Goodbye Max – by Don

May 1, 2022

My Piece

Maximus Gary Kingsbury was born in Bangor Maine- Friday, May 16, 2008. We had to put him down on Saturday, March 12, 2022 just before noon. He was dying of kidney failure. He was almost 15 years old. He was in more pain than we could bear.

He was an enormous part of Liana and me. As much as Liana and I are parts of each other.

Coal and Buddy’s deaths were hard to endure and worse to come to terms with. But over a month after Max’s death, I still can’t separate him from the minutia of my day-to-day life. I see and remember him everywhere. Max and I spent fifteen very close years together and I wrote about him all the time. I also wrote from his point of view. You’d think it would be easy for me to come to terms with his life with us. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’m not ashamed to tell you that I was clinically depressed after his death. Food tasted like lukewarm, wet insulation. Shaving my face and brushing my teeth were incomprehensible and unendurable acts. Why change my clothes or open the shades or play with the other dogs? There was no point to it. I couldn’t see the humor in anything. I closed the shop for two days. I drank a lot just so I wouldn’t think about him and I could get some sleep.

And that’s the hardest thing for me to do- to grieve enough. A human being has to grieve as much grief as they have. Even if that means selfishly snatching bits of it here and there. Even if you have to go through the unbearable motions of an ordinary day in the midst of those who have no idea you are grieving.

We all have to grieve as much as it takes. Otherwise, we’ll be permanently pissed off. Or weepy. Or jumpy. Or the worst- just some ordinary Biped tragedy tiredly rattling through its tedious emotional wreck script for the rest of its short life.

Welcome to my grieving process. It’s not fun and I’m not a great writer, but I need to come to terms with my grief by writing. You can step off this crazy carousel whenever you want and I won’t think any worse about you.

This is between Max and me.

It’s strange, but in all my familiarity with Max I could never picture myself saying goodbye to him. I thought in some weird way he would outlast me. He was a truly singular dog and he meant everything to us. He was so much a part of Liana and me we couldn’t let him go until we had no choice.

And that was not fair to him.


Reluctance, Suspicion, and Out of Options

Liana and I got Max when we moved to Dedham Maine from Seattle so I could work on a Civil Engineering PhD at The University of Maine at Orono. I quit the PhD only weeks into it and was looking for work. It wasn’t going great in Dedham with the job search and Liana and I weren’t going great either.

Bizarrely, we kept daring each other to get a dog. That went on for over a month. Then we handed over a bunch of money to a couple in Bangor we found through Uncle Henry’s and scooped up the terrified Max from his whelping box.

Max's First Day at Chez Salty
Regarding….

Puppy Max howled bloody murder the whole 30 minutes home. And when I put him down on our lawn, he ran a safe distance away and regarded us. I tried to scoop him up and get him inside but he’d just run another safe distance away. This went on for a huge chunk of the afternoon. Finally, Liana and I went inside and watched him through a living room window. I think he figured out fairly quickly that it was dangerous for a fat little 8-week old puppy all alone on the side of a mountain in the middle of The Lake Philips Wilderness.

So he waddled his big butt through the front door we left open.

He turned the corner and saw Liana and me sitting patiently on the couch in the living room. He panicked and squeezed himself between the giant soapstone stove and fieldstone hearth so our evil clutches couldn’t possibly reach him. He continued to regard us suspiciously from the shadows.

We played this game for a couple days by letting him use the hearth as a crate and feeding him in front of it. Then it got tiring. Once he gained enough confidence to venture a ways out of his little fortress, Liana and I swooped in and blocked all its entrances.

Out of options, Max reluctantly joined the family.

His reluctance and suspicion continued for the next fifteen years.


Walkies

Dedham was a terrible place to work on a PhD, but it was the perfect place to raise a puppy. There were no neighbors. There were small, mossy outcrops of boulders and access to snowmobile trails right outside our front door that hooked onto others and went 100’s of miles into Canada and western Maine. Dedham is close to Bangor and Acadia National Park. There were dozens of small local trails and beaches for Max to discover. Liana and I brought him to the Rockland Lobster Festival, Sand Beach in Acadia, Tunk Lake, Bald Mountain, the UMO campus, Schoodic Point, and a zillion other places to socialize that little brat. As a side note, he only ever had problems with Weimeraners. We have no idea why.

The Good Part of Unemployment

I didn’t really mind being unemployed in Dedham. Max and I traveled farther and farther on those snowmobile trails for our adventure fix. I would pack a lunch, water, and snacks for both of us. We’d eat in the middle of nowhere. As a rule, I always tossed Max the last tiny corner of my sandwich like the farmer in the movie “Babe.” That seemed to bond us together more than anything.

One day we were miles and miles in the woods and Max ran off. He came back with a squeaky football dog toy. He put it at my feet and looked up at me very proud of himself. I was astounded. How the hell did that dog find it in the middle of nowhere? The nearest house was literally a dozen miles away. I smiled back at him and put it in my backpack. He’d get excited whenever we brought it out of The Forbidden Closet, and fourteen years later we cremated him with it.

And that’s how Max and I got to know each other– on those beautiful unemployed walkies- those endless snowmobile trails to nowhere.


Training

I taught Max to think through problems. The experts said I was doing the right thing. All I did was make him a much smarter and well-seasoned adversary.

To hell with the experts.

When he was a tiny pup, I walked over a huge blown down tree in our back yard and enticed him with a treat. He tried and tried to get over the tree. He ran away and tried to get me to chase after him. He stared at me with baleful, calculating eyes. I said “COME” in my most commanding voice, turned my back, and began walking away. He barked at me. He tried to dig under the tree. Then he started running back and forth, trying to find a way around the tree.

BINGO. He got around the tree. I gave him the treat and heaped praise on him like he just split the atom. He was so very proud of himself, and I admit it was addictive to give Max problems to solve.

That would prove my ruin.


Max wouldn’t cross “The Heinous Gap” between the wharf and the gangway to our boat at Newagen. Long story short- once we got to the landing, Max would run away. Liana / I / both of us / guests in tow / helpful bystanders would chase him down or trick him into a leash. Then we’d drag his unwilling butt across The Heinous Gap. Once across the gap, he would happily run down the gangway and hop into the boat.

An Important Part of My Training.

Again, this went on for longer than Liana and I would care to admit.

So we got Max a life jacket with a handle on top to lift him over The Heinous Gap. The usually sedate Max would bolt for the tree line before we could even get the life jacket out of the car. We would retrieve him, angrily put it on and drag his big butt to the Heinous Gap. I’d lift him over and he’d run straight down the gangway and hop happily into the boat.

Then we tried putting the life jacket on him at Chez Salty. This time, Liana and I discussed a strategy like we were in charge of the Normandy Landings. When we thought we had everything set, we got to Southport Landing and opened the doors.

Max lackadaisically got out of the car, sniffed the air, walked slowly to the gangway, and walked over the gap like it was a piffle. He strode on down the gangway to the boat with no prodding whatsoever.

In future trips, Max would hop over the Formerly-Heinous Gap like it wasn’t even there and run right down to the boat.

He was entertaining himself. He was training us.


We taught Max to fetch. Once he learned to fetch flawlessly, he wouldn’t fetch anymore.

Until one day after 10 years of Max not fetching, Rusty Court asked him to retrieve a free-floating lobster buoy off Horn Cove. Max became Superdog. He responded to Rusty’s voice and arm gestures. He was the perfect retrieving dog and delivered the buoy to Rusty’s waiting feet with a giant smile.

We were astounded. Max thrived for months off the praise he got that day. Of course, he wouldn’t fetch anything for Liana or me after that. Why? It was pretty simple- if we didn’t offer Max THE perfect fetch in front of an enthusiastic, cheering audience, he wasn’t interested.


Every time we said “Come!” and he didn’t come, Liana and / or I would go hunt him down. Even if we had to charge through thorns, swamps, out-of-stater-owned property, in-stater-gun-owner-property, and puckerbrush to bring him back to the place we originally told him to come. Little did we know that Max was also training us not to give him needless commands. Unless we were prepared to commit a sizable amount of our free time to extract him from some horrible place, we wouldn’t issue the command.

Max was figuring things out like some schmaltzy movie about AI. He was training us.

I had no idea we were nursing a viper at the heart of Chez Salty.


The Wedding

I admit. Max completely, thoroughly and utterly outwitted me to ruin a large wedding. Thankfully, I was not beaten up by drunken thugs in the parking lot. Nor was I sued by lawyerly thugs in court.

Liana and I were getting lunch at the wedding-prone Lucerne Inn one afternoon. I was a chain-smoker at the time and I would go out and check on Max repeatedly whilst simultaneously ruining the gorgeous scenery with my deadly tobacco smoke.

I let him out of the car. On that day, we walked- leashless, onto that gorgeous, green, spreading lawn. Safely away from the hyper-fast traffic on Route 1A and the drizzle drapes of the wedding tent.

On that endless lawn, Max leaped and frolicked. He whimsically chased blowing leaves and got thoroughly soaked in the wet grass. He chased after an errant seagull and looked up at me lovingly. He was everything I always wanted in a puppy. Yet the fact that he came when called should have warned me of treachery.

Our adventure over, we made our way back. When we were almost back to the car, Max squatted for a poop. I pulled out the bags in my jacket, bent over to pick it up…. and… BOOM!

Max bolted like greased lightning for the slit in the wedding tent. I stood watching him run as fast as he could away from me, completely stunned. I gathered my senses and ran after him with the warm bag of his poop and a cigarette still in my hands. I helplessly watched him weasel his way under the flaps of the tent and run full-bore up the aisle to the where the loving couple were literally saying their vows. He didn’t slow in the slightest before slamming his sopping wet anvil-like-head into the bride’s crotch.

And there I was- on the other side of the drizzle drapes completely defeated- set up and knocked down by my insanely cute puppy. But what could I do?

The fact that I could just get in my truck and drive away from Dedham forever burned hot in my mind. I could scream outside the tent and probably get tackled or tazed. Or I could simply charge through drip drapes and run screaming like some unintelligible muddy lunatic after Max. The downside to that scheme was that I could get shot.

I did the only thing a sane person could do. I ran back into the bar with Max’s warm poop bag in one hand and my smoldering cigarette butt in the other and screamed, “MAX IS IN THE WEDDING TENT!!! MAX IS IN THE WEDDING TENT!!!”

After a moment of trout-mouth, Liana and the bartender ran out to take situation in hand.

Max was enthusiastically regarded as a fantastically lucky omen and the official “big hit” of the wedding. The entire tent good-naturedly booed me when I took him back. Then one of the flower girls started to cry. The others looked at me reproachfully and begged me to let him stay.

There was no doubt in my mind that Max planned the entire escapade. From the second he saw that gap in those drizzle drapes, he knew. He knew the only way my guard would be let down was his frolicking compliance. He knew the only thing that would distract me for the instant he needed was me picking up his poop. And he knew I had no recourse once he made it into the tent.

And finally, he knew he would be the hit of the wedding whilst making me a hapless foil.

Yes. On that day, the master reluctantly yielded to the student.

Excelsior, Max. Well played.


Quirky

Like every dog, Max had his delicious little quirks. Some were maddening and some were endearing. These are some short, quirky stories about Max that hopefully you will find amusing without the use of inhalants or cough syrup.


Quirky 1 – Watch Your Cheese

Max ate an entire wheel of Brie during a large party WITHOUT disturbing the surrounding chips or bread or silverware. Nor did he wake up the sleeping Scott in the adjacent chair. Max could reason so well at this point he knew to go after the Brie when everyone (except Scott) was downstairs for Karaoke. AND he knew enough not to move the dish in the slightest or disturb the chips, crackers and silverware around the Brie if he was going to get away “Scott” free. Heh-heh. The only way we knew Max was the culprit were the wide tongue marks on the plate you could only make out if you held it in the proper lighting and the fact that he didn’t poop for two days.

Quirky 2 – Buddy’s House

When we went to pick up Buddy from his previous owners, Max ran directly into Buddy’s house and started perusing the big pile of Buddy-stuff on the floor. A frantic Buddy ran in after him and I heard Max BARK! BARK! BARK!

Buddy came running out of his own house terrified, tail between his legs, and ran straight for his owner. After a bit, Max stuck his head out the doorway, looked around and smiled.

Alpha dog at Chez Salty had been established.

Nighty Night
Quirky 3 – Tuck Me In

Max had a room upstairs all to himself. He took it over. It had a queen-sized futon.

When we were all watching TV in the living room, Max would hop up from his dog bed and make his way upstairs. When he got halfway up the stairs, he was in perfect view of the rest of us, and he would hard stare us. Sometimes for 15 seconds, sometimes for over 2 minutes.

If we didn’t do anything, Max continued upstairs to his futon after giving us all a particularly baleful look. At first Liana and I had no idea what he was doing.

Then Liana hit on it. Max wanted to be tucked into into the blankets of his futon.

That became Liana’s job.

Quirky 4 – No Sleep for the Wicked

Max “buried” his dog bones and favorite toys on the minimally-used second floor of our house. He’d put them under beds, in closets, in corners, the bathtub, and in all kinds of other secret places. Liana and I called them “Hidey Holes” after his little winter retreat under the pine tree out back.

Later in his life, I’d give all the dogs a bone and Max would go out and immediately bury his when all the other dogs were distracted with their bounty. Then, in 2-3 days, when the other dogs had no treats, Max would dig up his fantastically filthy and disgusting dog bone and parade it in front of the other dogs triumphantly.

The experts say dogs have no sense of time.

To hell with the experts.

Quirky 5 – This is Christmas, Dammit

He understood Christmas. He understood we all got presents and the dogs got canned food on that day. It was a special day. He left the presents under the tree alone even if they contained treats and he would growl at the other dogs if they got too close.

Max could reason and wait. He knew on Christmas morning we’d open the presents together. Max wanted to wait until all of us were together. He wanted the excitement of Christmas like a small child.

Get his crazy thing off me

He loved opening his own presents. We specially wrapped them in tissue paper so he could discern them and get them from under the tree. He’d open the present and wave the toy/treats around, showing it off. Then Liana or I would open the treats and give everyone a bit, or cut the packaging from the toy and give it to whichever dog it “belonged” to.

Max took a lot of pleasure in bringing the other dogs their Christmas presents.

I guess that counts as fetching.

Quirky 6 – The Ol’ Towel Off
Sodden. Again

We were very thankful Max wasn’t afraid of guns, fireworks, or thunder. In fact, if he heard any one of them, he would run directly outside hoping for a downpour. Max LOVED downpours because it meant he could get toweled off afterwards without suffering the indignity of a bath.

Sometimes he would run out into pouring rain over and over so he could get toweled off repeatedly for the entire afternoon.

Liana and I never minded.

Quirky 7 – The Car Chase

Max and pup Auggie would play a game Liana and I called “Car Chase.” They would chase each other around one of our parked cars in the driveway. Max figured out that he could see exactly what Auggie was doing if he dropped his head and looked under the car.

He ambushed the poor, unsuspecting Aug Dog over and over until I had to put a stop to it.

Max was a true older Brother to Auggie.

Quirky 8 – The Breathing Game

Max was never one to share his love with me overtly, but every once and a while we would play “The Breathing Game.”

When the house was perfectly silent, he would come up into the big bed. He snuggled up next to me until he was spooning me. I put my arm around his chest. We’d snuggle close to each other. Once I knew he was serious, I put my book down and turned out the light.  When we were both settled, the game would begin.

Max would start to breathe deeply. I matched my breathing rhythm to his. Once I got it down, he would change it again. Then I would match it again.

When he was satisfied I was paying attention, it was my turn. I breathed in slowly and deeply- he would match. Next I would breathe rapidly and shallowly- he would match it.

On his next turn, he’d do a double-take on the second breath. I waited until I got the rhythm and matched it. If I got the difficult ones, Max would wag his tail. We went back and forth until he got bored.

Then, like I was a one night stand, he made his way up to his futon and left me alone with my book.


The End

Saturday, March 12th, 2022 was just about the worst day you could imagine. Not a surprise snowstorm, not thunderstorms, nothing interesting like that. Just 36-degree rain coming down in 40mph sheets. The mud, the ice, the sloggy corn snow, the wind and the thin wisps of fog… Everything was destined to be coated in a frozen layer of ice later that night… It was the most perfect backdrop for something awful to happen.

The day before, on Friday morning, the Maine Veterinary Medical Center (MVMC) said he was close to “that time” and wanted to keep him on IVs at the hospital. Thank Dog we took him home that afternoon. Despite everything that subsequently happened, I never could have forgiven myself if Max had perished without us, or in a place he wasn’t familiar.

To hell with the experts.

Right?

All’s Well That Begins Well

Max was at the MVMC without us for 2 days. They were giving him IV saline, trying to flush the toxins from his body that his kidneys couldn’t. We couldn’t stand him being sick and without us.

He was looking good that morning when I visited him. The vets said he wasn’t eating. He ate a bunch of boiled chicken from me as we lay down on the floor. We went on a short walk around the grounds. He stopped at the head of a couple deer trails heading into the woods. He looked at me and started down them. I nudged him back because I didn’t think he could get back up the steep grade. I didn’t understand what he was telling me then.

Liana visited him later in the afternoon. She thought the same thing- he should be good for another couple days. We scheduled Max to be put down on Monday evening at our Southport Cabin that Max loved so much. Coal and Buddy had been released there. We were grateful we had the weekend with him.

That evening, Max was back with us in Pownal. He ate a little chicken and steak. He did a short walk around the house with us and the other dogs. He wasn’t panting and he was in good enough spirits to play a little “Bitey Face” with Auggie and me.

I left him asleep on Liana’s lap in the living room.

To hell with the experts.

A Turn for the Much Worse

I woke up and saw Liana trying to feed the other dogs and crying. Max hadn’t come back after she let them out to pee. She was snatching looks out the back window at Max. He was thoroughly soaked and miserable. The wind tore his ears back and his eyes were slits. He was panting heavily and looked confused and alone by the treeline. He turned and moved towards the woods. He stumbled. Now I knew why Liana was crying.

Max was finding a place to die.

I ran out the back door in pajamas and old laceless boots I kept for dog emergencies. I tried to stop him from going any deeper into the woods, but he didn’t have a collar and he kept slipping away. I thought miserably- “Thwarting me now, too?” then, “Why should it be any different at his death?” Max fell down in a thicket. He looked up at me ashamedly. Then he looked away.

I was soaked. My shins were bleeding freely from the brambles. My fingers were blue and numb. I was crying. The hot streaks of the tears on my cheeks were the only things that cut through the cold. I couldn’t see. The only thing I could think about was getting that damn dog back to where it was warm and where he could die with us.

Unashamedly.

Liana came out with his lifting harness and we put it on him with a lot of difficulty. We got his reluctant ass up into the house. Liana dried him off in the living room and kept the other dogs off him. For once in his life Max didn’t like getting toweled off.

When he got settled inside he was making little yelps with every breath he took. His eyes were wide and terrified. He obviously couldn’t wait until Monday for us to put him down.

It was Saturday. It was shitty. We were out of options.

The Abyss

I called around frantically looking for someone who could come over and put him down at our house in Pownal. Yes, there is a network of qualified people who will do this.

There was no way I could get Max in a car and drive him anywhere without torturing him. It had to be in Pownal.

I kept frantically striking out and leaving messages to anyone’s number I was given or anyone I could think of who could help us. With each fail, the horrible realization that I was going to have to break out the shotgun and release Max from his pain rang louder and louder.

I didn’t know if I could do it. The only thing I did know was that Liana and I couldn’t bear to hear Max make that noise for much longer. It would most certainly drive us stark, staring, mad.

Ruth

Thank Dog Ruth from Holistic Healing for Animals called me back. She treated Max before and agreed to put him down as soon as she could- around 1pm.

You can’t imagine our joy and gratefulness when she showed up more than an hour ahead of schedule.

By that time, Max was making the most horrible noises with each shallow breath. We laid him on his Purple Blankie with that stupid football he found in the middle of nowhere and his puppy-toy; Blue Bear. Ruth put the IV into his leg.

Teddy was asleep in the bedroom. Puppy Marz bounced around the living room until he hit Max and caused a terrible cry. I grabbed Marz angrily by his neck with my free hand and held him to the carpet until he gained a more solemn attitude.

Auggie was the dog who understood what was going on. He’d seen it with Coal and Buddy. He tried to get as close to Max’s head as he could. I was by Max’s head and Liana was by his stomach.

Ruth released the sedative and Max’s breathing slowed. I had brief, irrational, hopeful thoughts like, “He’s all better now!” and, “Let’s just keep him on that sedative!”

I was grasping at burning straws in a whirlwind.

Ruth asked if we were OK going to the next step with Max. Liana and I nodded our rational heads.

The Worst

It is incredibly hard to describe how long we were there with him, or what happened after. Was Liana crying? I assumed so. I was. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t raise my head. I assumed she was crying.

It wasn’t until Marz stuck his cold, wet nose on the back of my neck that I realized Ruth might have been waiting patiently there for hours. Or days. I had no way of knowing.

I looked up. The light in Max’s brown eyes was lost. Ruth tried to close them. Liana tried to close them, and I tried to close them. But his big brown eyes remained lifeless and open.

He was too big for Ruth to handle alone, so we all had to roll him up and position him such that his back was in the middle of it. Then the three of us hauled him to the back of Ruth’s car and squeezed him in.

That was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do. I’ve held Max in love and anger. I’d wished we’d never got him. I’ve proudly shown him off. I’ve dragged him off to places he was terrified of. I lovingly played “The Breathing Game” with him. I shoved his big butt harshly with my foot. I yelled at him like I’ve never yelled at another living being. I explored bumps and cuts on ears and paws and even his butthole and weenie. But nothing could prepare me for hauling his limp, lifeless, eyes-open body off in his favorite fleece to leave him in the back of a car to be cremated.

We said goodbye to Ruth, then.

For the first time in fifteen years, Liana and I were Maxless.

–Don
(Not a Dog)

————————————————

Post Script

None of you are going to find any of the following interesting. I’m just putting it here so I can remember him when I need to.

Videos:

Max’s Super Fun Happyslide

Barking at a Dog Named Echo

Good Big Brother to Pup Auggie I

Good Big Brother to Pup Auggie II

Max and Aug Battle for a Giant Rawhide Bone

Max Wants to go to the Beach

Fat Max and Tater battle for the only stick in a Post-Noreaster Apocalypse

Max and Coal Meet for the First Time

Blogs Max Wrote

Day of the Dogs I

Day of the Dogs II

Day of the Dogs III

Day of the Dogs IV

Day of the Dogs V

Day of the Dogs VI

Day of the Dogs VII

Don Sure Is Getting Old and Fat

How to Get More Food if You Love Food

Always a Head Rub for a Good Dog

Blogs I Wrote About Max

The Hair of the Five Dogs That Bit Me

Salty to the Bone I

Salty to the Bone II

Salty to the Bone III

And this one.

47 replies on “Goodbye Max – by Don”

What a lovely testimonial to a remarkable family member. I am saddened by your loss, Don & Liana. I am also appreciative of your efforts in this wonderful journal. Many valuable lessons for all of us who are dealing with grief or approaching loss. I lost a similar family member 40 years ago. And while Pepsi’s void has never been filled and it took a while, the narrative & memories changed to ones that were uniformly positive over time. Hoping you have a similar experience.

Thank you for your great comment, Mark!

I always feel that if I don’t capture by writing all the memories of the one I lost right after losing them, I’ll be giving those memories up to obscurity.

Of course that never happens. Max’s and Pepsi’s memories will always live on within us.

Hi Don,
I just saw this. I haven’t read emails lately.
I am so sorry to hear about you loss of Max. It is always so hard to lose these wonderful souls.
I’m glad you had him for 15 years. Treasure the memories.
Your tribute was so moving. I read them all and looked at the clips. I loved reading the stories.
A truly wonderful dog, who loved you a lot.
I know Max knew how much you and Liana loved him.
Thanks for sharing. All the best, Marion ( aka the lady in New York)

Lady in New York- You’re the best. It’s people like you who make me want to pour my heart out.

The clips kinda sucked, but it was 15 years ago on my Blackberry (Wha?)

You support our shop and my writing. What else could I ask of someone?

OMG, Don and Liana, I absolutely feel your pain and share your grief. When my Avatar crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I created a Shutterfly book with our most happy memories. I don’t know why I never thought to write about him, as I had been a writer my whole career.
This tribute was exquisite and so, so touching. I’m still crying, Don. Max will live on in your hearts forever.
I have a cat now and it’s just not the same. I hope you will eventually find solace and peace in the fact that you gave him such a wonderful life. We are inextricably connected to our canines and it sounds as if you and Max were and will be connected in profound ways. Love to you all.

We miss you Nancy! Stop hanging out in Hilton Head with the other kids and get yer butt back upta Boothbay!

I remember your connection with Avatar and how devastated you were with his passing. Writing is a way for me to sort out facts and emotions in my mind. Most of my writing never sees the light of day again by me or anyone else.

Thanks for your great review. Love to you.

Good morning Don and Liana We are so, so sorry that Max has passed on to doggie heaven. You had 15 wonderful years of love and pleasure. As with Coal’s passing we would like to make a donation to the charity of your choice in Max’s memory.
We have lost many canine family members over the years and can empathize the grief aspect. Time heals, though never completely. We’ll see you in July. Warmest Regards, Jeff and Jeannie Stark

Hello Jeff and Jeannie! It’s so good to hear from you again.

First- thanks again for donating in Coals name all those years ago. He was such a good dog and I know he was a favorite of yours. And I was sorry to hear about your Bedlington Terrier passing (Am I correct here?).

Thank you for being friends of the shop, but more for being friends. If you’d like to donate in Max’s memory, please consider Action for Animals here: https://www.actionforanimalsmaine.com/

See you in July.

Greetings Maximus,

Well, you made it! Lab Doggie Oz-Land! Running, jumping, poop & pee where you please. Enjoying all that sweet smelling spring air, and all those other Lab Doggies in Oz-Land. When you meet a hot, white Lab Doggie, with running legs of steel, That’s my girl Poppy, a true blue-blooded California Poppy. She too is a Coyote fighter, ask Poppy to tell you her story the day Mr. Orange Grove Coyote almost made her into a ham sandwich.
Well, Maximus ol’ boy reborn into your glamorous youth in Oz-Land, enjoy!

Oh Laura, you are such a special friend to see here!

Thank you, Thank You, Thank you! You don’t know how much I love you for reading all these blogs- even the dumb and ill-thought out ones. I’m going to send you a paperback copy of “The Day of the Dogs” when I get it back this week.

I’m sure Max and Poppy are up there missing us. If there’s one justice in this life, it’s that when I die I’ll see all my dogs waiting for me. And Poppy.

Take care you Crazy Diamond.

I laughed and cried as I read your wonderful tribute to Max. Sounds like you had some amazing moments with a great friend. Thanks for sharing the experiences.
Dogs Rule!

It’s taken me several tries to read this, Don, as I knew it would. My heart breaks for you and Liana. Max was such a special boy, I am so glad that you were lucky enough to find him to share your lives for 15 amazing years. Thank you for sharing some of your favorite (and least favorite!) memories.

Wendy – You must be the single biggest supporter of us. Thank you so much!

I’m sorry it was so hard for you to get through the piece. I felt like I had to get everything out. And yet today I feel like there’s so much more I needed to release about Max.

The sadness just keeps coming and coming until time heals all the wounds.

Take Care!

There is no way to say goodbye that isn’t terrible, but I’m sorry your goodbye for Max was so agonizing. Grief is just love with no place to go. And we love our dogs, entirely, and disproportionately to how little time we get with them. Just think — you loved Max his whole life, and beyond. And he loved you and Liana for his whole life. The pain is commensurate with the love. And I suppose that makes us lucky.

What an absolutely wonderful piece. Sometimes I read and cringe. This time I read and stopped and cried and then got started again. It was hard to get through. It was important to get through. And a cautionary tale and reminder to all of us who have not been able to let go – and allowed our dogs and cats and horses and pets of all kinds a difficult end.

Thank you so very much.

We ignored Max’s signs and the Vet’s advice until it was too late. We have a responsibility to our animals to prevent that difficult end.

Thank you for taking the time to write your comment, but more importantly, thank you for enduring my retelling to the awful end.

So you sure did it A-hole , grown man 68 years old and crying like a baby at my computer , I own a business and was hoping know one came in , I did’nt cry when my father died but I sure did for old Max , I just wish humans were more like him , loyal , smart , helped others , always happy when you came home or took him for a walk . We have two Labs that are like our great grandchildren and God forbid anything happen to them ( I hope I go before them cause there’s no way I could do what you guy’s did for Max) . We’ll all get over this someday and life goes on – RIP Max

Thank you, Butch. You and the shop go way back. Thanks for following us so faithfully.

And I think it’s an honor to be called an asshole by some huge dog-loving asshole like you. I wish I had more personal friends like you.

I sit in my shop sometimes and I’ll cry when I have a memory of Max in there. I hope I can get to the bathroom in time so no one will see me weeping like a little girl.

I haven’t spoken to my own father in over 25 years. I have no idea if he’s alive or dead. The only thing I DO know is that Max and I loved each other.

I’m happy I had the opportunity to meet Max at the store. My thoughts and prayers for you and Liana and the other furry kids in the family. I expect they are also feeling the loss of Max.

😢😢😢
This is a beautiful and loving tribute. Max was the best dog and will be missed by so many.

Thank you, Don, for this beautiful memory and tribute to Max. I smiled and cried…just like you…
Jocelyn

This blog is a beautiful tribute to Max. And, it brings back all the memories of each pup we shared our lives with. They are indeed a part of us and enrich our lives beyond measure. We will remember Max.

Hi you might not remember me but I have met you and I believe Max. We ordered from your store. I lost both our dogs this passed winter. My little cooper dachshund mix, had a tumor, had to put him down. Three months later my chahlee died of congestive heart failure, at home in my chair. Can’t get the whole image out of my head. Cooper was a good boy, I loved him, but chahlee was my best friend, and like you thought he would live forever. I will grieve forever for him. Chahlee was a minpin. I miss him so much. Thank you for your story. Somehow it helped me.

Losing two dogs in such a short period of time must have been so hard on you. I can’t imagine it. Losing Buddy in June 2021 and Max in March 2022 melted me down.

I know exactly what you mean about not getting the image out of your head.

I’m so glad you said the story helped you. No need to thank me for writing it. The pleasure is all mine.

We are heartbroken for you both. Each year we come to visit you and the boys. Max was always there…my children “grew up” each summer with him. Boothbay won’t be the same this year, yet we will still come to visit you, take over your shop, stalk you on your front steps just to spend time with your boys…yet it won’t be the same. Thank Dog for Max…he will always have a special place in our hearts Don.
Love,
Max’s biggest fans from Western NY,
The Stevely Family

I’m so glad you and your family got to know Max. Thank you for your kind words. It means a lot to this old cuss.

If you haven’t heard, we got a Chocolate Lab pup “Marz” this winter. I hope the Stevely family loves him just as much.

I cried while reading this post. I still am grieving my chocolate Lab, Rosy after a year. The good news is that your grief leaves room for you to love another dog. The bad news is that nothing lessens that grief or diminishes it. It has morphs into a less present state, but that only man’s that it takes me by surprise. I will never ever be without my grief over this sweet dog. Your post reminded me of her. Every Max story reminded me of something she did! Thank you for sharing Max with us.

Thank you, Donna. I cried over and over writing this. I’m glad my stories about Max remind you of your beloved Rosy. Perhaps it’s serendipity that we got a new Chocolate lab pup named Marz. Stay tuned!

I Love you and Liana. My heart ahes for you. I totally understand how hard this is. I to am having leaky eyes!

What a beautiful and well written remembrance of Max. He was loved so much and loved you all in return. Thank you for sharing his story.

Thank you for writing about life with Max. He must have been a very special dog. So many adventures and life experience! Thank you for sharing them with us. I feel like I knew him.

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