In Memoriam: Max. 2003 – 2014

posted at 8:01 am on May 6, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

Max died on Friday, May 2nd, at 9:30 AM, at the animal hospital where his vets always saw to him. He was either ten or eleven years old, though we don’t know for sure. He was a tiny, frightened little dog who had been dealt a really crappy hand in life. Generally, when I’ve had to say goodbye to one of our pets, I find some way to find a bit of solace in celebrating the life they had, at least after sufficient time has passed for grieving. But with Max, it’s hard to see the golden lining and I’m left with more than the usual amount of pain and ugly, painful questions I may never be able to answer.

Max came to us in an unorthodox way right from the start. After our first dog, Kenya, passed away, our other dog, Mr. Basset, was left as the single dog in our house. He had spent his earlier years before joining us in a two dog household, sharing his world with a little miniature dachshund. He seemed lonely, and we set out to essentially get Mr. Basset a pet of his own. When we arrived at the shelter there were many good dogs there looking for homes, but none of them really spoke to us. We had nearly settled on a different mixed breed when the caretakers informed us that they had another small dog they could show us if we liked, but he was not on display in the adoption areas because he “had issues.”

They brought the as yet unnamed Max down from a room upstairs. He was a purebred miniature schnauzer, gray in color, maybe 15 pounds. He was clearly terrified. The caretakers explained that he had been seized by the police during a raid on a puppy mill. He’d been held as possible “evidence” until the trial was over, and then made available for adoption, but he was not being shown to interested adoptive families.
He had spent his entire life as a “breeder” in a barn, probably never having been allowed out of his cage and never knowing the kindness of a family. He was neurotic. He would not approach or show affection to anyone. He did not bark or make any sounds aside from whimpering. Ever. There were “incidents of aggression.” We learned later in the process that if he hadn’t found someone to take him in the next week, as bad as they felt about it, he was going to be destroyed. He was in no way a suitable pet.

So, of course, we took him.

We brought him home, showed him to the back yard where he would do his business and let him loose to look around the house. He didn’t move. He would not go down the back steps to the yard or up the steps to the second floor. Max had never seen stairs and didn’t know what to make of them. So we carried him. The first night we put him on the bed to sleep with us, thinking it would make him feel more at home and get used to our presence. He sat up on the end of the bed all night, shivering. I’m not sure if he ever slept at all that night. He did eventually learn to climb stairs, though, and would happily go out back or down the front steps, but it took time.
Mr. Basset like him well enough and tried following him around, but the small dog just looked alarmed. I know the basset grew to love him and slept near him when he could, but I don’t know how Max felt. Which brings us to his name. For the first couple of days, we couldn’t settle on a name, and we were simply referring to him as “the little dog.” We even began calling him Little Dog. But a few nights later we were watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas on TV. (The cartoon, not the awful Jim Carrey movie.) When the Grinch’s little dog came on, pulling the sled, we both immediately agreed that was who we had with us and his name was Max. But for all his days, we both probably still called him Little Dog more often than Max.

For all the love we gave him, problems quickly appeared with Max. Once he finally seemed to settle in and accept that this was his new home and we were his family now, Max’s personality began to develop. He was extremely protective of us… particularly my wife. He was territorial, at least as much as a frightened, neurotic little dog could be. As long as it was just us, he was content to sit on the couch with us or in the little beds that we got for him. But with anyone else he was unpredictable and unpleasant. Over the coming years he actually bit more than a dozen people, including, but not limited to:

My mother-in-law.
My father-in-law.
Three nieces.
Two nephews.
One dog sitter.
One neighbor.
The cable TV installation man.

He fortunately never broke skin or drew blood and we avoided any legal trouble. But he was unpleasant to the rest of the world. My wife only half-jokingly said Max and I were a good match, as I don’t get along that well with other people either and make friends very slowly. People didn’t like Max. Our family did not like him and were unhappy that we would always bring Max when we came for a visit. But if Max was not welcome one of us would stay home, so along Max came for every holiday and family gathering.

Max loved us, but he did not like anyone else.
Also, Max’s neurosis manifested in other ways. He was unable to play. If you threw a ball for him, he would never try to fetch. Throwing the ball alarmed him and he would run to his bed and sit there. Mr. Basset would try to engage him in play outside in the yard sometimes, but it only made Max look frightened and confused. He couldn’t grasp the idea of the toys we bought for him.

But there were good times as well. Max loved going to camp up at the lake in the mountains and would explore the woods. (Though he never set foot in the water.) And while he would not play at home, he was willing to sit quietly with us. He spent most of his time sitting on the end of the couch a few feet from me while I worked on my computer. And he loved going for his walks, first with Mr. Basset and then just the two of us or with my wife after the big dog has passed on.

One of the best moments came during the first year when we returned from a walk. The dogs always got a biscuit or cookie or other treat when we got home and the basset would howl with anticipation and joy as he waited for his treat. One day, out of the blue, for the first time ever, as the basset howled, Max reared up on his little back legs and bayed. It wasn’t a regular bark like a little yapping dog. He was imitating the basset, baying like a hound but in a high, tinny voice. He barked like that upon coming home for most of the rest of his life.

Aside from his mental issues, Max was unusually healthy for the next six years and even learned to be tolerant and a good patient at the vet’s office. I think our doctors were the only other human beings he ever warmed up to. But when the beginning of the end came, it came fast. And when the actual end came, it was terrible.
This winter Max began acting oddly, drinking too much water and urinating too much. We assumed it was a urinary tract infection – not uncommon in pets – and to the doctors we went. When the diagnosis came back that Max had diabetes, I still wasn’t that alarmed. Our Sassy Fat Cat had diabetes and lived another five years with insulin injections twice a day. I was experienced at giving shots.

But Max didn’t respond well to the insulin. His blood sugar rocketed up and down and would rarely stabilize well. He was put on additional medications, pills to take, steroids, painkillers. For a while, he seemed to level out. But then he began acting tentative when trying to come up the back steps. I looked at him closely. (His eyes were always harder to see with those bushy eyebrows.) They were clouded over. Back to the vet’s office we went. He had developed massive cataracts as a result of the diabetes. Max went from having normal vision to being completely blind in a matter of weeks. He would no longer climb steps and couldn’t learn to even make it from room to room without bumping into things. We were back to carrying Max as we had in his first days.

The vets told us that surgery to remove his corneas could restore his vision, albeit not at close range. But he would be able to see well enough to get around. The best animal ophthalmologists around were at Cornell University. We called to get the information and found that the surgery alone would cost $3,500. A ridiculous sum for our finances, but if it could achieve what they claimed, it would restore Max’s quality of life to a point he could deal with it so off we went.

We were informed that Max was not a candidate for surgery, at least not then. The pressure in his eyes was too great and the eye tissue was damaged on one side and not healing. More drugs, including two kinds of eye drops, were required. Max’s life was now a series of periods of napping, being carried outside to do his business, or short, tentative walks where he followed our voice signals, interrupted by multiple daily sessions of shoving pills down his throat and getting drops in his eyes. He was miserable, but if it led to his getting the surgery in short order and returning to wellness and sight and getting a few more good years of life, we would do it.
Even blind, Max always knew where I was. He knew if I was in the room with him, and if I wasn’t, he would usually try to stumble his way to where I was to find me. When I came home from work, he knew I was coming before I reached the porch and would be standing in the hall near the front door when I arrived. I had to be careful not to bump him in the nose with the door when I opened it.

On his follow-up visit, the Cornell experts said that Max just, “couldn’t catch a break.” The medicines were not doing enough and he still couldn’t be risked for surgery. More procedures on his lens, more drugs. It had become too much to watch and we struggled with what to do. And then, last week, while awaiting his next follow-up at Cornell, he took another turn. He was rushed to the vet’s for more testing where his blood work revealed that his liver was enlarged and failing. On Thursday they admitted him to keep him overnight on an IV and see if they could stabilize him.

I didn’t know it yet, but I was sending Max to spend his last night on Earth alone in a steel cage at the hospital, though we stayed with him there for a while before closing. That night, at roughly 2:30 AM, I awoke in my bed shaking and shivering uncontrollably. I’d somehow come down with the flu with no forewarning symptoms which I’d noticed. I alternated from shivering to sweating and running a fever. By morning I was a mess. To compound matters, the vet’s office called and the news was for the worst. Max had not stabilized and had taken a further turn. Enough was enough, and we had to put an end to it, as he no longer had any hope of a decent quality of life. But I could barely make it out of bed and when my wife mentioned my condition to the doctors, they actually told her they would prefer I not come to the office if I was contagious.

As a compromise, they offered to tape up the IV in Max’s arm so it wouldn’t pull and send him home with my wife for an hour so he could sit with me and say goodbye. I hated the idea, but finally agreed. Max came home, we sat, I cried, I petted him. I said my goodbyes. My wife took him back and he was put to sleep in his little bed with his blanket. I was not there.

By the end of the weekend I was back on my feet and began the process of picking up the pieces. Yesterday I began putting up Max’s things. Packing up the food, the special foods he would eat even when he had little appetite toward the end. Gathering up the clothes, the bedding, and the special dog quilts my wife made for him. The leashes, the collars, the toys. Toys that were never played with. Max didn’t know how to play. He never learned how to play. He was content to simply sit with me on the couch and watch TV.

And I’m left wracked with guilt and questions. Why did I wait so long? Why did I put him through all that for nothing? And perhaps worst of all, why didn’t I tell the doctors to go to hell and drag myself out and go with him on his final trip? I had promised Max, as with all our pets, that I would see him through to the end. But when the end came, I sent him off to the Doctor without me. I wasn’t there. And Max knew I wasn’t there. He always knew where I was. And he faced the end without me.

Now, as I gather his things and go about my day, I keep mentally stumbling over Max again and again. It’s as if my brain keeps blocking out the fact of what happened only to allow me to discover it all over.

I find myself opening the door slowly when I come in, peeking around to make sure it’s clear. But Max will never bump his nose on the door again.

I finish eating and I find myself checking to see what’s left on my plate because I always saved something for him. But Max will not be having any more leftovers.

I wake up in the middle of the night to listen for his collar jingling, shaking his head as his signal that he once again needs to be carried out back with me in my bathrobe. But Max won’t be in the yard any more.

I check the weather map to see if rain is coming before his evening walk, because he hates going out in the rain. But Max won’t be going for any more walks.

I’m startled seeing the back door still locked after I came home from work. How could the back door be locked? Max was in and out the back door all day to go out in the yard and do his business. And then I remember.

Getting up in the morning, I head for his bed to carry him outside. But Max’s bed is gone.

Sitting here at my computer, I look at the end of the couch. Walter the cat is there sleeping in Max’s spot.

My wife and I are comforting each other, telling each other that we saved Max from a bad fate and that he had a good life. And for most of it with us, I think he had the best life he was capable of having. But I also think that when the very end came and the world had gone dark and nothing else was good, I failed him. And now I have to get these thoughts and emotions out of me for a while and move on with life. There will be another dog at the food dish, but not right away. And when that dog comes, if nothing else good came of this, I hope I learned something important so I do better next time.

Thank you for letting me share this with you, and I apologize for it being far too lengthy and depressing. But I needed to say goodbye to Max, and that we will always love you.

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Comment pages: 1 2

Whole lot of pollen out this time of year.

rogerb on May 6, 2014 at 8:09 AM

You gave him a good life. It’s never easy. Thanks for posting that. I’ve done the same thing. I took in an elderly cat who apparently had never been talked to. For awhile I thought he was deaf. He was a dear and just died this year.

crankyoldlady on May 6, 2014 at 8:11 AM

We are with you Jazz

So very sorry

cmsinaz on May 6, 2014 at 8:14 AM

Wings earned.

The Oven on May 6, 2014 at 8:16 AM

As a friend of mine says, the more I know people the more I love my dog.

Our boy is pushing 13 now, the sweetest 95lb bundle of black lab love one could ever imagine, and we know his day is coming soon. It’s, well, very hard to face.

He felt your love and care, and yes there is a huge gap in your life that the memories of him can’t quite fill. But remember his love for you and yours for him.

May you find comfort.

Mr. Bingley on May 6, 2014 at 8:18 AM

God, how we love them so. I think it’s because of the unconditional love they give us. Great story Jazz.

8 weight on May 6, 2014 at 8:21 AM

Weird! I was looking for a sign to see if I should adopt a 3 yr old cat that I saw at a rescue org yesterday. I lost my cat of 15 yrs last month and I am still feeling a bit raw from that loss.
First sign, my husband who is very much a dog person said go for it!…that floored me :)
Second sign, my dog met her and they loved each other.
AND THIS STORY hit me as my 3rd sign, all in less than 15 hours.

On my way to the store now to buy all the things she needs and a few things to spoil her.

Saints on May 6, 2014 at 8:23 AM

I’m so sorry for your loss. Max was a special dog, even though not in the conventional sense. I’ve had animals like that too. Damn allergies, sniff sniff.

jaimo on May 6, 2014 at 8:23 AM

I am so sorry for your loss. Contrary to your own assessment, I think you — like a soldier — showed bravery and determination throughout Max’s life. You deserve a reward, not guilt.

Steelweaver52 on May 6, 2014 at 8:23 AM

It is caring for the Maxes in our lives that makes us more complete humans.

Thank you, Jazz, for sharing your memories.

InTheBellyoftheBeast on May 6, 2014 at 8:25 AM

Jazz, you gave him a better life than most would.

ToddPA on May 6, 2014 at 8:26 AM

I’m sorry, Jazz.

I had promised Max, as with all our pets, that I would see him through to the end. But when the end came, I sent him off to the Doctor without me. I wasn’t there. And Max knew I wasn’t there. He always knew where I was. And he faced the end without me.

I don’t think you failed him. And you are certainly wrong that he faced the end without you.

Axe on May 6, 2014 at 8:26 AM

You made his life special just by being there for him all those years. He clearly loved you….just by the last part of your post, which was achingly sad. What a contrary little dog he was….obviously loyal to you, but not liking anyone else. How blessed you were to have each other.

My sincerest condolences to you and your wife.

herm2416 on May 6, 2014 at 8:27 AM

Ben there. We had a rescue dog that was loving to the family but damn, if you weren’t- your heard about it. Never a bite except if you touched her paws and that was a result of botched surgeries.

When she was approaching 5 we began to notice signs seen previously such as lack of appetite and more- the oh no alarm went off.

Sadly Bailey had cancer so I paid for treatment in the hopes we could control then do other therapy. Alas it was not to be and one day found her foaming at the mouth and new that was it. A short while later we were at the vet for a final go. I stayed for the first shot and will never forget her looking up just as the first drug hit.. Her head dropped and so did mine.. I bawled and still miss her and its fast approaching 2 years since that day.

Recently we took in a Sr rescue named Moe- he was found the streets but you could tell at some point he’d rec’d some training.

Gotta love these little furry friends..

theblacksheepwasright on May 6, 2014 at 8:27 AM

Max found you and made it your job to love him. You did a wonderful job! My heart goes out to you.

katy the mean old lady on May 6, 2014 at 8:28 AM

Sorry for your loss, Jazz. As with loved ones who pass, we often wonder if there was something more we could have done for them. I am sure Max grew to understand your kindness and love. You did the best you could and now Max is at peace. Hopefully you will find the solace from your wife, family and friends. I am sure everyone here supports you in your time of loss. Rock on, Jazz, Rock on.

Slayur on May 6, 2014 at 8:29 AM

Adios, Max.

NotCoach on May 6, 2014 at 8:29 AM

It’s hard, Jazz, no doubt.

I think that Max is doing fine today, and that my old Belgian Tervueren’s (Stoli and Caesar) that have passed on are teaching Max how to herd sheep this morning, and they’re all wearing big grins.

Midas on May 6, 2014 at 8:29 AM

I think you’re being far too hard on yourself Jazz. Yes you put Max through alot, but only because you thought there would be a happy end to it all. My dog Alexei has diabetes and luckily we got him into eye surgery early enough to remove the cataract (thought for one eye it was $2,500). We would have done more to try to get him to see. Then of course diabetes led to kidney stones which was another $1,300 to get rid of so he wouldn’t constantly get UTIs. When you fall in love with an animal they become part of your family, and how much is too much to save a family member? Of course as time passes you’ll see what you did was right with the information you had.
I think though you may want to get new vets. First off, you shouldn’t wait weeks to have tried to get the surgery. Second, they really couldn’t have put Max in a room no one was in and made you wear a surgical mask to come and see him one last time? Really!?

Zaggs on May 6, 2014 at 8:30 AM

I am so sorry for your loss. Contrary to your own assessment, I think you — like a soldier — showed bravery and determination throughout Max’s life. You deserve a reward, not guilt.


Stoxtrader on May 6, 2014 at 8:30 AM

Amazing creatures, how they touch and ingrain themselves in our daily lives, and a true injustice is the short span they share with us. So sorry for the loss of your family member, and thank you for sharing. Bless you, and RIP Max.

PatHenry on May 6, 2014 at 8:31 AM

My sincere condolences on the passing of your family member. Never, ever apologize for reacting emotionally to a loss. It’s what makes us human.

exsubnuke2 on May 6, 2014 at 8:32 AM

Yeah, it’s weird how an animal can really grow on you, isn’t it?

Cleombrotus on May 6, 2014 at 8:32 AM

Loyal friends…RIP Max…I concur with another poster…don’t feel guilty but hold onto the beautiful memories and grieve the loss not with guilt…you were in his life and made it so much better….

crosshugger on May 6, 2014 at 8:32 AM

Whole lot of pollen out this time of year.

rogerb on May 6, 2014 at 8:09 AM

Really bad pollen.

Pets are family that give unconditional, and sometimes quirky, love.

SteveInRTP on May 6, 2014 at 8:33 AM

Ugh, can not read. Had almost the same thing happen a year ago. For many months afterwards, I found myself still reaching over to stroke him.

Blake on May 6, 2014 at 8:34 AM

Animals have a way. Thanks for sharing Jazz.

MT on May 6, 2014 at 8:35 AM

I sit here with my eleven year old poodle, and ? old maltese rescue on my lap thinking about the end. And what will I do. I have a feeling it will take a lot of medication. But really, do you ever really say goodbye? I don’t think so. I think great loves are carried in your heart and soul forever. And this affair between you and Max was certainly a great affair.

Mbiddle on May 6, 2014 at 8:35 AM

U gave Max a good life Jazz until there was no more life left in him. Like my little dachshund who slipped a disc and got really expensive back surgery to repair it when she was 6 and then went flat out blind when she was 7 but found her way around the house and out the door to the yard to go to the bathroom and back inside all on her own to go back to sleep on her pillow. And then when she’s 8 she develops a big liver tumor but she still eating and happy and getting around. And then when she’s 9 she coughs up a little blood and don’t u know the tumor metastasized to her lungs. But she still eating and getting around and not in any pain that I can tell. She died rather suddenly within a few weeks in heart failure and fulminant pulmonary edema in my arms on the nite of hurricane Irene when our power went out… still wagging her tail at me in her final moments. I have no regrets and am glad she was in my life.

gracie on May 6, 2014 at 8:37 AM

I’m sorry for your loss, Jazz.

hurricain on May 6, 2014 at 8:43 AM

RIP Max. It is TOUGH losing a canine member of the family. I’ve lost three dogs to cancer in the past few years and it was very painful.

Reading about Max immediately made me think of a great story by James Thurber called the “The Dog That Bit People.” Funny, but loving at the same time. A great tribute to his dog, Muggs.

Check it out.

NavyMustang on May 6, 2014 at 8:44 AM

A vet once told me that in her experience, it is the best and most loving pet owners who are wracked with feelings of guilt after the death of a pet. She said it is a very common reaction to feel that you have somehow failed the animal, when in fact you have not.

Max was so very lucky to be rescued by you and your wife. You did not fail him, you gave him a wonderful life.

JA on May 6, 2014 at 8:45 AM

Rescue dogs can be a handful, but they are also quite amazing. Thanks for sharing and reminding us just how special these little guys are.

Run free at the Rainbow Bridge, Max!

Hat Trick on May 6, 2014 at 8:46 AM

Thanks for sharing, Max. I suspect that was cathartic for you, but it was good for us, too; we need more stories like that. You saved Max and gave him a quality of life he otherwise would have never received. My guess is that if we could ask him he’d say you were the best damn dad in the world and he was grateful to have you. Take heart, you loved him and now you hurt in his loss. Max loved you too.

Blacksheep on May 6, 2014 at 8:47 AM

Very sorry for your loss. But you gave one of God’s creatures a life worth living and in turn he gave you unconditional love. Peace.

horatio on May 6, 2014 at 8:47 AM

“He” or he — both true

horatio on May 6, 2014 at 8:49 AM

Darned onions. So sorry for the loss of your friend.

kringeesmom on May 6, 2014 at 8:50 AM

But with Max, it’s hard to see the golden lining and I’m left with more than the usual amount of pain and ugly, painful questions I may never be able to answer.

You need to stop beating yourself up.

You want my useless opinion on Max: The golden lining is that you gave him food and warmth and comfort and love that he never had before, and sure he was a neurotic dog but that first little bark after the walk was absolute proof that you reached him through all the murk.

This is the way of dogs, they’re with us for a relatively short time and then they have to move on but every step they are there for us, every minute of every day they are thinking of you which is why even when you scold them they still come back.

That’s the tradeoff, the best friend you will ever have but they don’t get to stay long. Max was a great dog in his own way, remember him for being that great dog.

Bishop on May 6, 2014 at 8:51 AM

I, like others, know that pain all to well — I am so sorry for your loss. And despite the hardships Max had in his life, you DID give him happiness that he otherwise would likely have never known. That is a blessing for you, your wife and especially for Max.

dpduq on May 6, 2014 at 8:53 AM

My condolences Jazz. Have a couple of rescues my self. Second one is there to take the space I made for Maggie, whom I got because she and Sparky became such good friends at Sparky’s foster mom, where I board him. Maggie had a heart murmur, it wound up getting worse, and though I didn’t know it at the time, I had to rush her to the emergency vet one January Saturday night.

He was in no way a suitable pet.

So, of course, we took him.

Yup. They tend to make the best companions.

Max loved us, but he did not like anyone else.

Sounds like my kind of dog.

rbj on May 6, 2014 at 8:56 AM

And we should have a brighter note to this whole thing, maybe HotGas needs a regular column of “Stupid Dog Tricks” or “Share what your dog ate today”.

You want financial travails? I have a herd of dogs, try feeding a herd of dogs twice a day; Diamond Dog Food actually sends me a Christmas card every year thanking me for keeping them in the black.

Bishop on May 6, 2014 at 8:57 AM

For Max

Cat Stevens “I Love My Dog”

RickB on May 6, 2014 at 8:59 AM

And we should have a brighter note to this whole thing, maybe HotGas needs a regular column of “Stupid Dog Tricks” or “Share what your dog ate today”.

Bishop on May 6, 2014 at 8:57 AM

My cat wanted me to tell you that you’re closed minded and caninenormative.

I told him I don’t dare and asked what “caninenormative” meant.

He just walked off p!ssed.

Axe on May 6, 2014 at 9:02 AM

Jazz, you should post your story at Mark Levin’s Pet Corner. Your story reminds me a lot of Mark’s first book, Rescuing Sprite.

TarheelBen on May 6, 2014 at 9:02 AM

Sorry for your loss, Jazz. You gave Max comfort and a happier life. God Bless you and your wife for that.

jennanjack on May 6, 2014 at 9:03 AM

If people were only more like dogs…how much better we’d all be…

PatriotRider on May 6, 2014 at 9:05 AM

Thanks for sharing your story, Jazz! I think you did the best by this little dog that anyone possibly could. Don’t beat yourself up because in most cases the medical treatment would have been more effective, and you had to play the odds. As the vet said, he just couldn’t catch a break. You knew when the time was right to let him go. I think there’s no getting around feeling guilt when you have to say goodbye to a pet (or any loved one who is sick and you are helpless to save them or even help their pain much). I was able to be with my cat a couple of years ago when I had to have her put to sleep at age 17, but still I wonder if she “knew” what was happening and was afraid…and there I was, a part of it. My regret was not trying to get the vet to come to my house rather than take her to a place she always hated for the end. The point is, no matter what, it’s hard to feel complete peace and comfort. All we can do is the best we can, and you certainly did that. I can’t think of anything you could have done differently. I would just focus on all the extra years you gave on an unadoptable dog, and he knew kindness and a family thanks to you. Hope time heals quickly for you!

GinaC on May 6, 2014 at 9:07 AM

It’s ok Jazz.
I had to take my 13 year old cat Shaddow to be put down. She was a rescue kitty and suppose to be a dog. But my 2 year old at the tie kept ignoring the dogs for this little black tiffany cat. So we took her home. She had a good life and I spent many night with her fighting over my spot in the bed at night.

For the last two years of her life her health started to get worse. She was constantly eating and drinking but losing weight. She had joint problems so bad that she stopped jumping into bed at night and we built a ramp for her to make it easier. Eventually she could not even get into the litter box and we used puppy pads in a plastic boot tray for her. She started living solely in the kitchen. When she got to a point when she was having minor seizures we knew it was more then past time to have that visit to the vet.

I was there up until the final shot which the vet would not let me be present for. She was a very protective cat of the everyone in the family would attack anyone she thought threaten us. Especially my son. I still miss my ‘should have been a dog’ kitty and it has been 2 years since she has been gone.

PS – I still don’t have a dog. the new cat is very different but that is a whole other story……

mechkiller_k on May 6, 2014 at 9:08 AM

Geez, Jazz, first thing in the morning? Thank you for sharing-dogs are so unconditional-they just love you. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Rest in peace, Max.

Static21 on May 6, 2014 at 9:12 AM

Bishop on May 6, 2014 at 8:57 AM

You mean like those TWO 8 oz. steaks that I could have SWORN I’d put on the counter not three minutes ago?

Cleombrotus on May 6, 2014 at 9:13 AM

He was not alone, Jazz. Although vets “dealwiththisallthetime” and have a keen sense of self-preservation, most are very loving and kind. And the staff at most vet hospitals are too. My daughter-in-law was a vet assistant while she was in high school and college, and tried to go to vet school. She cried DAILY over the animals that were sent across the rainbow bridge, and was always the one who would prepare them to come back home for burial. And, she always, always, WANTED to go to work! She saw it as a calling, and she wanted to be the one to help. The VPI (Va. Tech) vet dept. is so jammed packed, so she didn’t get in, and changed her major to radiology. But, she’s my go to girl for my critters, and I admire her so much. I truly hope there was a girl with your Max like my daughter-in-law. And odds are that there was.

graywaiter on May 6, 2014 at 9:14 AM

Don’t have a single regret, Jazz. You did good by Max…and he knew it. My pup is 14 this year…I still call him pup. He was a shelter rescue (as are my cats) and was abused by his original owner, kept in a cage all day, and was the only dog at the shelter who wasn’t jumping up and down when you walked by his cage. He just looked so sad.

His hearing is going fast, and his eyes are getting cloudy, and every few days he piddles on the bathroom rug and he’s never done that his whole life. Most nights when I walk him before bed, I wonder if this might be his last. And if he’ll pass when I’m at work or out for the night.

You can’t beat yourself up about not being there his last night. Max was surely thinking of you and the Mrs. as you both gave him his best years, and best memories. Max didn’t die alone…you may not have been right there physically, but you were there in his thoughts. And he was in yours. Ultimately, that’s what counts.

JetBoy on May 6, 2014 at 9:15 AM

“But with Max, it’s hard to see the golden lining…”

Oh, Jazz, don’t you see? You were the golden lining for that dear little dog!

The pain we endure when we have to say goodbye to these angels who are firmly planted in our hearts is so far outweighed by the good they do for us — the unconditional love they give us (each in his own individual way) — that I have no doubt that within a year you and your wife will be at the shelter again, looking for another pet. Not another Max, but another creature that will enrich your life in yet a different way.

Funny, the only two times I’ve cried in the past year are reading this, and reading Lileks’ post on saying goodbye to Jasper Dog.

stoutcat on May 6, 2014 at 9:18 AM

I understand your feelings about not being there at the end for your beloved Max, but don’t beat yourself up too badly for you and your wife gave Max a wonderful life.

I lost a cat that I had for 23 1/2 years a few years ago and nary a day passes that I don’t think of her. Time does heal but the heart still aches as we who have loved pets for many years live with their loss.

Thanks for sharing your heart warming story of rescue and love.

devolvingtowardsidiocracy on May 6, 2014 at 9:18 AM

A very fitting tribute to a very special dog, Jazz.

Gothguy on May 6, 2014 at 9:19 AM

You did such a beautiful job with Max, just awesome. The amount of patience and generosity you shared with this dog was of such abundance. Hopefully in your grief you will find some peace so that anger and guilt doesn’t rip you inside and out. I felt a similar guilt grief when my Father passed away last year and I was unable to be there. Then I remember a conversation we had. He shared his discontent for choices he made in his life. Then we talked about destiny and how sometimes the way things unfold, (while we like thinking we have all this control), is perhaps really more about destiny. In the end when I think back to the way my Father died without me there I’ve thought about events out of my control that created that circumstance and realize it’s just the way destiny unfolded. Maybe the end for you, and Max had something to do with that and for whatever reason, that part of Max’s life was never meant to be anything other than exactly the way it happened.

rcv77 on May 6, 2014 at 9:19 AM


Good Lt on May 6, 2014 at 9:20 AM

So sorry, Jazz. My condolences. Touching piece.

By Max.

Chuck Ef on May 6, 2014 at 9:21 AM

So sorry for your loss, Jazz. Don’t second guess yourselves. You did more than many would do and gave Max a much better life than what he otherwise faced.

flipflop on May 6, 2014 at 9:22 AM

Ya did good… and Max appreciates it. God bless.

DANEgerus on May 6, 2014 at 9:22 AM

Thank you for sharing Max’s story, he was blessed to have such a loving home-and you were blessed to have him in your lives. He obviously will be greatly missed. Sending prayers your way.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted…
Psalm 34:18

djn on May 6, 2014 at 9:24 AM

I would be willing to bet that if Max had had the choice, he would have wanted you to take care of yourself and get well, rather than be with him at that moment. He wanted the best for you, just as you did for him. You and your wife gave him a life he never would have been able to have and stood by him through everything. He wouldn’t have demanded anything else.

Max was blessed to have had you enter his life. Don’t fool yourself that he didn’t know that!

I am sorry for your loss. No matter what pets may show up in your life later, you will never forget Max and your next pet will only benefit from you having loved Max.

Bobbi on May 6, 2014 at 9:24 AM

Life is magic, sometimes tragic.

You did good from beginning to end.

HonestLib on May 6, 2014 at 9:27 AM

Ah, condolences, Jazz. I have one “interesting” dog right now. I understand the weirdness. We have come to more of an agreement than a traditional pet/owner relationship.

Rest in peace, Max. Know that you were loved.

Fallon on May 6, 2014 at 9:28 AM

You mean like those TWO 8 oz. steaks that I could have SWORN I’d put on the counter not three minutes ago?

Cleombrotus on May 6, 2014 at 9:13 AM

No, I mean like the steaks AND the plate they sat on.

Bishop on May 6, 2014 at 9:29 AM

Damn, Jazz…pets sure take over our hearts, don’t they…beautiful remembrance.

lovingmyUSA on May 6, 2014 at 9:32 AM

Jazz, plant a little tree in his honor or inscribe something around your place with Max’s name.

I have a custom floor board at the end of my dock with one of my old dog’s name inscribed on it because that dog would jump about 20 feet into the lake from that very spot, he would run like a banshee and just LEAP. So the board exists to remind everyone that the old boy is still there, still jumping, we just can’t see him.

Bishop on May 6, 2014 at 9:33 AM

Thank You for sharing your story. I am sitting here blubbering thinking about the Max’s that I have lost. I had to put my cat Max down and then my Dog Pebbles. Soon afterward I got another dog Rudy and he died an agonizing death from Parvo. Believe me I feel your pain. Remember the joy that your dog brought even with his quirks and shake-off the things that were beyond your control.

Momma on May 6, 2014 at 9:33 AM

A great tribute. Thanks for sharing and so sorry for your loss.

kahall on May 6, 2014 at 9:36 AM

Right now, now gray/white tuxie girl cat is in the kitchen, the tabby is in a ‘time out’ in the bedroom(he’s there a lot actually), and my 14 year old tortie-Meezer mix is sunning herself a few feet from me. ALL of them are rescues. Sasha(the tortie) was adopted from what was at the time a high kill shelter. Her last ‘parent’ had her 4-paw declawed and she was a mess.
That was 11 years ago.

She has become MY cat. Over the past few months-she’s gone from chubby to very thin. I keep telling her than she’d better ‘live long and prosper’-but she’s 14. Nothing’s forever. I try not to think out ‘it’.
Sasha, Sheldon, and Penny send purr-ayers to you and your family. I send *hugs*-and am wondering how the west Texas dust managed to reach into my front room.

annoyinglittletwerp on May 6, 2014 at 9:37 AM

I read it all and am so very sorry for your loss and for Max’s suffering — BUT from what you’ve shared, Max did have a good life, the best possible after his wronged start. What you and your wife did for this dear creature is remarkable and genuine love, real charity.

I hope you find another dog member of your family soon.

Lourdes on May 6, 2014 at 9:38 AM

You did not fail your dog Jazz…You did not fail.

workingclass artist on May 6, 2014 at 9:40 AM

Jazz: Outsider her door we’ve got a memorial stone for our late cat, Shady-aka Shadrach Binyamin Meowskowitz. It appears to be sandstone. It’s painted and has an inscription. That might be something that you could do for Max.

annoyinglittletwerp on May 6, 2014 at 9:42 AM

Wings earned.

The Oven on May 6, 2014 at 8:16 AM

Indeed. For both Max and you, Jazz.

But with Max, it’s hard to see the golden lining and I’m left with more than the usual amount of pain and ugly, painful questions I may never be able to answer.

You need to stop beating yourself up.

You want my useless opinion on Max: The golden lining is that you gave him food and warmth and comfort and love that he never had before, and sure he was a neurotic dog but that first little bark after the walk was absolute proof that you reached him through all the murk.

This is the way of dogs, they’re with us for a relatively short time and then they have to move on but every step they are there for us, every minute of every day they are thinking of you which is why even when you scold them they still come back.

That’s the tradeoff, the best friend you will ever have but they don’t get to stay long. Max was a great dog in his own way, remember him for being that great dog.

Bishop on May 6, 2014 at 8:51 AM

Bishop, I lurk every day around here but seldom post as my admittedly over-the-top sense of humor often obliterates any serious point I attempt to make. (Just click on my signature.)

Please understand that I could not be more serious than when I say that you, Bishop, have made many a black day for me a bright blue. Oh, how I would love to know you in real life and have you as a friend! Your posts bespeak an uncommon intelligence, insight and wisdom, and your humor disarms completely with its sharpness.

Jazz, I can only weakly echo Bishop’s words in expressing my sorrow for your loss.

I am a sucker for a furry face, and often prefer the company of a soul that motors around in a four-legged vehicle as opposed to many of the ones that drive two-legged vehicles.

Within the past three years, the missus and I have had to say goodbye to six stray feline family members we’ve rescued in the past fifteen years or so. (Believe it or not, they were all close to the same age, and, unfortunately, were all victims of the tainted Chinese pet food from a few years ago, which explains the small window of the entire passing of our pride.)

So, believe me, Jazz: I know your loss, I know your grief, I know your sense of guilt (and it IS baseless). I shed tears with you.

It is my considered opinion that the pain of grief is a price we pay for the love we receive from another soul. Yes, we pay the price– but we never count the cost.

As John Donne wrote about loss, none of us is an island. We’re all part of the continent, a part of the main; thus, we are diminished when part of that continent is washed away. I believe that our four-legged family members are every bit a part of that continent as we are.

I pray that you and yours find a modicum of solace in good memories of Max and the fact that you gave him a good and long life that he would not have had otherwise.

Dime IV on May 6, 2014 at 9:42 AM

Mr. Shaw, you made me cry. My experience was almost the same. And I suffer to this day because I allowed the vets to not permit me to be there at the end with my blind dog.

But Mr. Shaw, I know in my heart that I did not chose this dog. I know that I was chosen by this dog’s Creator to give him the comfort and love he so justly deserved. No one could have loved him more. No one would have altered their life for his existence.

I am sorry to say that you will always suffer because you listened to the vet. But take comfort in the fact that you will never allow someone to take your power away from you again. I have seen it in my life’s experience since I lost my Francesco. Every time I have been in a similar experience since then I see Francesco’s beautiful Maltese face telling me, “That is not an option.”

I believe that we are given lessons in life. Francesco was one of my lessons. Only when we face that lesson head on and learn to deal with it will we advance to the next lesson.

You have graduated my friend. Max advanced you to the next level. Thank him for the lesson. He will be with you always. I feel my little man by my side guiding me constantly. In September it will be 3 years. My life will never be the same. For as much as I’ve lost that’s how much I’ve gained. My heart is heavier but I am much wiser now.

God Bless.

Jayrae on May 6, 2014 at 9:43 AM

Please don’t beat yourself up, Jazz.

None of us are the owners our pets deserve.

But I have yet to meet the animal that didn’t cherish its owners, no matter their failings.

And sooner or later, we all have to make that terrible decision, but know that after some time passes, you will remember all the good things.

Our Maddie made us laugh every day she was with us, and we cried every day for months after she was not. But time and a new dog did wonders for helping us to remember all the good times, while the sad day faded into the background, and you will find that too.

Maddie on May 6, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Thank you very much for your story. Dogs absolutely become members of the family. I don’t think I have the words to cheer you up, but I guess that is how it is.

Sherman1864 on May 6, 2014 at 9:45 AM

Jazz, I know you wont find solace any time soon. I share similar stories. We adopted Willie from Dreampower rescue agency out in Colorado when we were stationed there. Willie chose us. He never left my side, he was protective over the kids. He traveled with us all over Europe and back to stateside. I had him 16 yrs. He was already a yr old when I adopted him. Towards the end he was blind, could barely get outside to do his business, but still ran like a puppy and take a bird right out of the sky on his good days. I knew I couldnt bare to lose him, he stood by my side through 4 of my husbands deployments to Iraq. He was there every day bringing comfort and protection to our home. I feel sometimes he would force himself to get up, to bark at whomever was at the door, even though he could barely see. Then one day, the gate was open and he took off. Willie would take a walk by himself occasionally but always come back within minutes. This time he didnt. I imagine he found an old tree somewhere and drifted off to sleep for one final rest. He knew I couldnt bear to part with him, that I couldnt put him down. He knew and felt that love from us here every day. I looked for him for months afterward, but I knew and felt in my heart that he had to go away, to help us let go of him so he could die in peace. I still grieve him but hes in a better place now. I imagine hes chasing birdies in doggie heaven. I imagine he thinks of us once in a while and remembers how we loved him. Thats all you can do. Life is hard enough for all of us here. A little comfort and companionship is what we can offer one another be it animal or human. You gave that to Max. Hes probably basset barking in doggie heaven, and looking down here at you waiting for you to save another puppy from a life of hell.

canditaylor68 on May 6, 2014 at 9:47 AM

Goodbye sweet Max. Run free at the bridge with my dogs Snoop, Bruno, Molly, Roxie, and all the rest.

Mini-14 on May 6, 2014 at 9:50 AM

Thanks for sharing this, Jazz.

changer1701 on May 6, 2014 at 9:53 AM

I would also say to those people whose vets wouldn’t allow them to be present:


Any vet so unsympathetic to the needs of a dying pet is a disgrace to the profession.

Maddie on May 6, 2014 at 9:56 AM

“sigh” Sorry for your loss man. A dog for whatever reason become one of the family, and passing usually results in great emotional pain when it happens.

Grieve my friend, its normal. Keep a special place for the dog. You gave the dog a much better life in the end, and that is all that can be asked for.

watertown on May 6, 2014 at 9:58 AM

Thanks for taking care of Max. My condolences.

thegreatbeast on May 6, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Jazz, I am sorry for the loss of your Little Dog. I have to agree with your wife, you both did give him a better life, be glad you saved his from the pound.

Keep your head up and think what a cute (although little nippy) your little Max was, and always remember the funny things.

upinak on May 6, 2014 at 10:01 AM

I am so sorry.

dmacleo on May 6, 2014 at 10:02 AM

Jazz I’m very sorry to hear about Max. I know the words will come as small solace, but we all ask ourselves is there something more we could have done when a one we love passes on. My wife had a Sammy the cat for over 18 years. Though I knew him for only about 6 he quickly locked on to me and became quite fond of sitting on my lap much to the consternation of my wife. Sammy passed away last month after a two year struggle with dementia, and my wife and I were with him, his head on my hand as the sedatives took him out of his pain and confusion. The pain and guilt are still quite fresh for us and we still expect to see him in his favorite spots. We now have three new cats, including the problem adoptee recovering from a major jaw injury named Walter. They are filling our lives and home with love and laughter again, but we still look up find Sammy every once in a while.

This too shall pass for us, as it will for you. Thank you for sharing.

James412 on May 6, 2014 at 10:03 AM

damn i am literally crying now.

dmacleo on May 6, 2014 at 10:05 AM

I have a lot of physical issues and my cats have most likely saved my life.
the one that did the most (DJ, he got me through really dark times. would NOT allow me to withdraw into myself. he sensed things) disappeared one night 8-1-2012. at 2am he refused to come in, just looked at me then chased a firefly off the deck. last I saw him.
if it helps maybe seeing pics of them being happy here may help give you some small solace.

you gave him love, and that’s all they ask really.
if we were not able to hurt this bad when losing them we also could not love them as much when they grace us by being with us. a damnable double edged sword.

dmacleo on May 6, 2014 at 10:12 AM

I can tell the writing is therapeutic for you. My condolences. Our biggest responsibilities when animals live with us are take care of them, provide a safe home, and know when it’s time that we have to let them go. Remember the parable about the starfish on the beach. Max was that one you said “it matters to this one”.

TulsAmerican on May 6, 2014 at 10:13 AM

Condolences, Jazz.

KS Rex on May 6, 2014 at 10:13 AM

Whole lot of pollen out this time of year.

rogerb on May 6, 2014 at 8:09 AM

Pollen-schmollen…I’m crying like a baby. Been there, done that with my 24 year old cat Gertrude and my 16 year old Basset Fred.

Jazz…hang in there. You and your bride took in a horribly mistreated soul and gave him a life that he never thought possible. You done good.

TexasEngineer on May 6, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Saw a quote recently that said… “May I always be the kind of person my dog thinks I am”.

Dogs give us the opportunity to be celebrities in our own homes. We come through the door each evening to a ‘rock star’ greeting, are followed about by a loyal, albeit furry, entourage of fans, who lavish affection and deference upon us for the rest of the night, and finally fall asleep guarded by their presence and protection.

What’s weird though, that instead of turning us into ego-monsters, the love of a good dog makes us better people. It’s the ultimate in positive-reinforcement behavior training, where we learn to earn the trust we’re given… where we become the kind of people our dogs think we are.

Of course, it’s natural that in grief we might focus on the times where we came up a little short… but overall, I’d say your Little Dog trained you pretty well. That you could write so movingly of him is a testament to his efforts.

Murf76 on May 6, 2014 at 10:15 AM

Jazz, you should post your story at Mark Levin’s Pet Corner. Your story reminds me a lot of Mark’s first book, Rescuing Sprite.

TarheelBen on May 6, 2014 at 9:02 AM

I rarely have allergies this bad that a couple Kleenexes back to back are used. Thanks for sharing Jazz. I can assure it does get better over time. I too have read Rescuing Sprite. We lost our Duchess a rescue dog that was a black Lab/Shepard mix. She was the sweetest most intelligent dog I’ve ever had. I’ve had many. She nearly made it 16 years. We lost just over 3 years ago.

I was a regular listener of Mark Levin and knew about the book and went out the buy it the next day. It helped me heal. As do all stories such as Mark’s and yours do Jazz. This is a process and I will once again assure you Jazz that what you are going through will get better. I’m sure you know this already though. You started the 1st process by sharing this heartwarming story about a dog that only your wife & you loved. Trust me all dog owners that read this love Max now.

Thanks for sharing.

Conservative4Ever on May 6, 2014 at 10:19 AM

Jazz, may you and youy wife find comfort in knowing you provided a loving home to a unloved dog. You loved Max and he loved you and that is all that matters. Rest well Max. Time does indeed heal. Enjoy the memories you shared with him Jazz and create some new ones also, there are more Max’s out there that need love!

D-fusit on May 6, 2014 at 10:21 AM

Awww, what a sweet dog. Prayers to you from a fellow dog lover.

Ward Cleaver on May 6, 2014 at 10:22 AM

I understand keeping a cantankerous pet, since I have one. Let me explain a bit – we used to have a dog who was the kindest and gentlest border collie I’ve ever seen, and everyone loved her. We finally had to say goodbye to her last year when her back legs quit working, at age 14. Now we have 2 cats – one, my wife’s, is pretty nice and fairly average. The other, a shaggy fat black cat named Feline, which I took over from my daughter, is just nasty. She hates every cat and every person in the world besides me. My wife wonders why I keep her, I guess it amuses me. Luckily she can fend for herself outside (she’s too mean for anything to mess with her) so if we go somewhere, I just put a big bowl of food outside and shove her out the door for a couple days. My wife keeps hoping the cat will run off, but she refuses to, she just goes and hides under some bushes near a bird feeder and kills anything small and weak which gets too close to her. (often she will leave the heads – just the heads – on our back doormat. I think she’s trying to be friendly, my wife thinks it’s a warning)

Well, she’s getting close to 10 years old now. Someday a medical emergency will come up, but I’ve already decided, max limit is $200, and if the bill is gonna be past that, Syonara.

Better for your own peace of mind to work out your limits ahead of time.

Tom Servo on May 6, 2014 at 10:24 AM

Dime IV on May 6, 2014 at 9:42 AM

You wouldn’t like me in real life, I’m tattooed and vaguely scary in a way you can’t quite put your finger on, but thank you for your kind words.

Bishop on May 6, 2014 at 10:28 AM

Well now you did it, Jazz, you made me cry. RIP Max. Dogs are family, and when they pass on, it always leaves a hole in your soul. When it your turn, Jazz, hopefully he will come running to you, on the other side.

kjatexas on May 6, 2014 at 10:30 AM

I would also say to those people whose vets wouldn’t allow them to be present:


Any vet so unsympathetic to the needs of a dying pet is a disgrace to the profession.

Maddie on May 6, 2014 at 9:56 AM

I was going to say the same thing. Insist on being with them. I don’t know whether the vet doesn’t want to deal with hysterical relatives or if he doesn’t want you to know what he’s doing. You need to insist on being there.

crankyoldlady on May 6, 2014 at 10:30 AM

Thank you for taking in this little dog and giving him a life filled with love. If he had been put to death at that shelter, then his entire life would have been one of pain and loneliness. Instead, he had your family and got to live a loved dog’s life the best he could. I’m agnostic, but if there is some kind of heaven, people like you and your wife will be there, along with your four-legged family members.

blackgriffin on May 6, 2014 at 10:31 AM

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