Saturday, July 21, 2012
Today I lost my precious and beloved dog of 12 years, Max Allen (aka. Maccie, Mackers, Mack, Mackie Doozer, Mackie Dooz, Doozer, Dooz, and Macko). So many terms of endearment for such a loved being.
I came home from Berkeley for vacation in May and a couple weeks into my vacation Max hurt himself playing with his brother Jack. When it happened, I thought that was it. He couldn't move or walk and I was terrified. We took him to the vet and we were told that Max probably hurt his cervical spine and that we could do one of two things: (1) Pay for a specialist, MRI, surgery etc., or (2) Try a course of steroids and keep him off his feet for ONE MONTH. Unfortunately we don't have thousands of dollars for option one so we went for option two.
My family and I knew this would be a challenge. Though Max wasn't walking at the time, with the help of the steroids, it was expected that he would try to walk but we would have to prevent it. This meant 24 hour care. There is 5 of us in my parents house currently so we were up for the challenge even though our lives would change a lot. One person ALWAYS had to be home.
So my summer was sent into this weird phase of life where I was working this seasonal job at Disneyland at nights and would be Max's caregiver late at night when I got home and all through the day before work. Of course everyone worked together but my dad and I were mostly home with Max in the day. It took two people to take him to the bathroom because every time he would need to be washed. He also had to be strictly on bed rest. It was so exhausting but worth every minute to try and get Max into recovery.
After one month of the pills he was showing improvement. He could stand and walk a little. The main problem was that he was unable to use his left front paw and this really didn't help him with balancing. Because we saw improvement we had the vet prescribe us one more month of steroids for Max to just see what happens. The whole family was trying to decide what was best. I did a lot of research on paralyzed dogs and was actually a proponent of how Max was living. But as the days in the second month went on, Max was getting around less and less and was also unable to control his bowel movements. I knew things were not looking good but I didn't realize how quickly things would go from bad to worse.
When I woke up on July 20th I thought the morning was a normal one. When I went in the living room I was filled in on what had happened earlier in the morning with Max crying and not being able to get comfortable or go to the bathroom for over 24 hours. My mom thought it was time to put him down. I was still in denial and very upset. I scooped up Max and cuddled with him. It only took me a few minutes to realize that Max was in awful pain and was struggling to breathe. I honestly didn't know what happened but I just knew it was time to let go. I had a peace with my decision but as everyone came home from work around noon - my whole family, all 6 of us - I felt like my heart was breaking.
I had always been attached to Max but these past two months of caregiving really formed an unbreakable bond between us. It was to the point now where Max would cry and cry until I gave him an adequate amount of love every morning and every night. He wanted me... he cried for me... he loved to snuggle with me... he found comfort in me. And so of course I found comfort in him too. I got very used to his smell and would miss him terribly when I wasn't at home. It was weird... it was like he became more than a family dog where we all shared an equal amount of time with him... but he became my dog. Every day, many times a day I would take him to the bathroom outside... walking through the kitchen... down the stairs... onto the patio. He was SO good. He would bark when he had to go and I would swoop him up and take him out there. Through the kitchen, down the stairs. Wash him off outside and let him dry on his towels that stayed outside for him. I would take him on car rides - through the kitchen, down the stairs, into the car I would carry him. We started calling him teddy bear because thats what he looked like when I held him.
Yesterday, when I held him in my arms and took him threw the kitchen and down those stairs for the last time... I felt a pain that cannot be described with words.
I have cried all day.
It's weird. I feel weird for having this many feelings... for crying all day.
But I realized something about myself. I have never lost something (to death) that was a daily presence in my life. Not only was Max a daily presence, but he was my family. This sweet dog knew when I was sad or sick. Slept by me for days after my tonsillectomy. Adored everyone in my family. And I in return could know what he needed, wanted, or was feeling by a bark or a roll of his head on my leg. He had a personality. He was distinct. So I realized that what makes this hard is that I can never replace him. Like, at first I thought I could. Before he was gone I thought a new dog would make things better when the "time" did come, but it can't. A new dog will never be Max. Because when Max died, he took all of our memories together with him. He knew me. He loved me.
The pain and the loss I feel in my heart and my soul is great. I panic when I think about it. I want to drive back to the vet and get my dog back.
I know I had to let him go, but it doesn't help the pain from leaving every ounce of my being. It honestly feels like a bad dream. I don't want to go to sleep because I know I will have to wake up and remember. For the first time in YEARS, walk into the living room and not have Max there. It's insanely sad.
I know I will be okay.. I will get through this.. and if John Dunne's blog post is correct then I will see Max again. I wrote this because I want to remember. I want to remember this raw emotion and love I had for my dog. I love you, Max.