It’s a Dog’s Life
Many years ago, when my children were babies I got a puppy. He was the only pup born to the dam of one of my neighbors. He was sweet and beautiful, the color of cola in sunlight with a white blaze in his forehead and a white chest. I named him Kokomo. He became the family dog. When he still had his milk teeth, he learned that he could grab a mouth full of rubber pants and diaper and go for a drag as my little ones toddled around the house.
Koke lived for just about six years when Parvo-virus took him in the epidemic that was sweeping the state in which I lived. It was an agonizing death for an animal. The vet thought it was just a regular virus that would run its course and treated it that way. It didn’t and our beautiful dog passed away with a scream of pain just after midnight Easter Sunday. I cried for three days. My children were sad and confused when Animal Services came and collected Koke, whose body was wrapped in a bright plaid blanket. They kept wondering when he would come home. Death was new to them. It was then that I truly learned that our dog was not just a pet. I learned that delightful dog was a member of the family.
That was a hard year, a lean year and a year of learning to survive. The divorce from my children’s father became final. I earned $6,000 that first year working full-time. My only meal each day was the one I got for free where I worked, but my kids could eat that way. And our dog died.
It was a very long time before I could trust and love again. I was a single mom for 16 years before I met the man who is now my husband. By then I was ready for love. My heart had healed. Steve and I got a puppy after we married. He was just eight weeks old. I was ready for that new addition to our family by then too.
Maxx is now 14 years old. He’s a big dog with a big heart. Four years ago, to keep him young and active, we got him a buddy named Beau. For Maxx, Beau is the toy that plays back. Maxx has bad hips and a huge tumor on his leg that grew back after the last surgery to remove it. We know Maxx’s time with us is not much longer. Each day we have with Maxx is a treasure and a joy. Tears often fall unbidden from us in an unguarded moment when the old guy starts limping or groans with discomfort upon laying down. As much as Beau likes to aggravate Maxx and taunt him into playing, Beau has become gentler, licking Maxx’s nose with gentle affection when he moves slowly and groans. We worry about how lonely Beau will be when Maxx passes on.
For Christmas this past year, I bought Steve the book, Rescuing Sprite, by Mark R. Levin. He wanted that book when he heard an interview with the author on the talk radio station to which we listen each day. My lovely spouse sat in the garage for a half hour after parking his truck listening, then talked through supper about how much he wanted to read that book. He reminded me of it for many weeks. The very large hint taken, I got him the book, wrapped it and set it beneath the tree. He was pleased and read the book before the New Year began.
Levin’s journey through the grief and loss of his beloved dog, Sprite, has helped Steve come to terms with the fact that we are at the end of Maxx’s days with us. I did not want to read it. I didn’t want to cry, and I knew the book would make me do that. And it did. I finished it this past Friday over lunch in my office. Thankfully, I had no class to facilitate that day so I could hide the red nose and swollen eyes. But I was glad I’d read it.
I won’t tell you, dear reader, that this was the best written book I’d ever read. It wasn’t. Mr. Levin was not trying to write the great American novel. He wrote a book that any one who has loved and lost a beloved family member and mourned will understand. This book is a cathartic journey through grief, anguish, loss and joyful memory. This is a book that will help anyone know that the sorrow felt over the death of a beloved pet is normal, despite those folks each of us have around who have no understanding of that kind of misery or the pain because they’ve never been there.
This book is as a true gift to me as it was to Steve. It allowed me to put the memories of Kokomo those many years ago into perspective instead of drawing my emotions in tightly so that I cannot be too awfully hurt at Maxx’s passing, Mr. Levin reminded me just how precious these days are. I’m taking those extra minutes for doggy kisses and lots of petting and talking with the elegant old man that is Maxx. Work can wait, time cannot. While I would not say that this book was a joy, I can definitely say it was a blessing. I highly recommend it.
At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” She can be reached at