Max and Fred

This story of loss is the other way around. My wife, Micki, passed away this week and is survived by her two dogs, Max and Fred. Mark was kind enough to call her, on several occasions. Please tell him how much she appreciated that.

The story really begins with our previous dog, Bowser. He was a Shih-Tsu and you wouldn’t think of Bowser as a name for a cute little dog like that, but he was the biggest Shih-Tsu I’ve ever seen. He was the anti-runt of his litter, about 3 times bigger than any of the other puppies. Bowser also liked to eat – and my wife, who can’t say no to a dog, let him.

We had Bowser for many years, but he got old and hurting and the doctor said it was time to let him go to sleep. By that time, my wife and I had separated – and she had gotten custody of the dog. Bowser was her constant companion, her only companion, and his loss left a huge hole in her life.

Like Mark, my wife felt that no dog could ever replace Bowser. She was in mourning and wasn’t about to even think of replacing him any time soon. I accepted that argument until the next morning. She was so distraught that I suggested we run down to the local pet shops, on a lark, just to see what dogs might be there. She told me it was futile, but reluctantly agreed.

When we got to the first store, they were just putting away a puppy that a customer had been playing with. He was cute, so I stopped them so we could take a quick look at the pup, first. He was a Papillon, so tiny and so full of life. I cautioned my wife that he might be a little too rambunctious for her to handle, because she has a bad back, but she was completely taken by the dog’s sheer joy. It was like an antidote for the pain she was feeling. Needless to say, we went home with that dog and named him Max. Actually, my wife called him Maxwell J. Plushbottom, but I don’t try to repeat that publicly.

Max was full of joy, but he was really too full of energy. He would bound about the house and bounce off your legs the way a swimmer pushes off the side of the pool for the next lap. My wife tried to put up with it, but her back couldn’t take it. So, I decided to take Max as my own and we set out to find a tiny dog that my wife could manage. She decided she wanted a miniature Yorkshire Terrier. I wasn’t thrilled to find out what they cost (not the sort of dog you’ll find at a shelter), but we went off to a store that specialized in them and found the tiniest dog I’d ever seen. They call them teacup dogs and this one really could do it. My wife named him Fred, without the fancy last name this time, thank you very much.

A year went by and my wife had not been feeling well. She avoids doctors whenever possible, but it got to the point where she had to go and last October, we found out that she had
cancer. She had let it go too long and it had spread, but she began daily radiation treatments anyway. Soon, she became too weak and sick to even handle Fred. I had to take him to live at my house – now I had both of her dogs and my wife was alone.

After a few months, I was able to arrange to work from home and I moved into her house, bringing the dogs back with me. The dogs had used their time at my house to really bond and were now the best of friends, which pleased my wife no end. She had to spend most of the time in the bedroom, behind closed doors. We arranged safe ways of her playing with the dogs.

We were able to spend six months this way, a family re-united. The dogs brought such joy to our lives. I hadn’t really known Fred before this – he was so fast that I only saw a blur when I visited. But now he had gotten to know me and I found him to be one of the smartest and most playful dogs I’ve ever known. Fred is a cross between a monkey and a kitten that won’t stop batting at a ball of yarn. Max, by contrast, is a dog’s dog, who will be steadfast by your side. Fred is the comic relief.

A couple weeks ago, my wife took a turn for the worse and we ended up in the hospital. The doctors and nurses were great and they did all they could, but they couldn’t control the pain and spasming. It is not really an overstatement to say that she was tortured to death. In retrospect, I wish I could have put my wife to sleep, like Bowser. I never really thought about all that Kevorkian stuff until now. Also, I think there’s a difference between someone wanting to take the easy way out and someone who is facing imminent death and whose pain can’t be controlled.

But finally, she is at peace and it is the dogs (and I) who have suffered the loss.

The thing that kills me is that the dogs don’t realize yet that the kind lady behind the closed doors isn’t there anymore.

Jon from NJ

One Response

  1. Aaron Bahir Says:

    Very touching Jon, but not maudlin. A number of interesting turns of phrase.