“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”—Will Rogers
Saying goodbye to a pet is difficult, especially if you are like me—one who loves a pet and treats them like family. A message from a friend enduring that difficult time in Mount Pleasant last week reminded me of my first dog and how my heart broke when it was time for him to go. I should add I was way past 40 when that happened.
“Max is fine dog.” Those words on a note accompanying the 75-pound lemon basset hound said it all. “He likes to play. Take good care of him.” With that note and one puppy picture, Bob Morgan in Lufkin passed ownership of the long-and-low dog to me and my kids. There was also a letter of apology to Max from one of Bob’s friends who mistakenly referred to Max as, “Just a dog.” That was more than 20-years ago coinciding with our move to Boerne, just outside San Antonio.
It was a significant time for both of us. Here was an uprooted old basset hound making a move across the state, taking up a new residence with a single newspaper editor raising two kids. One, as I noted earlier, who had survived more than 40 years without becoming a dog person. Despite those odds, we hit it off on the back porch that very first night, inspiring a column posted to my blog a couple of years ago at:
Max transitioned from “East Texas dawg” to “Hill Country hound” in style, becoming somewhat of a celebrity in the process. A dog is said to be man’s best friend, but where is it written they are allowed to steal the show?
“How’s Max,” a friendly voice asked one day as I walked in the Valley Mart convenience store in Boerne, near the newspaper office? My mission was trading pocket change for “sweet tooth satisfaction.” It was break time. “When are you going to write about Max again,” the lady at the register followed?
“Max is fine,” I reported. “He’s doing just great.
“Well, then you need to write something about him,” she said.
“I’ll do that.” I promised, heading back to the office, snack in hand.
“Max,” I told him that evening during our usual walk. “Folks in town want to know how you’re doing and why I haven’t written about you lately. You’re a celebrity.”
Max was impressed. I could tell by the way he let loose with a deep-throated bay, and darted off under cedar branches in pursuit of a rabbit.
Soon after, a friend called from Center. “You’ll never believe, I met some folks from Boerne. And, they know you…sort of.”
“Define sort of,” I retorted suspiciously.
“I told them I had a friend there, Leon Aldridge. They asked, ‘Who?’ Aldridge, I said—he publishes the paper there—The Boerne Star.”
“I was about to decide they didn’t know you,” my Piney Woods friend continued, “when somehow, Max’s name came up. ‘Oh Max,’ they said. ‘Yeah, we know Max—you’re talking about that newspaper guy with the basset hound. Yeah, why didn’t you mention Max to begin with.’”
That evening as we walked among the cedars and oaks, I told Max, “You’re a charmer. Your reputation extends all the way from East Texas to here and back.”
Max was again impressed. I could tell by the way he sniffed the underbrush searching for scents of another Hill Country critter.
The realization of how the ol’ dog’s charisma even spanned age barriers struck me one day while delivering my children to classes. First order that day was to get the kids to school, second was to get Max dropped off at the veterinarian’s office where he had a standing boarding reservation—pool side with margarita service.
Almost late and rolling up the driveway at Bandera High School, my children were hanging out the window, their ears flapping in the breeze while Max was stoically seated, seatbelt fastened. Pulling to the curb, the kids bounded out of the car as the ol’ dog stuck his nose out the window. All at once, hands across the campus waved and fingers pointed, but instead of greetings for my children, what I heard was, “Max—there’s Max! Hey, Max.”
The big dog just smiled, panting with his tongue hanging out as we drove away.
“Max,” I said as we headed toward the vet’s office, “Bob was right. you’re a fine dog. We should all follow your example and not take ourselves so seriously.”
Once again, he was impressed. I could tell by the way he stared out the window. Max knew he was more than, “Just a dog.”