My dog Max passed away last week after more than 16 yrs. with my family. Max was my best friend and I miss him dearly.
We picked him up in early spring of 2005 at LaGuardia Airport here in New York. We had selected him from a litter from a pure breed Havaneese breeder in Ohio. This little 4-month-old puppy arrived in a crate at the U.S. Air special luggage pickup area. My daughter and wife were with me, and I sat in the back seat of our car with my daughter as Alisa drove 35 minutes back to our home. He was the cutest little man weighing little more then 5 or 6 pounds at the time. He would grow to a robust 14 lbs. over the next 6 months.
From moment one we were smitten with this little puppy. He was so scared and sat on my lap and licked my face once or twice on the way home. His arrival created a major change in the house. We tried unsuccessfully to get him to sleep in his crate in a spare bedroom. He would cry each night and I would lie on the ground next to the crate trying to settle him. Eventually I took him into my bedroom with the crate and tried to get him to sleep with us and again he would cry for an hour or longer. Eventually he made his way out of the crate and onto the bed sleeping up against my wife or myself where he would remain for the next 16 years.
He was always a very active dog. He loved to play, and I would swing him around on his leash as he grabbed the leash with his teeth as a pup, he was super strong for his size, and he was supper friendly too. He would play ball toss with a tennis ball for 20 or 30 minutes every night before he settled down for the night. It was his favorite thing to do for many years. He liked to lick our faces on occasion and his tail was constantly wagging. He also was mischievous getting into the hamper on more than one occasion and liked to grab tissues from night tables or pockets if he saw the opportunity, chewing them up, but never eating the tissues.
Once my father in-law visited from Florida and had a BIC pen in his pocket. Max grabbed the pen and proceeded to turn our living room rug blue. Early on he was attached to my wife Alisa following her from room to room in the house and never leaving eye contact with her. If Alisa went up or down stairs, so did Max. Occasionally Alisa would get annoyed by this obsession, but quietly enjoyed Max’s company and attention.
As my daughter grew up moving from elementary school to middle and then high school, Max became a fixture on Morgan’s bed whenever she was home doing homework or socializing with friends on her computer. Morgan and Max grew up together and had a special bond. When she left for college Max would go in her room looking for Morgan and had a sad look when she wasn’t there. Her trips home would bring a little extra happiness to Max, and he would sit for hours on her bed while she was home.
Life was not always easy with Max. He had health issues which resulted in two bladder surgeries. He spent several years on a special low sodium diet, and we had to curb table food except for an occasional slice of turkey breast (his favorite!). Several years back Max had a near death episode when he tried to bite his way out of his crate one afternoon when we were all out of the house. The incident resulted in a broken jaw, but Max was resilient and a tough little dog. After the incident we stopped crating him and we had to time our days and nights out of the house as his bladder issues necessitated him being walked more then most dogs. We regularly timed our schedules out of the house to insure we got home before the proverbial accident in the house. We made many sacrifices in caring for him.
Over time Alisa and I switched roles with Max. I was working from home during the day and spent more time with Max as he got older. When COVID hit I was literally with Max 24 hours a day and when Alisa went back to her office it was the Mark and Max show. Max would go with me regularly when I ran errands. The post office, the drug store, the cleaners, and the deli. Max always loved to sit in the passenger seat as my co-pilot on short 15- and twenty-minute errands. Max also liked to hang with me each night watching TV in the Den after I finished teaching for the evening. Sometimes I would talk to him and believed he knew what I was saying. I am sure it was more my body language and tone, but Max enjoyed hanging out with me in the DEN every night. Each evening ended with a walk and then he would cuddle up leaning against me as we both went to sleep.
All our family and friends loved Max. He always would gravitate to my sister in-law Jodi when she came to the house. Jodi loves dogs too and I think in some strange way dogs know when people love dogs. Max also was not big on playing with other dogs except for our next-door neighbors that also had a haveneese named Chase who was five years older than Max and came from the same Ohio breeder. For years Max would play with Chase. On summer nights Max would sit at the top of stairs on our backyard deck looking for Chase across the way in our neighbor’s backyard. When Chase passed away Max would look for Chase constantly and looked sad in not seeing his one old dog friend.
Over the past year Max started to suffer from seizures and became disoriented. His last few weeks saw him deteriorate. It was sad to see this proud, loving, and stoic dog suffering. In the end we made the difficult decision to put Max down. I have had several dogs growing up, but he was the first that I ever had to do this with. I cried as I spoke to the vet and cried as we said goodbye to my best friend. Alisa commented that I cried more over Max then any of my family members that had passed. She was right. I had spent more time with Max then any single human being over the past 18 months. He was my little wingman. He welcomed me each time I entered the house as if I had been gone for weeks or months. Sometimes I had only been gone for an hour. But Max gave me unconditional love. He never judged me. He was always wagging that tail until the very end. He listened to me vent and just licked my nose in response.
Every time I have entered the house this past week since his passing, I instinctively think to look for him to take him out for a walk and to get a tail wag. I look at a chair in our living room occasionally looking for him as he would nap on a little rug every morning and occasionally during the day.
My friends ask me if I will get another dog and the answer is no. Max was special and can’t be replaced. I miss him dearly, but we need to regain some freedom to come and go. I also do not think I can go through a family pet passing again. It was too painful.
Unlike most blog posts written for my colleagues and friends, this blog post was for me. Humans get eulogies at their funerals. Max deserves one too. He was important, he brought joy and love to our household. He mattered.
I miss him and cherish the memories from the past 16 plus years.
Goodbye my best friend.