I remember the moment when my dad called to tell me about a dog he found in the Clarion Ledger Classifieds. He knew I wanted to surprise Dan with a dog for his birthday. He gave me the number of the man who put the ad in the paper. I immediately called him, heard all about the dog and decided to drive to Florence, MS the next day to meet the dog and buy him.
This man bought two toy poodles with the the idea to breed them. After doing a little research, he decided not to breed them due to the work and wanted to keep only one of them. He chose the female. The male, Patch was for sale. He was 10 months old, current on all shots, registered and most importantly, already house trained.
I knew a poodle was the exact breed Dan wanted because of Cha-Cha, our friends' Jason and Jada's dog. He liked the fact that their house didn't smell like a dog and she didn't shed. So, our search for a poodle began but Dan didn't know I had found him yet.
I didn't tell Dan about him until we were on our way to Jackson. I couldn't keep the secret any longer so I blurted it out. We went straight to Florence to meet Patch. We loved him immediately. We paid the man $200 and promised him we would be back later that night after running our errands in Jackson. We spent the day talking all things puppy while rushing through our errands to get back to that dog...our dog.
We drove back to that house in Florence, thanked the man, said goodbye to Patch's puppy friend then got into our car as the very proud owners of a little black toy poodle with the brand new name, Max.
Dan drove the 2 hours back to Vidalia while I held him. We now know that forever sealed the deal of Dan's birthday present becoming forever obsessed with me. While it was often very annoying to have a constant shadow, companion and bed snuggler, I've always secretly loved it. I've felt very loved my entire life but the way that dog loved me is beyond all I can comprehend. He literally mourned when I left the house until I returned. Dan has sent me numerous photos over the years of him just staring at the door waiting for me to return.
For 3 years, Max was our only child. We doted on him and loved him like an infant. We even carried him like a real human baby. Before Jonah was born in 2006, Dan secretly confessed to me that he wasn't sure he could even love an actual human child more than he loved the dog. I looked across at him and shook my head in solidarity. We were head over heels in love with that silly little 10 pound ball of fur.
Jonah was born and much to our surprise, we did love him as much as the dog and actually, even more! (But we never told Max that tidbit of information.) He was front and center on Jonah's birth announcement. His calm world was rocked by this new baby who would one day become his biggest fan and his best friend. Who, many years later would give him kisses through tears as he had to say goodbye.
We gave that little puppy a home but he gave us the real gift. He gave us 16 years of happiness and joy. We're the real winners in this whole deal. I'm not sure if the movie is right and all dogs go to Heaven but I do know this life here on earth was better because of Max.
(If you don't want to read the sad details...stop here! I want a record of the day for our boys so I'm going to write about it at the bottom of this post. But, fair warning...it is sad!)
Today, we had to make the painful decision to say goodbye. I was in Miami with Dan when Beth called to say he wasn't well. She had the boys and the dog while we were away. When I left Sunday, he was fine. Today, he couldn't even put weight on his back legs. His stool was full of blood. He was lethargic. She called me as soon as she dropped the boys at school and told me his time was short.
I was devastated. Dan was already at the convention but I immediately text him. I told him I needed to leave because the boys didn't need to be without one of us if he didn't make it. He still had duties at the convention and a meeting Wednesday morning so there was no way he could leave yet. I packed quickly and left Miami with Dan's car. I met Beth at the vet at 4:00. His body was limp and he could barely lift his head. I knew it was the end. I sat in the waiting room and cried my eyes out while holding him close to me...his preferred way to sit.
Jonah was supposed to go to Bible Study but I asked Andrew to drop him at the vet instead. He came in and collapsed. He loved Max so much. No matter how much we prepared him for this day, he wasn't ready...none of us were. The vet explained to Jonah that Max was very old and very sick. He talked him through the process of what was going to happen. Jonah said he wanted to say goodbye but didn't want to be in the room.
I couldn't leave Max, though. I was torn between comforting my human child in the next room or staying with my puppy as he took his final breaths. It was hard but I knew I needed to be with Max one last time. Jonah sat on the bench outside the door and text with his daddy. He wanted to come back in to see him one more time. We Facetimed Dan and we all cried together. (Poor Dan...it's so hard being away from us during this!!) Jonah said one more goodbye and he left the room.
I held him close like I have so many times before- only, this time was the last.
Dr. Matt came back in the room and gave him the medication. Max didn't even lift his head. It's almost like he appreciated what we were about to do for him. He was sick. He was tired. He had loved us with his whole heart. It was our turn to love him back in the same way and let him go. So we did.
Farewell, our little Max! You brought us years of unspeakable joy and we will be forever grateful!