Tonight we lost Max, our English Cream Golden Retriever of nine and a half years.
We adopted Max in 2010. Back then he was an energetic three year old with a penchant for counter cruising and eating things he wasn’t supposed to. He had more than a little separation anxiety from having been abandoned by previous owners, which we never understood; he was the sweetest boy we had ever known! By 2020 he had slowed down considerably and his hips weren’t quite as limber but he was still just as sweet and just as devoted to his pack.
Max joined our pack in Houston and moved with us to Chapel Hill, where he had a chance to chase deer and play in the snow. He also spent a lot of time being a free-running country dog in Hot Springs, a turkey-hunting mountain dog in Asheville, and a sandy beach dog in the Outer Banks. He was with us through some of the most significant moments of our lives: marriage, a PhD, business failure, business success, pregnancy loss, and the birth of our child. He took it all in stride and was a source of comfort throughout.
Max seemed to be missing the “retriever” gene as he had little interest in balls, sticks, and the like – and even less interest in bringing anything he did fetch back to us. He was very vocal and had a very particular “arooo” bay.
He loved being a sun dog, lying out on our deck, squinting and panting until he had to come in to cool off. He loved barking at anyone and anything outside our front door but wagging his tail and licking anyone who actually came inside. His eternal optimism that he might be the recipient of our food earned him the label Max The Ever Hopeful. His penchant for getting into light trouble earned him the label Max The Mischievous!
His last month with us was one of the best of his life. Katie and I were working from home so he got much more attention – and many more plates to lick – than he was accustomed to. His last day was idyllic and included steak gristle off our plates after dinner. While I was putting our child down to sleep, Max collapsed on the floor and couldn’t get back up. Katie was with him as he panted for a few minutes and then just stopped breathing. His belly was full and his pack was with him.
Now we are coping with a house (and home office for who knows how long) that feels emptier. There is no wagging tail when we open the front door. There is no furry chin on one of our knees, waiting for a scratch. There is no furry barrel chest to pat. When I walk by the dog bed to give a final goodnight pet on my way to bed, it is empty. We keep putting our plates down on the kitchen floor out of habit but there is no one to clean them off. Even our toddler has noticed. “Dog gone?” “Max gone!”
While it’s true that Max is gone from our physical world, his mark on our pack will last forever. He was our first baby. He had a good, long life and was cared for immeasurably. He was – and always will be – a good boy.