Fractured Facade

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Max is Gone

And just like that, my best friend, Max, is gone.

In the end it wasn't the ruptured disc that did him in. He survived another three weeks since he was first diagnosed. During that time, he figured out how to overcome the semi-paralysis of his front and back left legs. When he'd see that he couldn't get up the step with his left leg leading, he'd stop, think, and switch legs. Corgis are smart and I felt the vet hadn't taken that into consideration when she suggested I put him down right there, right then. I cursed the vet that gave him the death sentence when one morning, I turned around and there he was next to me in the laundry room in the basement. How could a dog on death's doorstep make his way down a flight of stairs?

Sure, he wasn't 100% and needed a little more tender care, but so do many elderly people as well. Just because he wasn't the sprite, little puppy that leaped and bounced easily as he once did, and he reminded me more of an arthritic old man, that wasn't enough reason to kill him. His mind still functioned. He let me know when the phone was ringing. He let me know when Daddy was home. He let me know when danger lurked. He let me know when he wanted that piece of pizza crust. He didn't seem to be in pain, and when he looked at me I knew he wasn't ready to go. That changed a couple of days ago.

On Thursday he seemed to have a hard time breathing, sorta like he couldn't catch his breath due to an allergy attack. It lasted for a couple of seconds and then it developed into a full fledged lie-on-the-side-with-legs-rowing attack. It seemed like he was drowning without being in the water. I got down on all fours and placed my hands on him. Soothing words stopped the attack. As he lapped up water, I knew it wouldn't be long. The next day he shadowed me, and I indulged him with whatever treats I could. As I sat on the patio, he lay by my side as he chewed a twig. He struggled a bit to get up the stairs, but he seemed to rebound again, and my worry ceased. Then we went out to dinner Friday night.

As soon as we opened the door, he bolted into the sun room to be let out. I noticed his water bowl was empty, yet there was water everywhere. I wondered if he had spilled it. We watched him throw up his dinner, and when he came inside he snuggled in the crevice near my side of the bed...the side where he went when he thought he was in trouble, or danger. I tried giving him a treat, but he wanted no part of it. I thought that was odd as that had never happened before. After a bit of cajoling he came out and went for more water. He lapped it up as if he hadn't drunk in days. As soon as he finished, he threw it all up. I knew this wasn't good. He went back for more water and it happened again. He still wouldn't eat a treat, and then began trembling. We searched for a 24-hour vet, but the only one we could find was one that helped birds.

Exhausted, Max lay down in the living room. My son lay down with him and stayed with him all night. This morning Max got up, wobbly, and made his way outside. He assumed the position to relieve himself, but nothing came out. When he came back in we tried giving him water, treats & food, but he was done. He crawled onto my side of the bed and looked up at me with his puppy dog eyes. I knew this was it. He didn't know what was happening, but knew it wasn't good. He didn't even want to be pet, and he made his way back outside again. He settled into the furthest part of the yard in the ivy and lay down. He wouldn't come in. Every once in a while he would walk a couple of steps in a circle. His eyes begged for answers. I had one, but didn't want to tell him. I couldn't bear to watch him like this, so my husband carried him inside, and I made the phone call.

And then I left town. That's right. I left town. My husband did what had to be done. While he waited for the appointment, he dug the hole and gathered Max's babies and chewies. I picked a spot under the apple tree. I wasn't falling for the "here's your dog's ashes" again like I did with Alex. I wanted Max here with me.

Far away from the agony, I awaited the call I knew would come. The new vet diagnosed him as having congenital heart failure. He said only one side of the heart was working, Max couldn't breathe, and circulation had ceased. His liver was full of blood and his lungs full of water. He was suffering. We couldn't allow our love for him and our desire to keep him with us take precedent over his pain. It was our love for him that allowed us to make the decision to let him go. My baby died from a bad heart, and I feel like I'm dying from a broken one. Max is gone, but never will be forgotten...

Max -- August 30, 2001 - April 14, 2012


  1. We are all saddened and devastated by his passing. But now he is free of pain and suffering and, in my own belief, waiting for you.
    Connie T

  2. There is no easy way to let go of such devoted and all powerful love. There is no love like that of a dog. I am so sorry for your loss and I know that pain all too well. Let the love he gave you fill the hole he left in your heart.

  3. My condolences to you and your family. Losing a pet is never easy.