Friday Firesmith – Max, the Life and Death of a Dog

Max was never truly healthy, as far as I know. Most purebred dogs have issues of some sort or another, and Max was no different. At eight years old, for a Cocker Spaniel, he should have had a few years left, but when I met Max a little over three years ago, he already seemed old. 

His first owner was a man who had retired early from the Air Force, had a few health problems himself, and decided to become a lawyer. He studied for hours at his home and bought Max to keep as company. But this man was not a dog person, and other than letting Max out to go to the bathroom and feeding him, Max lived a solitary life with someone. 

After his first owner died, Max lived for four years with a woman who liked dogs, loved Max, and she had friends who would come over, not something Max was used to, but he liked the attention. Max also discovered the wonderous creation we call “racquet balls”. Max became quite adept at catching a ball in midair, after the first bounce, and we once had a contest to see how many in a row Max could catch. His record stood at forty-seven. One of the oddest things, was Max taught himself to throw the ball down the back steps, and he would chase after it before it got to the bottom. Max did this for hours at a time. 

  Max was slowing down, getting blind, going deaf, and he was having a harder and harder time getting up on the bed, and sometimes, he seemed lost, even in his own home. He began crying and howling loudly when his owner left the house, and she had no idea why he was behaving this way, with no good reason at all. 

Life wasn’t done with the little black and white dog, and his second owner died just four years after his first went. Max went to live with his former owner’s brother, who was not is great health himself. I helped out by taking Max to the groomer, and that sort of thing, but Max was adrift. Even living with someone he knew and loved, Max had been torpedoed twice in his life, and his heart was broken. 

Max’s health went downhill, and when he developed cancer, the operation itself might have been enough to kill him. We buried Max in the backyard, near the shop at his new owner’s house, and the story for Max ends there. 

This is a scene played out every day in every state. People die and their pets enter a world of pain and confusion, with no control over what happens to them. In Dog Rescue, we get elderly dogs taken from the homes of dead or dying people who loved these animals for years, but made no plans as to what might happen when the owner died. 

Max landed well twice, but I think the loss killed him. I think even though he was loved and taken care of, there was a hole in his life that could not be filled with treats or ball tossing. Dogs love harder than any other creatures I have met and losing someone takes a lot out of a dog. Plan for your dog’s next journey in life. Put it in your will. Make the effort to see your dog is taken care of in this world, if you move on to the next. 

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Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

10 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Max, the Life and Death of a Dog”

  1. Queen Elizabeth II went up about 6 points on the esteem scale in my book when she said because of her age (and unknown life expectancy) she stopped breeding Corgis so there wouldn’t be any pups left behind when she dies.
    It’s not like they would be cast out in the street or sent to the pound, she understood the emotional connection dogs have with us.

  2. I doubt once I get to a certain age, I’ll have any more dogs. I love them, and can’t imagine a home without one, but I don’t have anyone who would take one in if anything happened to me. I’ve thought about this.
    Chaos may well be my last dog. I was lucky enough to rescue her when she was fairly young. I’ve had her since 2013. I’m honestly not sure her true age. She was full grown, and not a puppy when I got her. She is showing grey in her muzzle now and sometimes can’t get up on the bed, yet she refuses to use the stairs I put there for her.When she goes, it will break my heart, I know. She has been a great companion, and I know she didn’t stand a chance where she was.
    There have been times I have wondered who had her previous to me. I got her on base. I have to wonder if she was a soldier’s dog, and he never came back. She seems to really like men,except for a couple. Good Girl!!

    • Chick, Jessica might be that dog for me. She’s three, and if she lives ten more years, I’ll be over seventy. I just can imagine having little yappy dogs, and you have to have some real strength to handle big ones.

  3. Mike, I hope you don’t mind but I copied and pasted this story on to another forum that has a “Dog Thread”. Yes I referenced your website and you got the credit for writing it.

  4. I feel the same. Chaos got to be 75lbs, I expected about 55, she was more underfed than I thought when I got her. I do like larger dogs myself.

  5. My wife and I have discussed our pets several times and decided that there will be no more around here after Max, our 16 year old Beagle dies. At one point we had six horses, three dogs and five cats. Now that I’m 76 and my wife is 70, we just could not subject a pet to changing families.

  6. I do think there is a possible solution, not perfect, but a solution that can work. That is that older people adopt OLDER animals… cats and dogs who are at an age that the possibility exists that no one will adopt them(owner’s release to a shelter, death of an owner, etc…), so that ANYTIME the cat or dog gets with the older owner is gravy time. Too many owner released animals are sent to euthanasia. Everyone wants the kitten or puppy, an 8 year old cat? not so much. We adopted a 3 year old cat that had been passed over by many others for adoption, and she is the sweetest cat we have ever had. For us, only older cats now.

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