to do that. We had to do what was best for him, even if that meant putting us through pain. Max was put to sleep yesterday, Saturday a little before 3pm.

I'm going to miss you, Max. I love you and I hope you're in a better place where you can play, eat, and have the time of your life forever. You're a good boy.