I had planned to post a blog today about women’s history month and St. Pat’s Day. But yesterday, we had to have our big dog euthanized, and I decided instead to continue Edie’s theme about the awe of love. So today, I’m talking about the power of dog (and cat) love.
I grew up on a crop farm, surrounded by dogs, cats and a few other animals. As an adult, I adopted multiple cats and two dogs from shelters and took in several strays that showed up on my doorstep. I loved them all, but there was one dog who stood out from the rest. An animal I bonded with as surely as I bonded with my kids.
Max was part of our family for nearly twelve years. We got him from the shelter when he was nine months old. Part Golden Retriever, part Great Pyrenees, he had the biggest heart of any of the dogs I’ve ever known – and everything else was big too. The day we brought him home, the vet said he was as big as he would get at 90 pounds. Three months later, Max was as tall as my husband if he stood on his hind legs (which he often did to give my hubs dog kisses) and weighed 125 pounds. The local vet didn’t have a scale big enough for him, so we had to take Max to another town to a vet with a livestock scale just to have him weighed.
The day we adopted him from the shelter, a worker brought him out of his kennel to meet us. My twin sons were only 2 ½ years old, and Max (all ninety pounds of him) ran right up to them and knocked them both down. He licked their faces and then made a beeline for the door. He wanted out! One of my sons laughed hysterically at being knocked down and licked to death. The other was mad and cried and would have nothing to do with Max for a long time. Over the next few months, though, he fell in love with the dog as much as the rest of us, and was just as upset yesterday over having to let him go.
Max, for all his size, was a gentle giant. He loved kids and accepted our cats with no trouble. They’d climb all over him, lick him, and snuggle next to him for a nap. He’d get excited when the UPS man came, and once, he ran right through the back screen door to get to the guy. I ran after of course and found the poor UPS guy plastered up against the side of the house, Max’s paws on his shoulders and the dog licking his face like a long lost friend. I apologized profusely as I tugged Max off, but the guy laughed, ruffled Max’s fur and told me not to worry about it. He had two big dogs, too, and completely understood.
What is it about a dog (or cat) that makes us love them so much? Unconditional love is an amazing thing and that’s what our pets provide. No judgments, complete forgiveness when we screw up, and what often seems like a spiritual patience with our stupid human ways. Max had a few faults – like chewing up shoes, Legos, curtains and baseball gloves – but we easily overlooked all the bad stuff because he was such a loving animal. One time while we were at a little league game, he put his front feet up on the gas stove to get to a cake I had cooling there. He managed to turn one of the stove’s knobs during the process, and we came home to a gas-filled kitchen. Scary moment. All turned out okay – nothing exploded and the house was aired out – and I wasn’t even mad about the cake he gobbled down. I did learn an important lesson to never leave food out around him, but later in a different house, he figured out how to get the pantry door open and helped himself to a bag of 3 Musketeer bars. The whole bag, wrappers and all. Didn’t even make him sick.
So today’s post is a tribute to Max and all dogs and cats everywhere that give us unconditional love and believe in us even when the world doesn’t. I’d give anything to have Max back but I treasure these memories and the years he spent with our family. The vet told us because of his size he probably wouldn’t live beyond nine or ten and we had twelve great years with him. His spirit is here with us, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns up in one of my books someday…
Have you ever owned a special pet? One that made your world a better place? What is your favorite memory of him or her? I’d appreciate sharing some pet love today to help me mend my broken heart!