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A story about a dog and his owner

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
Reposted from www.acofunstop.com - the place where animal control officers spend time with the rest of their profession...

See you on the other side... A story about the dark side


Cascades of reality. So we sit here this evening enjoying the chill of the air overlaid with the sounds of cars rushing by on the highway in the distance. On the hill across from the shelter, a lone person stands quietly considering the mixed breed brown dog running to and fro on the grass.

Max enjoyed the crisp blades under paw as he made every effort to catch the doves nestled in the grasses deep embrace. His bounding gait was in sharp contrast to the afternoon visit to the veterinarian’s office where he had been subject to a myriad of pokes, sticks, prods and a strange half awake – half asleep experience where he felt several deep pinches in his belly. All that remained now was a dull ache in his stomach that was much less painful than the sharp, burning pain that had left him curled in a ball in his bed whimpering and biting at himself as he tried to attack the unseen predator that was hurting him so.

Jim watched Max run and scamper with a sad sense of wonder, oblivious to the thoughts that ran through Max’s canine cerebellum. Several weeks earlier, Jim had felt a similar pain which resulted in a trip to the ER by ambulance. After a battery of tests, Jim had found himself shuffled off to an oncologist. Dr. Brahmaguptra had patiently explained the polysyllabic disease that now away at Jim’s insides like caustic lye. His lilting Indian accent did not offer any relief from the unbelievable news he related. Yes, it was cancer. Yes, it was extremely advanced. No, it was not treatable. No, it was not operable. No, there was nothing that would halt its onslaught or relieve the inevitable pain associated with the N-stage symptoms. Brahmaguptra offered his sympathies but his words seemed hollow and distant as he enumerated the swift progression of the disease.

Jim had been a healthy athletic guy who was never sick a day in his life. He ate well, exercised regularly and enjoyed being a person who was as at home in a canoe as he was hiking a hillside. His career in animal services started when he was twelve. Coming home from school one afternoon, he found a dog hit by car on the side of the road. Taking off his jacket, he scooped up the dying dog and placed it carefully on the handlebars of his hand me down bicycle. Pedaling as fast as his legs would go, he raced down the country roads almost five miles to Doc Bear’s home veterinary practice. Carrying the broken & bleeding dog to the kitchen door, he kicked and yelled until Doc Bear answered in his tattered flannel bathrobe. One look at the frantic boy and his near dead companion was all Doc Bear needed. Taking the dog from Jim’s blood-soaked arms, he laid it on the kitchen table and reached for his country vet’s bag that sat nearby.

Doc examined his patient with the care and surety that came with over 40 years in practice. His exam confirmed what his eyes had already told him. Jim’s ride had been hopeless. Shattered bones, internal injuries and blood loss would finish what the car had started. The poor animal was already dead; Jim had just outrun the angel whose job it was to collect the dog’s soul. As it turned out, Jim had been able to accomplish one other thing. The young dog who had no name happened to be a female and pregnant. Her only puppy was born just as she started to take her final breaths. The little mix breed that would have otherwise perished unborn, unknown and unloved entered the world in one violent spasm that marked both life and death as “Miracle Max†entered Jim’s life. Doc Bear wasn’t able to save the mother but newborn pups were a personal specialty. Taking the lifeless puppy from Jim’s hands, he broke the membrane and began swinging the pup gently to clear the liquid from his little lungs.

Hello, Max, meet the world. For a puppy born one step ahead of the angel sent to collect him, Max displayed a tenacity that left Doc Bear in awe. When the “Bear†passed away ten years later from a massive heart attack, Jim and Max were there as pallbearers. Jim helped carry the casket while Max carried Doc’s trusty black bag to the gravesite at the back of the farm. Firm friends for the ten years, Jim spoke of Doc Bear’s smile and way with all animals. He noted that Doc had helped at the rural animal shelter that Jim now managed. The animals benefited more than Jim could say. As they walked from the gravesite in the lifting fog, Jim’s mind ran through his last ten years.

After starting as a volunteer several weeks following the bicycle ride and Max’s birth, Jim had become the pounds unofficial two-legged mascot with Max filling the four-footed role. He eventually landed a paying job as an animal caretaker progressing to assistant pound master and finally pound master. At 22, he had a county job in a line of work he loved. Focusing on the dogs & cats abandoned on the country roads of his county, Jim had made a name for himself as a true champion of the roadside hard cases. With Doc Bear’s help, he and Max worked with the animals that came through the door matted, mad and afraid of the world. Each of the three used their gently persuasion, patience and seemingly infinite supply of compassion to turn terror into happiness. The tiny shelter boasted an outstanding adoption rate as Jim worked with many groups to find homes for the dogs & cats that he cared for daily. Max would greet each dog or cat with a kind look and a type of communication that Jim sensed but could not truly perceive. The whole facility (all six runs and eight cages) smelled of safety and sanctuary.

Jim and Max had spent almost five years managing the pound when Jim suffered his collapse. Sensing that Jim was in trouble, Max had gone almost insane. The late night visit to check on the shelter found Jim alone in the county pound with little hope of help until the morning. Max then lived up to his full name and performed a miracle. Jumping on the front counter, Max’s paw keyed the dispatch radio’s mic again and again. His frantic barking went out over the county sheriffs’ channel repeatedly. County dispatch couldn’t clear the channel but realized that the unit broadcasting was the pound. The dispatcher on duty called the two night deputies after getting no answer on Jim’s cell phone. Figuring there was trouble at the pound, she sent both over to check it out only to find out they were already in route. Arriving at the pound, Jim’s pickup truck was clearly visible in the drive with the light on in the pound. Finding the door locked and seeing Max barking at the counter they forced to door. A few steps brought them to Jim who was unconscious in the kennel run area. Calling county rescue they managed to calm Max down. The resulting ambulance ride led to the doctor’s visit.

Jim thought back on his doctor’s visit and then about his trip with Max to the veterinarian. Like a terrible nightmare, the veterinarian had sat Jim down in her office to explain that Max was very sick. Yes, it was cancer. Yes, it was extremely advanced. No, it was not treatable. No, it was not operable. No, there was nothing that would halt its onslaught or relieve the inevitable pain associated with the N-stage symptoms. Jim suppressed a laugh and a sob, with the resulting sound coming out like a startled gag. He let the young vet in on the little secret he and Max now shared. The veterinarian counseled that the kindest thing to do for Max would be to humanely end his suffering. Without the ability to properly evaluate Max’s growing pain, it would be almost impossible to regulate and the disease would soon claim his life. How long? Days, maybe a few weeks at most. Jim thanked her for her advice and left with Max and a bottle of pain meds that would last the week.

That evening found Jim and Max on the hill. Jim had made up his mind later that afternoon that they would enjoy their short time left as best they could. Max loved the evening runs and Jim sat and watched, feeling the same dull ache that Max had in his stomach. He looked at the bottle of pills the oncologist had dispensed to him and marveled at the ability of such a small pill to deaden so much pain. Thoughts ran through his mind and he resolved that neither would reach the point where they could not function. Leaving the hill that night, Jim drove to his small house nearby and made some preparations for what would be he & Max’s final days. The next morning, he met his assistant pound master at the shelter and let him know that the following Saturday would be his last day as assistant pound master. Before his fellow employee could protest, Jim told him that he would be the new pound master and would take over those duties immediately until confirmed by the county board. Leaving his assistant speechless, Jim headed out to take care of some other details.

How do you wrap up your life when you know its ending? Many leave this world unexpectedly and without warning. Jim was given his mortal world pink slip and told that he would be leaving shortly. Never being the type to run from a fight, Jim carried on as he always had. He took care of business and made arrangements for his house, his work, and his life. Saturday morning, he showed up to turn over his keys and the rest of his work equipment. He gave his assistant, now manager an envelope with instructions to open it Sunday afternoon.

Leaving the pound with Max in the front seat of the truck, he drove out to Doc Bear’s place. Vacant after Doc’s death, Doc’s children had not been back much, leaving the estate firm to handle the property. He and Max went out to the back of the property and visited Doc’s grave. The simple grave marker was inscribed with the phrase, “He cared more than mostâ€. Jim knelt at the marker and said a silent prayer for his departed friend. Max sat quietly nearby watching without a sound as Jim’s tears watered the grass that grew around the marker.

Leaving the grave, Jim walked back to the pickup and removed his black bag from behind the seat. Had his assistant inventoried the equipment, he would have noticed some very important items missing. Jim opened the bag and removed the container of blue liquid along with several syringes and an IV bag. Drawing the majority of the contents from the bottle, he added it to the near empty IV bag, the saline turning the dark blue liquid almost sky blue. Into another syringe went 12 more cc’s. Walking back from the truck, Jim laid out a blanket and a small lawn chair next to Doc’s grave. Calling Max over to him, Jim ran his hands through the dog’s fur and buried his head in his side. Both felt the pain that the medication couldn’t eliminate.

Looking into Max’s deep brown eyes, Jim asked his forgiveness for not being able to make things better. Max did what he always did best and licked the salty tears from Jim’s face as it to say it was alright, he understood. Jim turned to the materials at hand and deftly inserted the IV line into his left hand. Taping it off, he attached the IV bag and hung it from the back of the chair. Taking Max’s paw in his hand, Jim held off the vein as he had done hundreds of times in the shelter. Quiet sobs wracked his body as he helped his friend’s suffering reach an end. As the drug took effect he opened the stop valve on the IV bag letting the same blue fluid into his vein. Max’s breathing became labored and he closed his eyes, head resting in Jim’s lap. Jim leaned back in his chair as the cold liquid circulated up his arm. His breathing grew labored as well and both drifted off. Before losing total consciousness, Jim whispered to his friend, “I’ll see you on the other side Max. Doc Bear will be waiting for us.â€

The next afternoon, the sheriff’s deputies found Jim and Max at the gravesite. The letter left at the pound the day before had asked that they check on things at the farm with a warning that they would find Jim there with Max. Included in the letter was a short note from Jim.

“Don’t grieve for us. Don’t think that we took a coward’s way out. Our lives were meant to stay together and this was the only way I could guarantee that would be the case all the way through the end. Both of us knew what was happening. Both of us felt the pain. With so little time left to share, we have made the most of it and left with dignity. Please bury us together in the plot next to Doc’s. We started our lives together under his watchful eye and that’s where we would like to spend eternity. Doc told me that we are all meant to serve a purpose and when that purpose is fulfilled, we move on. Max & I have moved on. We will be watching over you just as he watched over us after his passing. Goodbye. Jim & Maxâ€

Jim & Max are in a field behind an old country house. The grass grows over the gravesites and the buttercups glow yellow in the dawn’s mist. The marker reads, “Friends from beginning to endâ€. Doc is there with them. And all of them are watching over us. Some say that those who choose to end their lives cannot find Heaven. I’d beg to differ on that count. Jim’s choice was made for him. All he did was re-schedule the time. See you on the other side.
post #2 of 2
Good story. and nice website also.
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