My dog Max died two weeks ago. Although his legs had begun to fail, he was otherwise in good health and spirits, and his passing was wholly unexpected. We’d taken a long walk the day before and he’d been so full of joy! Rushing ahead, leading the charge, till finally he was so spent he’d practically collapsed. He woke us early the next morning, about 3:30 am, crashing around downstairs. My husband rose to let him out, thinking he had to go to the bathroom. Max went out into the yard and laid down in the grass. He wouldn’t get up, even after John called him several times. His breathing was labored, his tongue hung to one side and his lips felt cold. Something was seriously wrong.
John came and got me, and together we went outside and rolled Max onto a blanket and carried his heavy (150 lb.) frame inside. We placed him gently on the rug, then fetched blankets and pillows for ourselves. We laid, side by side, as if on a camping trip. Petting him, speaking to him, sensing – somehow – that this was the end. Just shy of 4:30 his breathing became almost imperceptible, punctuated only by a few deep gasps. He didn’t seem to be in any pain. John woke the girls in time for them to say goodbye. And then Max was gone.
His swift departure has left a hole in the heart of my family. Max lived with us his entire life, from 7 weeks to almost 10 years. He grew up side by side with our daughters, and neither can remember life without him.
We miss him terribly. But even in death Max remains a steadfast presence in our lives. I see him when I walk the woods, I feel him beside me at the beach. Each morning as I rise, I meet him in the hallway where we parted, and every meal I fail to finish I take out to his yard. 2 weeks ago, Max died, and we buried him under the apple tree. And next year, when flowers bloom from his grave, I will think of him all the more.
A dear neighbor gave us a book of poems to help us through our loss. Many are consoling, some difficult to even read, but the one which has touched me the most was written by Rudyard Kipling and is entitled Four-Feet.
I have done mostly what most men do,
And pushed it out of my mind;
But I can’t forget, if I wanted to,
Four-Feet trotting behind.
Day after day, the whole day through —
Wherever my road inclined —
Four-feet said, “I am coming with you!”
And trotted along behind.
Now I must go by some other round, —
Which I shall never find —
Somewhere that does not carry the sound
Of Four-Feet trotting behind.