Two weeks after our shows were finished for the season, my fears at that closing matinee were justified. January had brought snow, and although it was not a heavy fall, the park and trails were lined with patches of white. On one morning walk, as we crossed the top of the park, Edna and I suddenly saw a patch of red where Max had christened the snow. I took him to the vet that afternoon and Dr. Foukal ran a series of tests and prescribed medication. Our hope was that Max had an infection that was curable, and for a couple of weeks, it seemed as if this was the case.
Pleased to see that the bleeding had stopped, we decided to go to the cottage for a week. Max, as usual, was delighted to set off. How we relished that week of Coast walks and cozy time in the cottage! Max enjoyed every minute of it and we returned to town, relieved, for everything seemed to have settled down again. However, that evening, when I went to see why Max had not come up to our bedroom, I found him sitting by the back door, unusually subdued and reluctant to come past Minx, who was perched in the middle of the kitchen with a feisty look on her face.
On February 1, however, Max seemed his usual spirited self. He growled at one of the dogs in the park and played his ‘hunt the cookie’ game once we were home. But that afternoon, I took him for a second walk, and to my dismay, I noticed that the bleeding had started again. I phoned the vet right away. Dr. Foukal was tied up with an emergency, but I managed to get an appointment for the next day.
The next morning, Max refused to eat his breakfast. I took him for a stroll up and down the lane. He had no trouble walking, but when he tried to pee on the neighbouring Rottweiler’s fence, nothing came out. When we returned to the house, I tried to tempt him with a piece of chicken. His reaction reminded me of the time all those years before when I had ordered him to drop the dead mouse and he had looked me straight in the eye as he dropped it down his gullet. Now, with the same defiant stare, Max spat the piece of chicken out at my feet.
Once Dr. Foukal examined Max, we realized the situation was grim. We were referred to the clinic in Central Valley, and we had to leave Max there for further tests. When the specialist contacted us a couple of hours later, she was in tears. Max was dying. He had cancer and his kidneys were about to fail. There was very little time left, and if we didn’t make the decision to have him put to sleep, he would die in agony.
Our last two hours with Max were spent in the family room at the clinic. Ironically, he seemed much as usual, happy to see us and content to settle down beside his people. Katie came from work to join us, and the three of us stayed with him, prolonging the visit as much as we could. In the end, Max went quickly and peacefully, but for us, it was not just the heartbreaking loss of a beloved family member, it seemed like the end of an era.
Max’s passing was mourned deeply by us. I cried for many weeks after he had gone, but the cards and condolences from friends or people who had attended the shows made us realize what a special place he had taken in so many other people’s hearts. Dan Hillborn wrote a moving article in the Burnaby Now, and Hugh and I couldn’t walk around New Westminster without someone who had seen the obituary expressing their commiseration at our loss. Max, the Ho Hum Husky, might have started out as a rescue dog with a lot of issues that needed to be resolved but, bless him, he ended up a star.