Brandy lived on for several months. Although she became thinner and was not as exuberant as in her youth, she still retained her wonderful spirit and seemed to enjoy her daily walks with Max. The two dogs were like an elderly couple, so used to each-other’s ways that they ambled along companionably, always second-guessing the other’s movements and moods. Neisha plodded along too, a little apart, probably remembering Max’s assault in their youth and recognizing that, although he had mellowed somewhat with the years, he still had the potential to be a grumpy-old-man.
When Brandy finally passed on, it was hard to know how much her disappearance had registered on Max. He looked a little puzzled to see Edna without Brandy, but then fell into step with us as usual. We often thought that both dogs were conscious that time was running out, and that Max’s wolf instinct told him that his friend was ill and gradually failing. Whether he was more subdued due to advanced age, or whether he really felt the loss of his beloved friend, we could never tell. He quietly adjusted to walking with Neisha, and one day, when we saw the two of them pausing to share a sniff in a patch of ferns, we realized that, if not friends on the scale that he and Brandy had been, they had accepted each other as companions.
Sadly, Max was to lose Neisha as well before too long. Neisha was older of the two, and she died within a year of Brandy’s death. Max became the sole dog on my daily walks with Edna. He was still happy to set out for our walk, and was still feisty enough to growl if another four-footed alpha male appeared in his path. However, he was slowing down, and even though he was only eleven, I was anxious about him. He had developed a habit that unnerved me, especially in the wake of all the recent losses. Our little black cat, Georgina, the household pet from before Max’s time, had been buried many years before at the side of our garden, and suddenly, Max started sitting on her grave and staring at me with his wolf mask set as if he was trying to tell me something. I had a worrying premonition whenever he took up this position. How could he know what was there? It made no sense, but Max was definitely trying to communicate something. Was it merely the result of him losing so many of his friends, or had the illness two years back triggered something that was irreversible?
I was embarking on a new project around this time: the publication of my first book of mystery stories. Max, as usual, was a great companion, sitting at my feet as I proof-read my manuscript. Naturally, when a local reporter came to do a story on the book, Max was included in the publicity photograph. He deserved it after all those hours under the computer table. However, it was clear from the picture that he was not the robust dog of his early years. He wasn’t even glowering at the photographer! The dear old fellow was feeling his age.