Requiem for Maxwell S. Smart

Year 2000

He had already been passed around 3 times – and he was only 9 weeks old when I came upon him.

Rended my soul, melted my heart.

His current guardians advertised him in the local paper – but he was not pure anything – just needed a home in exchange for dollars; they couldn’t keep him either.

It had been a long, lonely two years since my best buddy Roscoe died in my arms – it’s so tough getting past losing the best features of your life. But apparently it had been long enough and the search began for another I could find a bond with.

Before Maxwell – visits with a couple of others didn’t work; I began thinking there was something about me that had become repulsive to the canine society. This was scary.

Then there was Max.

When we first met it was late June in Arizona. Hot, hot, hot…

He was fully sprawled over a floor air conditioning duct – snoozing blissfully.

The people caring for him, told me his name and brief unsettled history, on the phone call.  

I set out to see if ‘he was the one’…

Then, there he lay… On the AC vent.

I called his name as I knelt a few feet away. He opened his eyes, raised his head slightly, then rolled to get up and sleepily toddled the few feet into my lap.

He looked up at my face, then snuggled back to sleep.

I looked at the people witnessing this, and simply said – ‘we are each other’s keepers’… paid them and took my new angel home.

………

Smart boy… Very smart boy.

Beautiful boy the more he matured – everyone was impressed that met him and he always greeted with love and intelligence. His ‘mom’ took as many lessons from him as possible.

At well under a year we began training together so he could assist with my hearing disability. The trainer thought him too young, but relented.

Max finished the course three weeks ahead of schedule, became certified,then continued on his own by osmosis, to see how else he could help.

What a guy…

Part SharPei, part Labrador, part who knows – he was most excellent.

At two – he was diagnosed with the fatal genetic anomaly of the SharPei… Commonly known as Swollen Hock Syndrome. So very debilitating, painful and fatal.

His Doctor provided shots into his hind leg joints; said his blood levels were bad; said he would have to begin a regime of drug which would ultimately destroy his organs. Gave him six months to live and not well at that.

So…

My beautiful boy…

Luck was running with us. My frantic but meticulous search of the internet turned up a possible herbal treatment – which I ordered and began treating him with.

A vet visit three weeks later confirmed what I had been observing and Max had been feeling… His blood levels had totally normalized!!! His hock joints were good to go!!!

His six months was mitigated!  

We continued our lives together – with the herbals and a last vet check at 3 months.

No – it wasn’t a cure – but a darned great maintenance program which he was to remain on the next several blessed years.

Until…

There are so many chapters to Max’s life and loyalty to me. Perhaps one day, before I go across the river Styx, I’ll be able to do a tell all for him. And one for Roscoe too…

For now – this is Max’s – final weeks, days, hours, minutes.

When we moved to New Mexico in 2008 – it was under great duress. 

He knew, I knew all had taken a drastic change. He could read me like a book; we had – after all – over 7 years together. Living with a human of any stripe cannot be an easy thing – and Max did this with me, fearlessly with immense self dignity.

After I lost my work due to the ‘economic turn down’ everything else was lost over the course of several months; the savings, the condo; the ability to find work of any kind.

Too old now – I was.

I didn’t take it well at all.

Max Stood by me like the trooper he was, from a baby.

Ultimately, the only place left was the raw land parcel in New Mexico, purchased in better times – in 2001. We had camped many times – Max adored it…

 We left for it.

Arriving in June 2008 – we set up camp. He was ecstatic – I was stunned & beyond depressed. 

The only thing I could do was to pretend we were camping – to alleviate my feelings of rejection; loss; failure; hopelessness. 

Then our good truck was repossessed in July – the lender refused to wait another 3 weeks for full 2 month back payments and money ahead.

The repo guy came to the property to tow it away – and did. Max watched it leave then looked at me for an explanation. It was clear he didn’t like what he was seeing.

Another bout of tears and trying to explain but he wound up cheering me up by just being close.

When one has a being like Maxwell S. Smart at one’s side – one cannot be depressed for long. Thankfully!

An ATV was loaned to us when it was pretty rapidly found out our situation.

The good truck gone, a used one was found – odd vehicle – but it ran. Max thought it was aces – but anything he could ride in with a window down was heaven for him.

This ‘adventure’ began end of June.  It swiftly turned to August, September, October 2008; with us going to stores to see what heaters (propane) we could get – then what could be used to better weather proof the camping tent.

I’m sure Max applauded all efforts..

His shorthair coat had no undercoat so as it got colder a down vest was relegated to his outdoor use. Then it got colder still he rarely had it off.

November -Thanksgiving Day – it began to snow.

And the average temps hovered around 30’s daytime – single digits at night.

The tent with all the insulating and tarps around and over it kept the inside at about 48°… Constant, no matter what got thrown at us weatherwise. I had presence of mind (and desperation) to situate it in a tny grove of juniper and pinion. It helped a lot.

We wintered well until January – Max became ill – vomiting every few days.

A local vet was accessed & took xrays.

Maxwell had developed a mass of some sort and it was suggested due to his history to treat the mass as an infection first. We left with antibiotics. Went ‘home’…

He was responding and seemed on the mend – then end of January he bloated up horribly. Called the vet again – this time a abdominal fluid draw was done. It was dark with blood.

The vet shook his head; I begged if there was anything could be done and another type of drug was provided.

We went back to camp again.

The swelling reduced dramatically; no vomiting; he was so normal again.

February 11 (my birthday) Max & I had one of our normal raucous plays in the morning. He was FULL of it.

He took a nap outside as I was cleaning inside.  After a couple of hours he comes to me and stares; then almost collapses into a frantic digging, nesting, pulling grass, and whining howling – going in circles indicating extreme pain in his lower abdomen. 

We’re both pretty much in desperate full panic now.  Called the vet again – not there. A substitute is called – I told him the history and current events… 

He could hear Max in the background… The vet said the mass had most likely broken & nothing could be done including surgery… 

That Max was actually in a death thro.

That I had to make a decision to alleviate his suffering – put him to sleep.

Have Max killed…

O God… My beautiful, beautiful boy…

We headed out that very late afternoon toward death.

Max and I…  

He was in so much pain but once in the truck & moving he tried for a hopeful look and less crying.

My brave, brave boy…

This – after all – was his third trip in the direction of help he received on the two prior occasions.  No doubt Max was looking forward to relief again and I kept up as soothing a running conversation and touching as much as I could over the miles. 

It was so very dark out by now and even darker within.

Max did his best to look forward to further help.

My heart and soul were shattering with each mile – his were anticipating less pain. 

I had no idea what was to come.

As we approached and came abreast of the clinic he knew well- he came upright in the seat behind me… 

Help was close!!!

But we passed by – he turned and howled watching out the back window As his hope receded in the distance… 

He turned back and pushed his paw against my shoulder, then turned to the back window again…

He cried and howled…

Cried and howled…

How could this be ??? 

Where were we going???

Why didn’t we stop???  

His Doctor help was there…  

Why???

I pulled over a couple of miles past & we both got out for a moment.  He was able to relieve himself as he whimpered.  Kept looking back in the direction of the clinic.

When we finally did get to where we were going ; after being turned away from the recommended clinic (they did not accept checks) – both Max & I were exhausted beyond our realities.

Both of us numb and not able to help each other at all.  

I had betrayed him and he felt betrayed – I just knew this in my crushed soul and heart.

We were led into a room where an IV relaxent was applied to Max.  It relieved his pain.

He knew something not good was about to happen.

Max knew …

He took one last look – a long one – at me – I saw all our years in his eyes – then over the next 20 minutes  of waiting for his kill shot – he did not respond to me at all; would not look at me again.

How could he?   

When he knew…

Then it was done.

It was forever finished for my beautiful boy, on this plane of existence;  for Max…

I will bear this burden until I also die – it’s only right.

……..
We arrived back at camp around 3 in the morning on Feb.12th.  He was curled up in a large box next to me on the way back.  Just like he was sleeping.

I kept crying and talking to him with my hand rarely leaving his head.  180 miles of pain for both of us into Albuquerque; 180 miles back, of shear agony, for just me.

I couldn’t bare taking him out of the truck… So took a blanket out and stayed the night with him; tears never stopping; talk never ceasing. 

As daylight came I tearfully walked 3/4’s of a mile to the nearest neighbor & borrowed a breaker bar, to begin Max’s grave…it took all that day and part of the next, to produce a hole deep enough in frozen winter ground – next to the tent, where he liked to nap.

The two and a half nights I spent with him in the truck were so cold – but he had his vest on.

Max was laid to his final rest – too soon – on Valentines Day – mid morning… In his vest, his winter snow boots beside him and his favorite giant tennis ball.

My beautiful, brave, intelligent boy.

The next day,  after this final act -I know I saw him dart through the adjacent trees. I know I did!

He was still with me!  Perhaps he had forgiven me!

Then on the 17th of February – a gift of a six week old gurldawg…

I believe this was Max’s last act of devotion to me. Mine to him was to embrace her wholeheartedly.

The angel he sent in his stead has helped ease all.  He’s  here – always will be with both of us.

Her name – Maxine…

Maxine is so much her very own gurldawg – but she has over time and on her very own, developed all the traits of Max, along with her own stamp on life.

On living with me.  

No one can pursuade me he did not whisper to her either before his departure or after, for this to be so.

It is now a few weeks before 2017;
with as much love and affection as the first day I saw you Max – these memories are made by you; they are for you…

They are you.

Your Forever Mom.

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