Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Paw Prints Across My Heart

I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime.  I think this sentiment is not restricted to humans, but applies to any living being who enters our orbit.  I've presented my dog, Max, to you on several occasions through various blog posts, including this one I wrote last month about his unusual sleep behaviors.  At the time I published that post, I had absolutely no idea I'd be saying goodbye to my big guy just days before Christmas.

Max joined our family February 2011.  My husband and I visited a local Michigan Humane Society shelter on a whim, where I saw him and instantly fell in love with this 4-legged Prince Charming.  Being a big guy, the counselors at MHS wanted to make certain he would fit into our family, especially given our younger kids were then 16 and 13 years.  Additionally, Max was briefly adopted to a woman who returned him after 3 weeks citing he was too strong for her, so they really wanted his next adoption to land him in his "forever home".  We agreed to come back with the kids the following day so they could meet and interact with him, and decide then if our family would provide him with that great fit.  I then researched his breed, and learned that he was not only an American Bulldog, but leaned more towards being a Johnson-breed dog.  That revelation almost screamed to me "HE'S YOURS!"

The next day came and we had a full-fledged blizzard raging in Southeast Michigan which I feared would impact our ability to make it to the shelter before closing.  As soon as my husband came home from work, we embarked on a two and a half hour drive (which normally should have taken 30 to 45 minutes) to the MHS shelter.  As we walked closer to his pod, we saw Max in what I called the Get Acquainted room with another woman.  I was so disappointed because I feared we were too late.

I learned from the counselors, however, she had trouble raising the money to pay his adoption fees, plus they were not keen about adopting him to her because she had very young children who frequented her house and were concerned Max would inadvertently harm them during playtime because he was so big and strong.  As soon as she exited the room, I directed my kids to go and play with him (code for GUARD HIM!) and I immediately began the adoption process.

Feb. 5th - Adoption Day
(you can see all of the heavy snow through the rear widow)

Max immediately found his place in the family and became part of almost all activities in and out of the home.  Just like everyone else, there were always wrapped gifts under the tree for Max on Christmas Day.

His mere presence and need for physical activity incentivized us to visit various local parks.  Some of my favorite memories included taking Max to Belle Isle for impromptu picnics, and our visits to the deck at Carpenter Lake to share breakfast.

Carpenter Lake

His personality was so endearing that it didn't take long for him to capture our collective hearts.

One of his favorite activities was going for walks around our neighborhood.

recovery time after a long walk on a hot day

He so enjoyed getting outside and the excitement he demonstrated was so exuberant that we were often challenged with getting his collar and leash around his neck.

My walks with him would typically begin with him pulling me down the street, yet half way in I could safely detach his leash because his pace slowed considerable and he was usually pulling up the rear.

He also loved having his belly, chest and neck rubbed and did a great job of training me to do so whenever he rolled onto his back - which was often!

He brought new definition to the term "Lap Dog".  I truly believe he was clueless about just how big he was.

He was a frequent visitor to my Sewing Room as I worked on various projects.

He was a fantastic Snuggle Buddy for Saturday and Sunday afternoon naps...

...even when I wasn't there!

Oh, and I do think I shared with you that he snores in his sleep, right?

I've long suspected him as being a Sun Worshiper because he would find the sunniest spot in the house to lie in, and so enjoyed taking naps on the deck on warm summer days.

He was extremely photogenic and possessed adorable physical characteristics, like the mole on his rear left paw...

...and the heart-shape patch of fur on his neck... well as his beautiful color and markings.

One aspect of his personality I sometimes found annoying was his propensity to play possum whenever I wanted to capture video of his antics.  It was almost like he sensed I was rolling video and he would just stop whatever he was doing.

Max was a fully vested and loved member of our family.  So, when he developed cysts in different areas of his body, my husband and I scheduled to have them surgically removed on Dec. 6th and Max wore a collar for a day.  He managed to rupture a few stitches, which his doctor mended the following week, and was scheduled to have all of them removed on Christmas Eve.  He was doing just fine.

But early last week, I noticed his abdomen was distended and his cheeks and gums were extremely pale so I took him back to his doctor, Dr. Maria, on Wednesday morning.  After taking X-rays of his belly, it was her professional opinion that he developed a cancer in his spleen, and while surgery was an option, it would likely extend his life for only a short period of time with a high likelihood the cancer metastasized to other organs.  I couldn't justify putting Max through more pain and discomfort for this illness to only come back, so I made the truly gut-wrenching decision for him to be euthanized.

I called my family to let them know and we were able to assemble by Max's side to love him and say our goodbyes.  When the moment finally arrived, Dr. Maria set expectations for us on what was to follow and then injected the medicine into the catheter she inserted in his left paw earlier that morning.  While petting him, and kissing him, and verbalizing our love for him, Max simply went to sleep.  There was no pain.  No discomfort.  Only love...and then sleep.

Max's 9th birthday was December 18th, and he left this physical life on December 21st.  We had him in our lives for almost 6 years, and I thank God for the day He allowed our paths to cross back in February 2011.  I miss him terribly, especially at moments like now where I'm certain he would be laying under my chair as I sit at my desk writing this post.  But, I am now able to think about him, talk about him and look at his photos and videos without sobbing.  I was a blessed Pet Mommy who was loved by a great, great dog!

RIP Maxie Boy.  I will never stop loving you.



  1. I'm so very sorry! My heart aches for you and your family.

  2. I am so very sorry Aisha. I said goodbye to my precious Little Bit the end of September. I miss her each and every day. You made the right decision. I too had a dog quite a few years ago with the exact same issue. I too made the decision to say goodbye rather than make her suffer. Max was a very special dog with a heart so big that it couldn't all be contained inside, so he had to also wear it on the outside of his body. Not only will he be forever in your heart, you will be in his as well.

    1. Thank you so much, Rhonda, for your compassionate words...they truly mean a lot to me, especially from someone who understands the pain I'm feeling. I remember reading your post about Little Bit and I could tell how much her loss impacted your family. I am getting comfortable with the decision we made because I know it was in his best interest, but it almost goes without saying that we miss him every day. There have been so many instances when we've looked for him, or almost dropped a table scrap in his bowl, before remembering... it's so quiet in the house without him and his absence is absolutely palpable. He was, indeed, a very special dog and I'm so glad he was ours for most of his life. Thank you again!