Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's funny how we catalog our life experiences. We tend to frame our lives in befores and afters... before marriage, after a birth, before college, after death. When I think of my life "before and after Max", I have to say the time since he came along has defined me in a way I never expected.

Before Max, I was never responsible for the well-being of another living thing. I often concluded that I apparently was one of the rare species of women born without a nurturing gene. I enjoyed the freedom of no attachments... no kids, no pets, not even live plants. Max taught me that I can provide and protect, that a life can flourish under my care. He's proven I am more patient, more tolerant, more forgiving and yes, more loving than I knew.

Life before Max was pretty self-involved and self-indulgent. Since Max, my days are planned around his needs. He needs walks, two square meals a day, to go out regularly for potty breaks. There are monthly meds to keep track of, baths, and regular vet visits. The expense in time and money all seems worthwhile, just to hear the clickety-clack of those little hooves on the hardwood floors, the sweet snore of his snoozing, to see those expectant eyes at mealtime. "Ah, hurry up lady. I'm starving here!"

I find myself thinking more about the inevitable these days. I can now see the hands of time on his face. It makes me appreciate every day all the more. The things I'll miss most are the things I've grown to love... his wiggling butt when he's happy to see me, his low moan when I'm rubbing his belly, the cocky strut that makes him look like he owns the universe and we're simply renting his space. I think nature got it all wrong... crocodiles can live for 80 years; we only have a little time with our best friends.

An early morning appointment meant we got a late start on the walk today. He knows when I'm getting dressed to go somewhere without him, but he's learned to accept it. Those sad eyes watch me prepare to leave. The promise to make it up to him with a treat and nice, long walk upon my return always seems to sooth his disappointment. It was mid-morning before we finally got out to soak in the sun and fresh air of the neighborhood. It was his lucky day. He found a fresh tennis ball with lots of bounce and transported it in his mouth back home. He couldn't wait to give it a run.

Max has this ritual with new balls. Before he can play with it, he has to initiate it. It starts with pulling off some of the fuzz, scuffing it up with grass and dirt, and then rolling around on it for a while to fully claim it. He got in a few catches on an open lot, but it was the end of the walk so there wasn't a lot of energy left. Heading home, we approached the outstretched hands of a woman we passed sitting outside on the sidewalk who was clearly eager to pet him. In all the excitement of the find, he did something he rarely ever does. Usually the ladies man, he never misses a chance to flirt and get a good head rub. But today he started moving in her direction, only to give her the old fake out, and just kept on walking away. What a heart-breaker.

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