Paint Schoodic

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Goodbye, Old Paint

Max cheated Death so many times that when it finally came for him, I was unprepared.
In his element (water), as he would like to be remembered.
Max, my ancient, wheezy Jack Russell Terrier, finally passed away yesterday. Requiescat in pace, you old reprobate. I hate to admit it, but I’ll miss you.

Max was atrociously old—balding, bedsores, few working teeth, and unable to fully control either bladder or bowels. I said I would never be a nursemaid to a dog, but he was saved by his good humor. He’s not unhappy, we would tell ourselves, and we’d get out the mop and bucket and clean up after him again.

Max was the Great Houdini at escaping death. At nineteen, he was frail but not sick. I thought that he might outlive me. Or, since he frequently caused me to trip over him, we might die together. His very kind vet, Dr. Carissa A. Bielamowicz, told me that this is true of the breed. They tend to die of simple old age, not illness.

It wasn't until his late teens that he started to act like a normal dog.
He was never a good dog. We ended up with him because he wouldn’t stay home. He would trot off to ginger up the neighbor’s dairy cows, or swim across the Erie Canal to chase cars on the state highway. “That dog’s going to get killed,” my mother said, and arranged for him to move to our house. We had him for more than sixteen years.

He was constitutionally unable to walk on a leash. People were just too slow and incurious for him. He was an inappropriate hunter. His victims included several cats and an African Grey Parrot. He could catch songbirds in mid-flight. And, of course, he chased cars whenever he could slip out. He was fractious with the mailman and with other dogs, but his worst ire was for a neighbor’s Jack Russell Terrier. He and Lucy snapped and feinted at each other whenever they met, which was often. “Just like they’re married,” we said.

In his killing days, when he still had teeth.
Like many small dogs, he was fearless. He loved to pester Canada Geese and gulls, swimming out and snapping at them, unaware that he wasn’t a water dog. Once he tried that with a Mute Swan. It didn’t go well, but he was undeterred.

His fearlessness made him a great plein air buddy. Many times I camped and painted with him as my only companion. He would have died defending me. His last painting trip with me was last fall. “Don’t fall in,” I kept telling him, as he tore up and down the rock cliff chasing the tide. “I’m not coming in after you.”

My studio will seem empty without his muddleheaded presence.
I’ve had dogs all my life, but he will be the last. There are fewer places where dogs and people can roam unfettered. Dogs are great instructors when they can snuffle and burrow and show you the world through their eyes. I’ve learned much about natural history from them. But leashed and fenced, they become a management issue.

Dog and boy, much younger then.
Max started failing again on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, he could no longer stand. His boy—my youngest child—sat with him for most of the day, quietly chattering with him. I took refuge in housework. “Cleanliness is next to dogginess,” I told Max. He was in too much pain to laugh.

As he relaxed into his final rest, I realized just how much effort he had been putting into merely surviving. But he was a dog, and dogs never complain.

16 comments:

Corinne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Corinne said...

What a sweet and heartwarming doggie tribute and story. He was loved..he had the best of life in your care! No one would be as patient and kind as you were. The story could very well be written about your human kindness to that scraggly, dear old furry friend of yours! RIP dear Max! ♡

Annette Koziol said...

That was the most beautiful and heartfelt tribute to a loved as I've ever read. I cried. But it was happy tears. Happy that this beautiful soul lived such a rewarding life and was so loved. Thank you for sharing that. ❤️

Carol Douglas said...

Thanks to you both. I don't think I was particularly nice--he wasn't indulged or coddled, and I sure yelled at him enough. But he was loved, by all of us.

Kathi said...

As a fellow JRT caretaker I absolutely adore this tribute to your guy. He was a corker. If you ever need a JRT fix.. come visit Nell and me.
JRT's are their own person. God love them.

Carol Douglas said...

The first thing I saw on FB this morning was Nell's sweet face. It moved me to tears.

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

So sorry to hear about Max, Carol. As you know, we lost our Saba back in April. It's a little easier now, but we sure do miss her. As I am sure you will miss Max. Careful up there, Max!

Paula Banks said...

I'm one of your many anonymous readers, who savour your blog every day. This one elicited a response, from one dog lover to another. Max's eulogy is eloquent, and tragi-comical in the way only a dog's life could be. Thank you for giving him your home and your hearts for those many years. May he live on in your memories.

Unknown said...

Carol, I'll admit it. I cried when I read about Max. What a companion. What a friend. We, too, have lost a Jack Russell. My son named him Bizkit, after the band, Limp Bizkit. He stayed by our side for 13 awesome, fun-filled years. When he left us I mourned.....for three years. We finally got another, "Jackie". Zoe is her name. She's my baby. She listens to me more than anyone else. Personality abounds. I love her so as I know you love Max. May his memory forever be a source of laughter and smiles. Take care. ��

Lucy's Aunt said...

Lucy and Max: reunited. I am so sorry, Duchess. Max was a true hound.

Carol Douglas said...

Thank you, friend.

Carol Douglas said...

Thank you, formerly-anonymous reader. Tragi-comical is the perfect description of Max.

Carol Douglas said...

Thank you.

Carol Douglas said...

Ah, friend... We've all passed a lot of water over the dam.

Rochesterian said...

So sad to hear this Carol. Max always tolerated me, at times even seemed happy to see me, and I loved him for it. RIP Max, you were a good'un.

Carol Douglas said...

Thank you.