Our dog Max had been with the family for seven years. When we travelled up to Cavan to collect him from the breeder, it was love at first sight. As a Bull Mastiff pup, he was just the most beautiful thing you ever saw. The kids minded him like a baby in the back of the car all the way home. That positive initial link continued during all of his time with us.
Walkies! Once he was inoculated, I took him to dog training classes in Tymon Park in Tallaght. An early start, every Sunday morning for 12 weeks, hail, rain or rain. The lady who ran the classes, who’d obviously graduated from the ‘Barbara Woodhouse School of Motivation’, singled me out for remedial attention.
“Excuse me” (I averted eye contact).
“Yes you! The man with the grey hair. Tell that dog you love him”
“Good boy Max” (whispered)
“He doesn’t believe you. You’re not communicating with your dog”
“Eh, good boy Max” (a tiny bit louder)
“You’re hopeless, absolutely hopeless. Great dog, hopeless owner”
Fully Trained: The abuse worked really well; after 3 months she had me fully trained. Max walked perfectly on the lead, did not want to fight every other dog in the country and, most importantly, he was brilliant with the kids. Bull Mastiff’s are big dogs – but in his mind Max believed that he was a Hamster. He loved being minded. The kids rolled around the garden with him when they were younger and nieces and nephews continued the tradition.
Untreatable Cancer: When Max got cancer, we made the decision to have him put down. At 7 years old, he was a young dog – but we’d a good link with the vet and nobody wanted to see him suffering. The last couple of weeks have been particularly sad as he became less able. St Anne’s Park is across the road from the house and was like his front garden. He could walk forever and we came to know every blade of grass in that place. In recent times Max could barely complete a lap of the Rose Gardens. Sad to see a magnificent animal with such reduced capacity.
Saying Goodbye: We booked a slot when no-one else would be around. The kids and myself took Max to the vet and he quietly slipped away. There were lots of tears in saying that final goodbye. He was, without doubt, the best dog we ever had.
The house seems empty now. His bowls and various bits are sad reminders of his presence. It was a good, if all too short, run. We loved him. He loved us. Overall, not a bad deal. Adios Max.
PS Because euthanasia is socially and ethically difficult, Irish people can legally provide more care for a dog at the end of its days than they can for a person facing similar issues. This ‘end of life’ concern is a huge worry for many people. Culturally, we lack the capacity to address difficult societal issues – issues that are not going away anytime soon. I’ve great admiration for the Dutch in this regard. They recognize and deal with reality as it is, rather than how they might want it to be. If we ever have a serious debate on this topic, I already know which way I’m voting.