I had a missed call yesterday from my 12 year old niece, Charlie. No message or text. . . strange. I waited a bit, to see if she might follow up, then I went ahead and called her back.
She got right to it.
Bad news. Their beloved German Shepherd, diagnosed with bone cancer late last spring, wasn’t doing well. It was time to end his suffering, and even though everyone knew this time was coming, no one was ready.
Tears, all around.
“I know you love Max as much as we do,” she said, “and I didn’t want you to find out some other way—like in a text message or a voicemail.”
I was overwhelmed by the maturity and thoughtfulness of this.
What a spectacular human she is.
“He knows the sound of your car,” she continued. “And he always runs out to meet you when you come. It would be terrible for you to show up and for him not to run out and for you not to know why.”
More tears, and we shared some of our favorite things about Max. So many things.
We exchanged photos, Charlie sending a perfect one of her as a toddler with Max as a puppy in her arms.
Charlie noted that both Barney and Mr. Dave, a horse and his cowboy dearly loved and lost in the past couple of years, would be glad to see Max again.
So much love in this kid and this family.
I spend a lot of time horse-sitting for my brother during the spring, summer, and early fall. Taking care of their two dogs is always a highlight of this time out on the ponderosa. We have our own routines that I know Max expects and looks forward to—going out to feed, visiting the barn cats, coffee and fetch from the rocking chair on the back porch. Max is (mostly) patient with the whippersnapper shepherd who joined their household two years ago, as if he knows the truth that he’s the one I will always love best. (Sorry, Sarge.)
Charlie shared the ways they are all spoiling Max at home, breaking her dad’s unbreakable rules about things like feeding dogs people food.
“Max is so confused, but he’s happy to be getting cheese!”
I thought back to Christmas Eve 2020, when I joined my brother’s family via zoom for the traditional reading of the bedtime books. (Oh, what a terrible year, when we couldn’t be together as an extended family!) As I engaged in the annual battle to make it through Patricia Pollaco’s An Orange for Frankie without crying—a battle I have yet to win—I remember Max circling the group cuddled up on the couch, whining. Where is she? I can hear her, but she is not here!
Such a smartie, that dog.
Such a person, my niece.