Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I Love You Max!

My beautiful baby boy Maximus Herrmann von Bruffmore in 2007
My marathon and Ragnar Trail Run training has gone to shit! Two weeks ago when I was out of town for work my wife noticed that our 100-lb German Shepherd dog Max was restless.  He came to her bedside several times during the night.  She let him outside thinking he had to take care of some business.  He returned shortly after and all during the night looking for attention.  At one point Susan felt a lump on his left lower jaw.  It was about the size of an extra large marble she told me over the phone.

The next day Susan and Max were at the vet's office.  He goes to the doctor more than we do.  The vet examined Max, took X-rays, and told Susan that he was 98% sure that it might be an abscessed tooth.  He put Max on a 3 week regiment of antibiotics.  A week into the treatment, when the mass should have diminished, Susan and I both noticed that the mass appeared larger or at least the same size.  It was possible that the medication was unable to penetrate the mass effectively and reduce the lump as we had hoped.   Concerned that it might not be an abscessed tooth we got a referral to the University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) in Athens, Georgia.

The VTH has examinations for new patients on Mondays and Wednesdays.  We had a Monday 10 a.m. appointment, the soonest we could coordinate the two hour drive from Jonesboro into our schedules.  We arrived to a waiting room full of concerned pet owners.  Shortly after we arrived we saw two pet owners standing outside the entrance.  One was visibly distraught.  He had obviously heard some bad news, or worse, lost a life long companion.  The patients at the VTH were probably the sickest of the sick.  We felt like we were in the right place for the best care for Max.

Max had blood work and another X-ray done.  His blood work was perfect.  That was a good sign and obviously a reflection of Susan's tireless hours in the kitchen preparing his meals from scratch.  It could have something to do with the blueberry muffins or the Raisin Bran cereal (sans raisins) that we shared.  Maybe it was the ice cream.  We both love it.  Max would eat vanilla and I would eat something with chocolate in it.  Dogs shouldn't eat grapes (raisins) or chocolate and we did our best to abide by that restriction.

The VTH student, and resident veterinarian recommended that Max undergo further testing the following day.  We could either leave Max overnight or bring him back at 7:30 a.m..  We elected to take Max home with us knowing full well that he was uncomfortable and would feel better at home.   At home he has his homemade dinners, Kuranda beds, and mommy and daddy to love on him.

We all slept from about 10:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. when Max was up and restless.  I took him out several times only to stand in my backyard in the rain trying to protect Max and myself with a big umbrella.  Max looked up at me as if to say - WTF!  His mouth had swollen from the exam and he was noticeably uncomfortable.  I took Max out one more time before we left to Athens.  I gently threw his ball trying to coax a healthy pee or bowel movement out of him.  Any discomfort Max might feel that I could eliminate was worth a try.  I was sure to tell Susan about our achievement - Max Pooped!  

We were on the road back to Athens by 5:30 a.m..  The local TV news had predicted the mother of all winter storms would hit the Metro Atlanta area on Monday.  They started their bull-shit on Friday, as they always do, but by Monday there was nothing.  Programming change - it's coming on Tuesday morning.  They were wrong again.  There was some icing in Athens and reports of scattered power outages but, as I assured Susan, the TV meteorologists are better at crying wolf than anything else.  We arrived at VTH just before our 7:30 a.m.appointment to find that some of the staff had heeded the warnings and would be late.  Our student vet arrived quickly though and took Max for his tests.

While Max was getting his biopsy and CAT Scan, Susan and I ate breakfast at Mama's Boy restaurant.  The food was good and the service was great.  It was a nice distraction.   Since Max wasn't expected to be able to go home with us until about 2:00 to 3:00 p.m we decided to go to the movies to watch a matinee.  Susan had just read the book Still Alice so that's what we decided to see.  The movie is a laugh a minute and just what we needed to cheer us up.  It's about a successful college professor who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease.  Are you laughing yet?   Alice tries to cope with the disease until it eventually takes her completely.  The movie was so freakin' sad I could have cried, that is if I hadn't already been crying at the thought of losing my dog, my son, my Max.

Susan and I returned to the hospital at around 2:30 p.m.  We spoke to the vet student.  She answered all our questions.  I only wish she could have said Max would be fine, but she couldn't.  His resident vet would speak to us as soon as she could.  About an hour later, shortly after Max woke up and he was still very groggy, we had our final consultation.

The results of the biopsy won't be in for about a week but the CAT Scan was definitive.  Max's prognosis is bad.  He has cancer.  Half of his lower jaw needs to be removed.  Then he needs radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.  He is almost 9 years old, not nearly old enough to pass on.

I know that I will lose Max soon but I also know that I love him to the depth of my being.  He is the best dog in the world and I challenge anyone to differ.  Max never pulled on the leash when we walked him.  He was quiet when he should be and loud when we wanted.  He ran off his fair share of pine-straw sellers and Jehovah Witnesses from our front door.  His imposing 42" chest in the front window as he barked had one doorbell ringer throw-up his hands to surrender as he backed off the front steps.  Susan saw the whole things from her home office window.  She was proud of him.

Recently one of my coworker's father passed away.  Before that it was one of my cycling friends son.  In between those two family tragedies, two other friends lost her K-9 companions of 15 or so years.  What's it all about?  I didn't reach out to any of them.  I didn't understand or know what to say.  My parents both died so long ago that the pain and my compassion for others seems to have diminished in me.  I have been reacquainted with those feelings this week.  Max is still here with us but my sense of loss is already so great that I can hardly stand it.  As Max lies on his bed, his senses dulled with medicine and his mouth swollen and bleeding he is here at home where he belongs.  We will both try to make his final days the best ever.  I doubt we'll go through the torture of surgery.  He's already been through so much, and he hasn't changed his wonderful personality a bit.  He's still the same perfect dog even though he now lies almost motionless on his bed in our living room.

Susan helped me find the answer - it's about love!

I love you Max Farmer!