Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Celebrating Man's Best Friend

I attended a funeral of sorts a couple of years ago and it was very hard. Every funeral that I’ve been to in my adult life has been tough, but this one was different. This one signified the passing of Max.

You see Max was a dog. More specifically, Max was a furry white Samoyed that belonged to and was the companion of my friend Jewel Dowlearn — or as my family called her, Miss Jewel. Miss Jewel and Max, or Maxie as she called him, have been friends for more than 10 years.

As with most dog lovers, Maxie and Miss Jewel built a strong relationship over the years they knew each other. Miss Jewel provided her “puppy” with food, water, shelter, a warm bed at night and lots and lots of attention. He was a lucky dog to be so loved and so well cared for.

In return, Maxie provided much needed companionship to a lady that needed it. He would lie down by her feet at night. And like most dogs, he loved his master unconditionally. Somehow it seemed that Maxie knew just what Miss Jewel needed.

Max was a smart dog. At night, when Miss Jewel, who was well into her 90s, took her hearing aid out, he would bark to let her know if he needed to go outside. He would also “sound the alarm” if the phone rang and she needed to answer it.

About a month or so ago, Max starting showing signs that something was just not right. He had been losing his sight for quite sometime, but he was also starting to sleep a lot more than usual. Miss Jewel had to physically get him up to eat and to go outside.

When he was up and around, he would spend his time pacing back and forth. Sometimes he would pace around until he walked into a corner then he would just lie down and go to sleep.

Miss Jewel began taking Maxie to see the veterinarian  in the small South Texas town where we lived at the time. He told Miss Jewel she had a sick little puppy on her hands.

The doctor worked with Max and did all he could, but in the end, Max’s little body just played out.

I went by to see Miss Jewel one day and she was pretty distraught over her dog, as you can probably imagine. I went to the back room where Max was sleeping and saw that he was in pretty bad shape.

When we walked into the room he never moved. His chest labored up and down trying to get air into his lungs. The only time he moved was when he lifted his head to pant. We could tell that he was hurting.

My wife talked to Miss Jewel again a couple of days later and she knew that it was time to think about putting Max to sleep.

That is a really hard decision for any dog owner to make. It’s not made quickly. However, in the end we truly believe that it’s the right thing to do for an animal. For Maxie, it was the right thing to do.

So after one last weekend together, we all went to Miss Jewel’s house to load Maxie up for his final ride in a white Lincoln Town Car. How fitting.

Even as we lifted his body from his bed in her house and placed him in the car, we could tell that he was in pain. It seemed, however, that he was being strong for her.
We put him in the back seat of the car on a towel. He was hurting and scared. Miss Jewel took her place next to him for the ride. She held his head in her lap and ran her hands through his fur during the short ride.

Miss Jewel asked me to sit with Maxie as the doctor began relieving Maxie’s pain. She supposed we all thought she was a chicken because she couldn’t hold her dog to the very end. I didn’t think that at all. I thought she was very brave to make the tough decision in the first place. I was glad to be able to help her say goodbye to Maxie.

The doctor checked Maxie one last time and agreed this was the probably the best thing. 

Soon, Maxie wasn’t hurting any more.

Unfortunately, the human lives he touched were hurting. We all cried.

Then we took Maxie’s body back to Miss Jewel’s house to lay him to rest in her backyard.

Three former dogs take their place around a little tree in Miss Jewel’s garden along with Maxie.

Miss Jewel says that she’ll never have another dog. “It’s just too hard to let them go,” she said.

I’m sure that after she’s had some time to think about it and mourn, she’ll give in and get another “companion” to share her life with.

That’s what dogs are: God’s gift of companionship to us humans.

And for that, I’m glad.

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