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Archive for March, 2014

Max

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I write this on March 8th as an obituary for our dog Max, knowing that on the day he dies it will be too difficult to do.

In October 2012, we had confirmation that he had a tumor on his thyroid which was aggressive and malignant and inoperable, with the only treatments being radiation (available far away at huge expense), chemo (with low chance of success) and growth-inhibiting drugs that may stall or even shrink the tumor a bit (which we chose). The vet said Max had a few months at best, but he managed another 18, most of them still alert and interested in life (food, walks, smells, pats).

I know it is self-indulgent of me to get moony about a pet, but…well… it is my blog, and please feel free to skip the rest, which is my homage to a great dog, and to his brother Pete, who passed away unexpectedly in August 2012.

The picture of Max above and the one below were taken by my son Alex one afternoon in our garden in St. Catharines in about 2005. They are the best pictures of “the boys” in their prime.

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Pete was the punk-rocker, always in trouble, and Max was the quiet, obedient and loving sort: he would have been wonderful for pet therapy, but, much as he loved people, he hated sharp noises or loud conversation, or even loud TV or radio. Even as a pup, when I took them for a walk up into the bush in northern Alberta, we had to pass an outdoor hockey rink where the noise of pucks being slapped about was enough for Max to insist on a very wide berth. Pete couldn’t care less.

Even when guests came to the house, Max would be friendly and welcoming, but once the chattering started, he’d find a quiet spot.

Pete’s song was clearly from Neil Young (“It’s better to burn out than to fade away”), while Bill Frisell’s “Good Dog, Happy Man” might well have been written for Max.

This is my Lord-of-the-Manor shot taken in Saratoga Springs in 2008, with Max posing nicely (as always) and Pete staring down squirrels (as always).

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I have written before about the trek across the US to come back to BC that August. Max, having lost his brother, watched as strange men emptied the house. He slept beside our airbed for a few days in an empty house, drove with me 8 or 9 hours a day for a week, staying in a different motel every night. He stopped eating, and I was worried that he wouldn’t make it, and that all the grief and disruption was just too much. In the end, I think it was the teeth-cleaning he’d had at the vet before we left that caused his gums to be sore, and only very wet food was manageable. Here was the set-up as we left Saratoga Springs…

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…and here we are in Ellensburg, Washington having a break during the trip:

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This was when I started to notice new noises from him: he and Pete had always constantly snored and sniffled during the night, but now he occasionally took deep gulps, and often made a deep grumbling sound. He’d never barked much, and with Pete not around to wind him up, we were not surprised that he was quiet. He barked only twice in the last 18 months: once when we deliberately incited him, and once out of the blue when we were in the back yard. Obviously the growing tumor was affecting his larynx and his oesophagus, and although he always loved to eat, it became more difficult.

He made it to 13 years and 8 months: a good age for a dog, and he had a great life. We promised Alex a dog when he moved to Alberta in 2000 and a notice in the local paper for free Border Collie-cross puppies seemed about the right price.

Max was chosen from the cardboard box that the lady brought round, but when I got home and heard that there was only one puppy left, we called the lady back. Pete was the runt of the original litter, but increasingly he asserted himself as the alpha male, and Max was happy to tag along. Max was no pushover, however, and knew how to stand his ground. He did this with Charlie the cat, and they co-existed very well, but Pete was forever curious, and received several cat-swats as a result, to the point where he was fearful of being attacked in his own house. At feeding time of course, a truce was called…

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Max had his share of odd habits:  we had a floor-length mirror by the front door, and Max would always stop and take a good look at himself every time he passed by. He would fetch a ball as long as someone was willing to throw it, and he was a champion swimmer, fetching sticks thrown a long way into deep water. Here they both are at Moraine Lake State Park, New York, during Easter 2012…

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March 11

Max passed away quietly today with the help of the vet, and his ashes will join Pete’s in a nice spot on Mayne Island, with a few grams scattered in a quiet corner of Burgoyne Woods in St. Catharines, where, during their active years,  they chased squirrels and ran free almost every morning.

This is the last picture taken of the both of them together in 2012, heading off to some new adventure.

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Happy trails.