I tried to write this once and couldn’t do it justice, and in fact couldn’t get through it. We lost our 17 year old buff colored cocker spaniel Max a year ago to cancer, had to have him put to sleep. It was the hardest thing ever to do, but he was such a faithful friend we couldn’t let him down at the end, when he needed us the most. I find it hard to write this without tearing up, a year later. Max had some lifelong health problems, he was epileptic, hypothyroid, hypercholesterolemic, among other things, and took daily medication. Those problems didn’t shorten his lifespan, though, and didn’t change his sweet and gentle disposition. When we got the diagnosis of cancer, we took Max home and spoiled him rotten for the time he would have left (8 months). He got all the french fries, pork rinds, ice cream, and sirloin he wanted.

Max was the family dog, he loved everyone, was incredibly gentle with infants — he adored babies. He was my chidlren’s faithful companion. We rescued and adopted Max when my daughter was 7 years old, in second grade; she is 24, married and a mother now with a dog of her own (a labrador retriever, a lovable goof). Max would sleep on the floor in Stephanie’s bedroom, and during the night he would steal her pillow from under her head, and her teddy bear from under her arm. Stephanie would wake in the morning to find Max sleeping with his head on her pillow, and the teddy bear under his foreleg, tucked against his chest. We had to get Max his OWN pillow and his OWN teddy bear before he would leave Stephanie’s alone. He slept on that pillow with his teddy for years.

Max was my son’s companion in adventure. They would wrestle, and run, explore the woods, play ball; Max was always a trusted confidante and the greatest source of comfort, as well as hilarity and joy. We didn’t watch TV in the evenings, we played with Max. My son Christopher also owns a dog, an Austalian shepherd who is the smartest and the sweetest of them all, and the most mischief prone. She’s an all weather, outdoors loving, high energy dog, and perfect for a snowboarding, fly fishing, mountain hiking, camping, and rocking climbing young man. They are inseparable.

When Max was 12, we adopted another rescued puppy, saved from drowning as part of an unwanted litter. Bear is a big fellow, 70 lbs., a shepherd collie mix, rather wolf-like and intimidating in appearance; but born to play. He’s a frisbee catching, ball chasing romp of a dog whose favorite thing in life is children, who can be counted upon to play with him. Bear is a certified therapy dog and an R.E.A.D., a Reading Education Assistance Dog; he works with children at least once a week. (see what these throw-away dogs can do?)

Max showed Bear the ropes: Bear was housetrained at 9 weeks, thanks to Max’s excellent work. When we wanted Mr. Bear to go outside to use the facilities, we would say, Max, go get Bear. Max would race to Bear, run around him in a circle; Bear would jump up and fall in, and Max would lead him into the yard and demonstrate the desired action. When it was time to go back indoors, I would say, Max, go get Bear; Max would run to Bear, do the running circle around Bear, and lead the puppy back into the house. Max was patient and long suffering with the puppy; the dogs were inseparable.

Mr. Bear grieved terribly when Max died. I came home from the vet crying, of course, and sat down on the floor to give Mr. Bear a hug (I needed one) and that big dog sat his furry behind in my lap, leaned hard against my chest, and kissed the tears off my face. It was the best possible comfort I could have received. Mr. Bear is not a great cuddler, he has too much thick fur and overheats. He cuddled close that day and often in the weeks that followed — he needed comfort too.

My children never came home to an empty house. They were met at the door each time by a furry critter that thought they hung the moon and the stars, racing in crazy circles of delight, overcome with joy to have them home again, eager to hear about their day, anxious to participate in the rest of it. Anything, he seemed to say, I’m up for anything, or just a good nap, so long as it’s with you. What a grace, what a gift that is; what an impact it had. My children will always own a dog, they cannot imagine life without one. Dogs are proof that God loves us; and more than that, that He loves ME and CHRIS and STEPH and KEVIN (my husband) specifically and individually; not that He loves people in a generic way, but that He loves us indidually and personally. I can’t imagine life without a dog either, and will always own one.

Mary from NE