Saying bye to an old friend is never easy, especially when he has four legs and a loyal spirit.
We had to put our first child to sleep this week, our dog Max, and our family is in mourning.
I must admit I haven't been the best dog mom over the years. Once I had children I became overwhelmed by the responsibilities of pets. Once a cherished member of the family who was allowed to sleep on the bed and go almost everywhere with us, Max became banished to the garage (albeit with a nice soft bed and plenty to eat and drink). It didn't help that my oldest daughter was allergic or that he was anxious around small children.
I fed him, groomed him, and made sure he got his shots, but our relationship was never the same A.K. – after kids.
But as the girls grew, so did Max's tolerance for them. He soon became their dog. They hugged him, stroked him, and played with him. They never failed to remind me when I spoke sternly to him that I needed to be more pleasant in order to make him listen to me.
"He knows you don't like him Mommy," my oldest daughter would say, "that's why he's ignoring you."
"It's not that I don't like him," I would say with guilt dripping out of my pores, "he just gets in my way sometimes."
In all honestly I think it was his hearing loss combined with the lack of energy that age and ultimately cancer brought to his body that made him lethargic and unable to follow directions. In the last year we accepted the fact that Max was slowing down. We let him stay in the house, sleep at the foot of our bed or on the couch. Even in his last days he followed me from room to room like he did when he was a puppy, sitting at the foot of my treadmill, under the kitchen table as I ate, or outside my shower door waiting for me at every turn.
When I carried his emaciated body into the vet yesterday wrapped in a thick blanket he looked up at me wearily. He was in so much pain I wasn't sure he really knew where we were. But I think in the end he always knew I loved him in a way that a child who butts heads with a parent still knows they are loved. My girls cried a river of tears the night before when we told them that Max was going to doggie heaven. I shed a few at the vet, but it wasn't until I was alone in the car that I let go, and realized how much I would miss my old friend ...