earlier this week, on the afternoon of october 5th, we lost our sweet, lovable maxi boy.
it was one of the hardest things we've had to do, but we knew it was time. max was getting older, it was evident in his energy and his movements. his knees were very arthritic and he had a hard time getting up the stairs, and we could tell he was hurting after he ran through the yard for a bit. but he still had that zest and joy for life, the sparkle in his eyes and the wag in his tail.
but it became very apparent on labor day weekend, when we came home from a neighborhood party, and noticed he hadn't moved spots in the last 5 hours, hadn't eaten his treat we left right by his head, didn't get up to greet us. he picked his head up and looked at us with unhappy eyes, but he literally couldn't get up. his breathing was labored and quick and harsh. his feet were cold. i was on the phone with a very friendly on-call vet for a long time, and she suggested we get him to the emergency animal hospital just to check what was going on. michael had to pull the car into the front yard up to the door and carry max out to the back seat. the girls and i cried and cried and kissed and hugged. we didn't know if it was the last time we would see him.
michael drove off and i cuddled up in bed with the girls as they fell asleep. i waited for michael's call to give me an update. he called periodically, but overall in the end, max's abdomen and heart were filled with fluid. most likely bleeding from what they believed were cancerous tumors. there was no surgery, no palliative care, not much they could do. the vet did offer to drain the fluid from his heart, and then wait-and-see how maximus reacted. so we did it. michael called me to come. we didn't know if he would improve, or if we would have to put him down that night. so heboo came over at 1:00 am, and i headed to the vet. as soon as i walked in, max picked up his head and wagged his tail. it appeared the draining had worked and he was perking up as the oxygen was once again able to flow through his heart. the vet said it would return, it was just a matter of when. we were set on bringing him home, savoring any time we had left, giving him every bit of love and snuggle and treat we could.
so we did. i pretty much sat with him all of labor day, petting him and talking to him and giving him every bit of scrap he wanted. and crying. i did a whole lot of crying that day. he was tired and rested most of that day. but then he seemed to improve. he slowly moved around over the next few days, getting back to a little more of himself. over the next four weeks, we had a few concerning nights, when he couldn't get up the stairs, when he fell after struggling up to our room, when he refused to move and his breathing was shallow. but we didn't take him to emergency. we knew exactly what they would tell us to do. and we didn't want to have maximus spend his last moments on a cold animal hospital. we wanted him home with us.
on october 4th, harper ran a pretty high fever, meaning i was home with her on monday, the 5th. it was a beautiful fall day. a semi-warm sunny day, with a mild wind blowing. in the early afternoon, i let the dogs out. they wandered the yard for a while, and i noticed a few minutes later that maximus was lying by the back door on the deck, just staring at the yard. i went out and sat with him, enjoying the warmth. it was then that i noticed his breathing was different. it was labored, it was shallow, it was grunt-filled, his nose flaring. i sent a video to our home veterinarian. within 5 minutes, she called me and said she was concerned and wanted to come over. i called michael and asked him to come home. i gave my mom the heads up that she might need to come get harper.
the vet arrived, and we chatted and watched him for about 45 minutes. she discussed that she thought he was showing us it was time. without an ultrasound, we couldn't know for certain the fluid had returned to his heart, but the breathing, the sullen look in his eyes, his lethargy, the way he was sitting to allow the easiest breathing were clues. he had lost his spark, his happy joyful golden-self. we waited for michael to get home and for nana to get harper. and then michael and i walked him to the backyard, because that was where he loved to be. lying and rolling in the grass topped his list. and we held him as she administered the calming meds and eventually the one that took him from us.
it was one of the most difficult things we've ever had to do, but also a beautiful gift. we hated to see him suffering, and it wasn't fair to him to hold on. who knows what could have happened if we had waited. most likely a heart attack, or an emergency situation that would lead us to walk in on him already gone, or have to put him down in a sterile clinic instead of the warmth of home.
about an hour later, a very kind soul from the cremation clinic came and lovingly took maximus. that was it. no longer could i pet that beautiful soft fur. kiss his velvety ears. hold his paws in my hands. hug him around his neck. they brought back his remains the next day, and it was just so strange. but we know he is still with us. he's watching over us. he's making sure all is well with this baby. and i know that because at the beginning, every time i went to the bathroom to toss my cookies, he would get up and come check on me. it's like he waited around just long enough to make sure everything was well, and then decided when it was his time to let go.
oh sweet boy, we miss you so very much. we know you are up there, having crossed that rainbow bridge, watching over us lovingly and protectively. the house just isn't the same without you. it's quieter. there's no big furry guy with a wet nose wagging his tail as we walk in the door, so happy to see us. the floor next to my side of the bed is empty and lonely. our hearts are broken. we love you so, so much. rest in comfort and know you were a most special part of our family. we will see you someday.