Today was a day I knew was inevitable, but dreaded nonetheless. For today we said farewell to Maximus, our delightful, intelligent, charming rescue dog.
Max was going on 16, which for a large dog (~75 pounds) makes him a very old man – about 100 in dog years. A German Shepherd/Bearded Collie mix, he was a unique creature, loved by all who met him.
He lived a long full life, and succumbed to a fate that awaits the luckiest of us: Old age. The hip dysplasia, so characteristic of Shepherds his size, began slowing him down; the vision began to fade, then the hearing, and more recently the energy levels. He still wanted to play with the towels when we dried him off from the rain; still loved his treats, the chicken jerky and the Frosty Paws dog ice cream. But he walked more and more like the old man he was, slowly, gingerly. He slept more and more. Even still, he always found his way into whatever room we were in, wanting to be nearby.
Max was born an old soul. He knew things. Unless you have experienced an old soul, it cannot be explained.
He was so incredibly intuitive that we labored for many years under a false impression that we were simply the most wonderful dog trainers ever. I worked with him every morning, teaching him sit, beg, paw, other paw, speak, stay, roll over. He went out each morning to fetch the paper from our driveway — the main reason we still get the print edition of the NYT was that it was his chore to fetch it each day. Once he learned to balance a treat on his nose, I ran out of things to teach him.
All of our assumptions were quickly disproven once we got Jackson, a rambunctious Labradoodle. He quickly dispelled our illusions of greatness — it was Max who was brilliant, not us.
I will spare you most of our favorite stories of Max’s exploits, for the simple reason that you would call me a liar, and I have no interest in having to drive to your house tonight to punch you in the nose — not over my honor, but his. But I will share with you a story or two that are no less true than the rest, their sole beneficial characteristic being they are believable.
When he was a puppy of about 5 or 6 months old, we were watching TV, sitting on the couch. We were surprised and amused when he pulled the leash off the wall, and walked up to us holding it in his mouth (of course, we took him out). We laughed the first few times he did this, until once I said to Max (pointing to my bare feet) “I need my shoes.” To our astonishment, Max ran up to the bedroom, rooted through the closest, came back with a shoe. “What am I going to do with 1 shoe?” I asked him as a goof; “Go get the other shoe” — and again to our amazement, he did.
We showed this to friends, who assumed it was a parlor trick. You planted treats in the shoes they would say. “You choose any shoe on the floor of the closest” was my standard response to the challenge. They would, I’d show it to Max, and he would get the matching shoe.
We have many stories like that, none of which are especially believable, but are all true nonetheless. Our neighbor’s dog Ralphie was a border collie who tended to get loose and make a break for it; All we had do to was say to the Max missile “Go get Ralph, bring him back” – and off he would go, to fetch Ralph. He always got his dog.
We bought our first house soon after. Once the closing was complete, the Seller told us about the feral cat that lived in the garage (a barn-like structure detached from the house). They told us they fed it, but couldn’t get anywhere near the cat, who was afraid of everything. One fine summer day, I was working in the garden, with Max lounging in the sunshine and enjoying the grass. The feral cat strolled out of the garage, right up to Max, and began rubbing him with his face (as cats do). The cat seemed to recognize that old soul right there.
Walking him — without a leash on our dead end traffic-less street — was never a headache. Once, a squirrel shot out of the bushes in front of us. Max gave chase for two houses when the squirrel made a leap for a tree – but somehow miscalculated. He skidded off the bark, and Max was on him in a flash. But then he did something uncharacteristic of dogs — he just laid down next to him, leaving the squirrel totally unharmed. By the time I caught up to the two of them, the squirrel was sitting there — dazed, no worse for wear and tear, but completely perplexed as to why he was not a chew toy.
An old soul indeed. A noble, gentle creature, he will be greatly missed.
Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear
His Summer haircut made him look like a bit like a Giant Schnauzer:
What dog does not enjoy a day on the water?
Did I mention he loved the snow?
Sorry for the loss of your dog.
His character shows in the photos.
He looks just like you. Enjoy the memories.
So awful to hear this . . . I’m at a loss for words. I can only hope that the pain of his loss that you’re experiencing subsides as soon as possible.
Such a great dog, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of dog. He’ll be missed.
So sorry for your loss…you made many, many good memories to remember and honour him by. He will always be in your heart.
My deepest condolences.
I’m so sorry, Barry. A great dog (and they are all great before humans get their hands on them) can be the most beautiful thing in the world. hang in there.
That’s very touching.
BR, sorry for your loss. :(
I understand, I’ve had 2 amazing dogs who taught me about life in really important ways. Sorry for your loss.
So sorry to hear that this day has come. Max was our favorite dog of all time and we will miss him. His affection for you was obvious to see and he had a great life. We will talk to you tomorrow.
Hugs to you both,
No matter how many you own, it never gets easier to say goodbye. He was obviously a great dog who had owners to match. Your family and Max were both very lucky to have found each other.
I am sorry for your loss. You and your family were greatly blessed to have such a pet and creator of such wonderful memories.
Sad to lose a furry friend by accident, sadder when there’s nothing more to be done, and you have to ask the vet to make it happen…with you by their side.
Sorry to hear…
Hey Barry, what a wonderful (and sad) article about Maximus. He sounds like a wonderful soul. My wife and I parted with a similar old soul a little over a year ago and it was quite difficult. We wish you and your family some peace and continued fond remembrances.
I really hate all these “my condolences” things people say when the family pet lives out a long life.
People should simply say “you hit a home run with that dog, you were darn lucky he stuck around.”
There are tons of great dogs waiting around for great families every day of the week. Humans are just slow to figure this out.
I’m very sorry for your loss. Some dogs are just family.
What a great fucking dog, you lucky bastard.
Ahh Barry, So sorry for your loss. I have a going on 16 year old 70 lb Border Collie / ? with bad knees, poor hearing and dim eyesight. Nose still good and he gets the paper every morning. He’s only half as smart as Max but an old soul none the less. He loves other dogs and the children in the cul de sac all stop by to pet him. I no longer worry about him chasing a cat or mongoose down the street. He just sits on the lawn in front and watches and has never been a barker. Best dog ever for me but his time is short. Thanks for telling us the great stories about Maximus.
Thanks for sharing. Those of us who have had great dogs grace our lives understand perfectly how our relationships with dogs can be amazingly rich, satisfying, and oh so bittersweet. My condolences to you and your family.
What a great case for getting a dog. Great dogs such as Maximus remind us that we should be happy, to smile and laugh.
What a wonderful dog and a wonderful tribute. Dogs truly are man’s best friend. So sorry that you lost yours, BR.
I just returned from a sojourn to Panama and Bocas del Toro. Bocas is a town with communal dogs who have the run of the place. As I sat to eat breakfast, my last meal in Bocas before flying back to Panama City, I was situated on a covered porch alongside Main St. Main St in Bocas is 40 feet wide, blacktopped, with the 10 feet closest to each curb marked for parking. So Main St. is quite the wide boulevard on which to see and be seen in Bocas. Being the morning, street traffic was light and most of the action was confined to pedestrians milling about on the sidewalks. Then a small, short-haired mutt comes slowly strutting down Main and at the intersection at the head of the block, almost dead center, pulls up into a wide squat and proceeds to do a #2. Right in the center of the road… Only he has difficulty with the process and with the required extra time looks around while doing so, providing a great guilty-looking photo op. I didn’t take a picture, but thought of later how great the pair of shots could’ve been with some annotations: Anything from “Bocas, baby!!!” to “My last meal in Bocas pal and you go into your squat right in the middle of Main St. Well, I’ve got you caught on camera and am going to track down both your mother and your father to show them what you were doing and won’t they be proud!!!”
I love the story of Maximus and this post ranks among your best writing, which I am sure came easily to you, just as it was difficult to process it.
“We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own,
live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way.”
~ Irving Townsend
As someone who lost an old soul two years ago and subsequently rescued a young one, I can say, beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing.
I love him and I didn’t even know him. Thanks for the stories. What a great dog. I’m sorry for your loss. Unfortunately, I know too well how that feels.
What a wonderful dog. I’ve lost two dogs at age 14 and it is so hard. I am sorry for your loss.
Sorry for your loss. RIP Max.
One of the great things about dogs (and cats, I suppose) is that they show us our lives in quick time and prepare us for what’s coming. I don’t feel sorry for the dogs because they have a shorter lifespan – it would be much worse if they outlived us. I feel sorry for us. It’s hard to lose someone who loved you unconditionally.
The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.
~ Samuel Butler
I first started doubting religion when I was told that dogs don’t go to heaven because they don’t have a soul. They didn’t know my dog. Sounds like Max had four times more soul in him than most humans.
this is horrible — nanette and iknow the feeling as we lost cossy two years ago, 16 yr old doxie and sebasitain last year 17 years
thank god we still have the doxie puppies ollie and bella
our thoughts with you and wendy
This is the hardest part of our journey with our canine friends. You made it a parting worthy of him. Thanks for sharing part of that adventure with us. My condolences.
The worst is when you turn around expecting to see your friend and remember (s)he’s not there anymore.
I rarely comment on posts for a variety of reasons, but this is worth the exception. I sent it to all the dog lovers in my address book and the responses suggest you touched a nerve and reminded all of us how lucky we are to be a dog’s best friend.
So sorry to read about Maximus–your post really moved me. As a pet-owner
who’s lost a few over the years (including a recent exit), I know how much
this stings. Surprisingly so, perhaps. It comes down to the basic reality
of losing a very, very good and close friend. ‘Nuff said.
Just wanted to extend my condolences on your loss.
I had very much the same with Jake (half German Pointer/ half Lab) that was indeed an “old soul” that graced our home for many years.
We have a new dog now “Gunner” that is the spitting image of Jake. He is not the same.
True companions they are. They can never be replaced and they are forever missed.
Again, my condolences on your loss.
sorry to hear about your dog. Great post in his honor.
My wife and I have 2 9 1/2 year old Brussels Griffons – one we’ve had since he was a puppy, and one we rescued 5 years ago. We also foster a BG at the moment.
My wife cries every time she even thinks about how our dogs are getting older and that we’ll lose them some day.
O man. That’s so sad. Truly sorry to hear. They become a part of you. I still miss my dog, a pit bull-shepherd mix, I found abandoned and starving to death on my front lawn in St. Pete, Florida, 30 years ago. Been 14 years, and I still have his picture on my desk at home.
I saw your post today and just want to let you know I’m sorry for your loss. Sixteen is a lot of years, but it’s never enough.
Take care (and keep up the great work),
The loss of such a pet/friend/family is tremendous. I am sorry for your loss. If there is such a thing as reincarnation perhaps God will be kind and Maximus will come back to you as a new puppy, just as wise, but younger and full of vigor. One can hope since God just wants us to be happy in this life.
Please accept my sympathies on your sad loss. Take care.
I am so sorry. He looks like a real sweetie. Take care.
Sorry for the loss of your furry friend, BR.
Collies are great dogs. The instinct to herd animals is strong in them. I have similar stories of my passed border collie catching squirrels and nudging them on. She didn’t want to eat them; just herd/chase into the trees where she evidently felt they belonged :).
Sorry about the loss of your beloved friend. I know dogs benefit from the relationship they’ve had with us for thousands of years, but I’m pretty sure we’ve benefited much, much more.
That closeup pic of Max with snow on his nose – so adorable. And I believe all your stories. All animals are much smarter than we give them credit for. I guess it’s one of our many human arrogances that we think we have a lock on intelligence.
Sorry to hear
My sympathies Barry. Thanks for sharing.the story of Max with us.
We (humans and our friends) will meet up again…
“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together…. ”
On a Good Dog
O, my little pup ten years ago
was arrogant and spry,
Her backbone was a bended bow
for arrows in her eye.
Her step was proud, her bark was loud,
her nose was in the sky,
But she was ten years younger then,
And so, by God, was I.
Small birds on stilts along the beach
rose up with piping cry.
And as they rose beyond her reach
I thought to see her fly.
If natural law refused her wings,
that law she would defy,
for she could hear unheard-of things,
and so, at times, could I.
Ten years ago she split the air
to seize what she could spy;
Tonight she bumps against a chair,
betrayed by milky eye!
She seems to pant, Time up, time up!
My little dog must die,
And lie in dust with Hector’s pup;
So, presently, must I.
Just happened to stumble onto the Big Picture and read your post about your dog — as an owner of 3 (was 4 until 4 months ago) — trust me when I say your comments really resonated
sometimes it is important to be reminded that what is really precious / important in life is NOT found on the flashing Bloomberg screens
Anyway…my sincere sympathies and thanks for sharing I am sure it was cathartic — having lost my best friend recently — I can only promise that it gets a little easier with the passage of time
Part of the reason eating cows is taboo in India is because many Hindus believe that in terms of reincarnation, the cow is closest to humans. However my own experiences, and stories I have heard about Maximus and others of his ilk, lead me to side with some of the Tibetan Buddhists who think that it is the dog that is closest to reincarnation as a human.
“Death is that state in which one only exists in the memory of others; which is why it is not an end. No goodbyes, just good memories.”
— Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby), “Star Trek: The Next Generation
Sorry about your loss. It’s when they are gone that you realize the opposite was true. They were taking care of you.
Sorry for your loss. As a dog lover who lost a loyal family pet, we were devastated. Some time went by and it was then time to get another family pet so we contacted Labs for Rescue in Olive Branch, Mississippi
I know how much Max meant to you and Wendy
My condolences. Can there be any better friend than one’s dog? Your eulogy & life story of Max was a tearful delight to me. Reminded me of my Seezur, decades ago now. (I was young)
Sorry to hear about the loss of your dog.
I know how if feels, I’ve lost 2 yellow labs.
We have our 3rd yellow lab now, and I cant even think about losing her.
Roxanne, Jennifer, Crysta and I feel the pain and the love in the transition of life. The bursting emotions of past memories filled with tears and the emptiness of a possible future without. We have not changed but our souls have.
Max touched our lives because you touched our lives. Max had no other emotion but unselfish love.
As friends, I will feel that love every moment we are together.
Barry, no words can fill the the sadness in yr heart! So sorry for the loss.
He does sound like such a great soul and is in a better place now!
Memories stay in the heart,
No one can steal,
Separation makes wounds…
Nobody can heal!
Barry: What a tribute! So lovely. Sorry he passed, but it sounds like Max brought you and Wendy a ton of joy!
dude, i am sooooo sorry for your loss. Man, what a great dog he was, I know.
My best to Wendy
Thanks for the stories about Max- we lost our Bella in December – she was 11 (almost) and was the same. We thought we were awesome trainers too. She never needed a leash , waited at the curb if she was ahead of you and even if she was chasing a turkey would screech to a stop if you yelled no. She sometimes got out of the back yard during the day and just came and sat on the front porch surveying her territory. I miss her everyday especially when I just working in a room and she is not right there next to me.
What a wonderful life Max had. It’s funny how a dog can become such an integral part of our being. We have had a few dogs grace our lives with their presence in our home. All have been something: the “sweetest”, the “smartest”, the “dumbest” ( said lovingly) and Stormy, ( brought home as a puppy a day after the October 1987 storm, Snowleaf). Stormy a mutt became our “bestest!!” dog ever. Yes “bestest” dog ever. We now have a Cairn Terrier who is approaching 12 and Stormy may have to share his podium someday. I think your Max may be your “bestest” also. All of our dogs have left funny, warm loving memories for us as a family. They are timestamps on our lives. The loss is big but focus on gratitude that you were able to enjoy his presence in your life. A gift he gave to you.
It sounds as if Max had a wonderful life. It’s funny how a dog can become such an integral part in our lives. Over the years, we have had a few dogs grace our lives. They each have become something: the “sweetest”, the “cutest”, the “smartest”, the ” dumbest” ( said lovingly). Ah, but Stormy, ( our mutt brought home the day after the 1987 October snowstorm, Snowleaf) He lived for 13 years and became the “Bestest” dog ever. Yes, the “Bestest”!! Now we have a Cairn terrier who is approaching 12 and someday Stormy may have to share his podium. It sounds as if Max is your “Bestest” dog ever! Our dogs become timestamps in our lives.I know right now that the loss in your heart and your home is huge. Please try to focus on gratitude. Gratitude that Max gave all his love to your family. Delight in your memories and cherish the gift he gave you.
Just a short note to tell you how sorry I am to hear of the death of Max. Having had a schnauzer named Max, I know how painful it is. As you know, a house is not a home without a dog in it. Just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you. Wishing you the best of everything in the future.
PS – If you get another dog, you should teach him treif and kosher as a trick.
Sorry to hear of your loss. We had to put down our dog a few months ago and I miss her every day. They are truly great additions to life.
We were so sorry to hear about Max. What a special dog. Your article was beautiful and captured his true essence, heart and soul. Jamie and Matt were so sad to hear it. We will all miss him and never forget him.
I hope you are doing okay. We’re thinking of you.
Barry, what a great and loving tribute to a great and loving pet. Good luck finding another companion.
What a great puppy. I’m glad you and Max found each other, but I am very sorry for your loss.
PS: I believe everything you wrote. Perhaps you could write a little book about Max?
We’ve never met. That’s a hell of a cartoon. I bet you were a great
boss dog for Max.