Monday, August 20, 2007

Illustration Friday: Missing 2

Studio Lolo's post a few weeks back reminded me of Max. Max was a huge 110 pound loyal Lab whose love for my husband, Mike, was so great that he knew the sound of Mike's truck from several blocks away. He waited each evening to hear that sound of Mike's return from work. The rest of the time they were inseparable.

Max's sole purpose in life was to retrieve anything that was thrown from Mike's hand. As soon as he heard Mike's truck, he would fetch his tennis ball and wait at the door. When Mike pulled in the driveway, he would bark with tennis ball in mouth a loud ear piercing bark. Nothing about Max was small. Not his bark, nor his appetite, nor his smells and messes, nor his desire to please Mike.

Once, Mike made the mistake of taking Max fishing. Before Mike's cast line could hit the water, Max did with an enthusiastic splash. Max swam straight for the little orange bobber with his usual skill, while Mike nervously reeled his line in as fast as he could, yelling, "no Max, no!" It was a race to see who would get the bobber first. Thankfully, Mike won. Barely. After which, Max was promptly tied to a tree. Poor tree! Max would charge full force toward the water then bark helplessly every time Mike cast his line. No fish were caught that day because I'm sure the echos of his cries across the water scared them all away. Max just didn't understand this "new game".

Another thing I don't think Max understood was Mike's death. He still waited every evening for the sound of Mike's truck. When Mike hadn't returned be night fall, Max would howl a slow, sad, mournful howl up into the sky. During the day, he took to head-butting fence boards to make his escape from the backyard. Something he hadn't done since he was a pup. Then he would search the neighborhood for his Mike until evening when he would wander back home and hope for his return.

I tried to console Max by spending more time with him. After all, it was just the two of us now. I could tell, though, I just wouldn't be able to take Mike's place. Any time a man would come over, be it my brother, a friend, a date, or just the repairman, Max would bring him his tennis ball wanting to play. I would try to throw his ball for him, but I couldn't throw as far as Mike, and he seemed to get bored with it after a while. I would try to take him for a walk, but unfortunately I'm not as big as Mike was, so I was usually dragged down the street much to the amusement of my neighbors. As Max got older, though, I would just lay with him in the grass of my front yard and watch the clouds. He would lay his head on me and seemed very content. He didn't have the energy of his youth anymore, and this is probably when we bonded the most.

Max was 11 years old when Mike died. I knew he probably wouldn't live much longer, and we had several scares, but each time I was able to nurse him back to health. Then one day when he was 15, I knew it was his time. I had tried to prepare myself for this day, but that was impossible. I cried, "oh Max." He tried to lift his head and wag his tail, but he couldn't. I held his head in my lap and petted him while I cried. Friends helped me get him to the vet where they put him to sleep. Again, I held his head in my lap and cried while they gave him the injection. He looked up at me. I covered his eyes with my hands and said, "it's ok Max, everything's going to be ok." Then he closed his eyes and took his last breath.

It suddenly occurred to me that he had been hanging on for me. All those afternoons laying in the grass when I thought I was consoling him, he was consoling me. I miss him.


Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I somehow missed this earlier and cried and cried reading it now.

bluerose9062 said...

I cried writing it.

Ashok said...

What an incredibly powerful post. Thank you so much for sharing this.

studio lolo said...

I came back and read every post that I missed. This one hits so close to home because of the pet-nursing that I do and the 37 years of veterinary care I have under my belt. What a wonderful old soul Max was! he did hang on for you, I'm sure, but it's because animals are unselfish and he thought you needed him at the time. When it was okay to let go,he joined Mike.
I'm truly sorry for your loss, but even though it was a hard day for you...look at it as a good day for Max. That's the only way to get through it sometimes.

Thanks for the Blogging Buddy award. I'm glad I was the first to encourage you to keep going. You have a talent and a heart I want to see more of!
Merry Christmas, Blue Rose.