In Memory of Max. What the Death of my Dog Taught Me

For ten years of my life, Max was a loving, faithful dog and I will never forget him.  This is what his life and death taught me.

Max and MeIn June of 2008, Cathy came up to me in the library and told me a story with a question at the end.  The story was that she had a dog that she witnessed being thrown out of the back of a truck, and while she was taking care of him, she could not have him because she had 5 other dogs already.  The question:  “I know you’re a dog lover and you don’t have a dog; would you be willing to take him?”  Without hesitation, I said “yes”.  I asked her if he had a name and she replied: “well, we called out a bunch of names, but he seemed to respond to Max.”

In June of 2008, our family got a little bigger with the addition of a Boston Terror (later to be known as the “Boston Terror”) named Maxwell Fredrick Wimer (yes, the full name was on his license).

True to his breed, he was a playful, energetic little guy.  One of the things I loved about him was his super-energized personality and his “little jumps” he would make in a play-bow position, signaling to me that he wanted to have a little fun.  He would run at lightning speed around the house, jumping on the couch, which became his perch for most of his life, looking out the window and keeping the burglars and birds at bay with his snorts and buggy eyes.

In the beginning, there were days where I wish that his energy level would go down to about a 5, but I knew in the back of my mind that one day, I would miss his playful antics, so I let him have his moments of craziness.

One thing you’ve got to know about having a Boston Terrier, as well as any other “smooshed-face” dog is that they are loud snorers and quite the fart factory.  There were times in the Spring where we would have the windows up and I could hear him taking one of his naps from half a block away.  One day, while the dog was out in the yard, my mother compared his snoring to a very loud chainsaw.

The snoring was one thing, but the farts,..oh my…

My poor wife, who was more of a cat person and preferred work dogs, would constantly be barraged by a sulfuric cloud that Max would seemingly manufacture on cue when she got comfortable on the couch and would always ask me how do I make my dog a service dog. I didn’t think it would help him fart less.  It was a literal “wall of odor” that could clear a room.  It was during those times that we gave a special thanks to God Almighty for the creators of scented candles.

As the years went on, Max moved out of his puppy phase and into a more relaxed mode.  His perch was still the back of the couch where he Max on the couchliked to observe the neighborhood when he wasn’t being walked.  His naps got a little longer as the years went on, but he still had that “puppy” type of personality, especially towards me.  I was his daddy and he was my sweet boy.  My Dad was amazed when he saw us outside together as I didn’t walk him on a leash.  Max stayed nearby, out of the street and followed me around as he did his routine.

As the years went, my work changed as well as the household pets.  Wih the addition of a cat (Herminie, the Lewis), Maxwell had to make an adjustment to “new kids” in the house.  I don’t think he ever liked the cats, but he tolerated them and adjusted his temperament to suit our ever-evolving life.

As the years went on, I noticed him showing the signs of becoming an “older dog”.  His energy level was not the same as it used to be and it made me sad.  I remember the puppy that I brought home one hot June day which didn’t seem that long ago, but the years seemed to fly by.  I was becoming more worried as my new job was keeping me away from home and disrupting his routine.  I could tell that he was getting more and more stressed as he saw less and less of me.  Then one day, I took a look at him, I mean a really hard look at my boy and he was not looking well.

When you have a pet for a number of years, you don’t see changes that many others would.  You live with your furbaby and the changes come gradually.  If they had come all at once in a short period of time, I would have done something different, but that’s what most owners say.  Realistically, there’s nothing I could have done differently and I had to face a fact, my dog was not well.

Max near the endMy past job at ConAgra came to an end and I wanted to start building up my business from home that I had been working on over the course of a year.  During the last six months of the job, I started taking Max into my bedroom at night.  I knew that he had more years behind him than ahead and I wanted him to be near me.  At first, he would hop up into bed with me and would keep me awake with his snoring and nocturnal toots.  Later the “hopping into bed” became a struggle on some days.  Near the end, he took to stay on the floor, laying on the pillows that I would bring in for his bed.  He would look up at me from the floor and my heart sank a little each night.  In the back of my mind, I knew the end was coming sooner than later.

One morning, I woke up to a yelp.  I thought that Max had had a dream as he didn’t show any signs of being hurt at first.  I got my shoes on and proceeded to take him out as I have done for the last ten years.  When I saw him outside, I noticed the blood coming from his left eye.

My world stopped…

Since we are a one-car family, I called my parents’ next door to take us out to the local vet.  After leaving him there for a time, we came back with the appropriate meds and I began the eye treatments as well as other medications.  I talked with the vet about his weight gain, his lethargic nature that he seemed to have as well as other symptoms that I had started to notice.  Things seemed to be getting better as I chalked up the eye injury as him poking himself in the early hours of the morning.

He started to get worse.

The weight that he seemed to carry started to disappear and I started to notice a change in his appetite, like the absence of one.  I could start to see his spine, then hip-bones, then ribs.  I called the vet to schedule another appointment as the severe decline in his health was quite alarming.  The night before, I heard him bumping his head at the door.  I said, “Max, what’s the deal boy?”  He turned his head in the direction of my voice and sat there.  I thought he had to do a late night potty, so I got up, opened the door and it was then that I saw that he was blind.

Little by little, my dog was being taken away from me.

I didn’t know what to think, the day of my appointment was still a ways away.  I adjusted my life to accommodate his new condition, putting him back on a leash as he was walking out on to the street.  Later, he gave up walking and I had to carry him outside for him to do his business.  His appetite was all but gone and he was consuming water at an alarming rate.  I knew that diabetes was most likely one of his problems, but there had to be more to it.

Early this morning, my daughter noticed that his other eye was bleeding.  Because I had the car, I picked him up and sped out to the vet.  She was in surgery and the receptionist told me that she would look at him when she was done and would give me a call.  In the back of my mind, I knew that this was it, and, to be honest, I knew that this day was coming for the last week.  For some reason, I seemed to be going through a pre-grieving time while Max was alive.  I had said my “goodbyes” some time ago and was ready.

On a rainy April at 5:20 p.m., my dog breathed his last breath with me by his side petting his head.

After I buried him on the family farm, I decompressed at home for a few hours.  Afterward, I went on a walk to ponder many things, things that I didn’t expect that would happen during this time.

I grieved, but not at the loss of my beloved dog…that was a release.

Over the last month, I watched at the destroyer of all things (John 10:10) took my dog.  He didn’t do it directly, but he did it thousands of years ago to a couple that didn’t listen to God (Genesis 3:6-7).  Because they didn’t listen, death was introduced into the world (1 Corinthians 15:21) and has been the “sting” of humanity as well as God’s creation.  My dog suffered during this time and I grieved at his suffering, but not at his release.

Though I had sadness, I was still at peace

What is wrong with me?  I should be on the floor sobbing at the fact that my furbaby is gone, but I wasn’t.  To be sure, I grieved and I do miss him, but I have that peace that is inside, which is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  Because I have abided in Jesus (John 15:4) for many years in my faith walk, the bloom of fruit, the fruit of peace from the vine that runs within me, I was not (and still am not) overcome by grief.

I did not say “oh death is a part of life”

My dog’s suffering and subsequent death came from the consequence of a choice and was not part of the grand plan.  Death is not a part of life as many would say.  In fact, death will be thrown away in the fire (Revelation 20:14), and I, for one, will be glad when it is gone!

I was not angry with God, in fact, I thanked Him for the blessing of my dog and the last days I had with him.

God game me the blessing of my dog, and for ten years, I enjoyed this God-given present.  When I think about things, I know that God saw what would happen to him (Max) and gave me time with him.  If I would have kept working at my past job, Max would have most likely died by himself and not with me hold his paw, petting his head and telling him that he’s a great boy.  God gave me the give of time in the last few weeks I had left with him, and I thank Jesus for that!

I wonder if I will see him when I die?  Will Max be in Heaven?  I know that God regards dogs as “good” and there are instances in the Old and New Testaments when he uses animals as examples of how much he cares and loves us.  He feeds the sparrows and God looks upon His handiwork as “very good” (Genesis 1:31).  There is nothing conclusive in scripture to say that my dog will be in Heaven, but there is nothing there that says that he won’t.  I do know this:  when I get there, I will fully understand why things had to go the way that it went.  I won’t have any tears in Heaven (Revelation 21:4).

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