Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Good Boy

Good night, sweet prince; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.*

My old boss used to say that stories about other people's children and dogs are never that interesting, except to the teller of the stories.  Maybe so.  But as I sat today with my old dog's head in my lap as he died, I thought about his life with me, and how most of it was wonderful and full of funny stories that I don't want to forget.  

Max was a golden retriever mix that I got from the pound almost exactly 11 years ago, when he was about a year old.  He had all the markings of a golden, but I think was part sheltie, so he was a little smaller and a little fluffier than your average golden.  I used to joke that he looked like a golden retriever that someone had stuck in the dryer.  

Anyway, I had another golden retriever, a glorious, beautiful, sweet dog named Floyd, and he seemed a little lonely, so I thought I'd get him a friend.  My friend Karen and I took Floyd down to the Humane Society, because I wanted Floyd to interact with whomever he was going to live with, just to make sure it was a good fit.  The staff put us in a hallway, and brought out different dogs one by one.  With most of the dogs, Floyd didn't seem that interested.  But Max was different.

When they saw each other, they started wagging tails and sniffing butts and playing.  And that was it.  Max came home with us that afternoon.**

I had Max neutered, per the terms of the Humane Society's adoption policies.  But for a dog with no balls, Max had the biggest balls of any dog I ever met.  He was medium-sized, but totally fearless and tough as nails, invariably taking on the biggest dog in the park for no other reason than to prove he could.  Whereas Floyd was all sweetness and love, Max had a touch of the devil in him, and it never ceased to make me laugh.

A couple of stories stick out.

There was the time one of my roommates was celebrating a birthday, and Floyd and Max snuck into the room where the surprise, totally-made-from-scratch birthday cake was hidden, and ate the entire thing, including the candles and little plastic candle holders.

Or the time when I was visiting my mother when she was stationed in Papua New Guinea, and
Max and Floyd were staying with a friend of mine.  Max got a little rambunctious and was running around the house, slipped into the entrance to the attic -- which had no reinforced flooring -- and fell through the ceiling, essentially surfing a large piece of drywall down to the lower floor.  He emerged totally unscathed, but it cost me $500 to repair my friend's ceiling.

After Floyd died, Max went through a period of not wanting to stay out in the yard during the day.  I had a huge back yard in Atlanta with a big detached garage, so the dogs would stay out there when I wasn't home, and could go hang out in the garage if the weather was bad.  But after Floyd was gone, Max decided he didn't feel like staying back there by himself.  He wanted to roam the neighborhood.  It took me 2 months and $2500 on a new fence to keep him contained.  But a part of me respected his unwillingness to be hemmed in.

You might be thinking, "Jesus, this dog was a pain in the ass."  But he was wonderful.  I loved his spirit and his playfulness.  Above it all, he was loving and affectionate.  He loved to run, and was incredibly fast, almost keeping up with the whippets and the greyhounds we'd see at the local neighborhood dog park. He loved to swim in the creek and roll in the mud and the sand. And at the end of a long day of playing and romping, he would cuddle up at the end of my bed and sleep with his head resting on my foot. 

after a romp on the beach in Hawaii

Max allows 2-week-old Zeke to use him as a backstop, November 2007

March 2007, at the Grand Canyon during our cross-country road trip

another road trip pic -- in his pimped-out kennel in the back of the car.  He had more room than either Jason or I did.

It was love at first sight for Max and Jason, snuggled up in 2007 (top) and 2006 (bottom)

Max having a grand time at the Atlanta Steeplechase Races, April 2004.  When the horses raced by, he would chase them along the other side of the fence.

Having a swim in a lake in north Georgia, October 2002

He started losing his eyesight about 3 or 4 years ago.  It got really bad in the last year, when it was clear he couldn't even see gradations of light and dark.  Then his legs started to shake, and he started having trouble walking.  He didn't have the energy or the pep he used to have.  He wasn't himself anymore.

So while it was incredibly sad to see him die, I know that the life he was living was not the life for him.  He was ready to go, and I am glad that I could end his suffering and be there with him when he drifted off to sleep, this time for good.

Good-bye, my sweet puppy.  You were a good boy, and I will miss you.

*Just to clarify, this is a 2-year-old picture of Max sleeping, not a picture of him dead. 

**According to the paperwork provided by the Humane Society, Max's previous owners had given him up because they lived in a small apartment and didn't have the space for him.  Also, they had named him "Diamond."  I was all, "uh, no.  This dog can't live in a small apartment.  And no way is he a 'Diamond.'  He is a 'Max.'"  And I just started calling him "Max."  It didn't take him long to figure it out.  I think he hated the name "Diamond" as much as I did.


  1. That made me laugh AND cry. No fences for Max now!

  2. Max is reunited with his balls and Floyd in heaven. He definitely rocked! Loved that dog :)

  3. Max was everything you expect a dog to be. What a great friend to you and your family.

  4. First time reader here,...I am so sorry about your sweet doggie...he looked and sounded like a great dog... how heartbreaking...
    Our dog is truly our child, and I can't imagine life without here, yet I know it will have to be that way one day, and I dread that day so much...
    Dogs are the greatest, and your Max will live on...

  5. Beautifully written, Wendy, as usual. I so enjoyed housesitting for Max and Floyd about 10 years ago. Sugar and Skip will get extra attention and affection from me tonight.

  6. Jules -- "reunited with his balls and Floyd" -- love it!

    Lisa -- he really was a great dog. So funny and cute.

    Organic -- welcome, and thanks for commenting! He was a wonderful dog, but he is better off now. He was suffering and it was no fun for him.

    Rich -- thank you. I had forgotten that you sat for them. They were a funny pair. I loved that they used to sleep with their heads tucked into each others' necks.