In later years, Max gained another walking companion. Sadly, Edna’s mother had developed cancer, and as her illness progressed, Neisha became a regular visitor at Edna’s house. After Edna’s mother died, Neisha became Edna’s dog, so from then on, Max had two female companions on his morning walk. He and Neisha had never particularly liked each other, but with the mellowness of age, they learned to tolerate each other. Neisha was elderly and had always been less active than the other two, so she never interfered when Max and Brandy were playing. Instead, she looked bored and indifferent, preferring to waddle along, occasionally stopping to make a solitary and leisurely investigation of a particularly interesting smell.
Cancer, that dreaded illness that had claimed my father and Edna’s mother, also took its toll on the dogs we knew and loved. Several of the aging pets we had met on our walks had succumbed to the disease, including Max’s recently discovered sister Samantha. Both Max and Brandy were beginning to show their age, and were thinner and gaunter than in their youth, so Edna and I were always conscious of the fact that our time with our precious pets was limited.
Therefore, when Max suddenly became lethargic and started to run a fever, Hugh and I became extremely anxious. Dr. Foukal, who had taken over Dr. Zinger’s practice, did a variety of tests, and to our relief, there was no indication of cancer. However, Max was suffering from a liver infection and had to undergo a course of powerful antibiotics, along with another drug that was supposed to aid his recovery. To our distress, after an initial rally, Max took a turn for the worse. Suddenly, he began to stumble and have problems with balance. Over the next couple of days, this instability progressed until he completely lost control of his hindquarters. Max, his wolf instincts telling him that it was game-over, gave up on life. He refused to eat and lay on a blanket in our garden room, simply waiting to die. Hugh and I fed him water with an eye dropper, but our sad dog resisted all our attempts. He simply stared at us with a glowering look that said: “Leave me alone. Let me go.”
Needless to say, we had been making frequent calls to our vet during this process. Dr. Foukal was amazed at what was happening and had no idea what to do. However, he said he would make some calls and get back to us. We were preparing to resign ourselves to the worst when, like a miracle, he phoned back and told us to take Max off the second medication. While we had been in despair, nursing Max as best we could, Dr. Foukal’s research had uncovered the fact that paralysis was a possible side effect of the drug. The good news was that this was completely reversible once the drug was out of the animal’s system.
We tossed the pills right away and continued to force-feed fluids into our reluctant dog. By the next morning, the death-look in Max’s eye was gone. He looked bewildered and tired, but when I put a harness and leash on him and urged him forward, he dragged himself to his feet, then reeled towards the French doors, staggering precariously, and made it out onto the lawn. Hugh and I had to guide him, and I had to counter his sagging weight by pulling on the harness in the opposite direction. With me in the centre of the lawn, acting like the pin in the middle of a roundabout, Max reeled around in a big circle, even managing to cock a wobbly leg along the way. And so we continued for the rest of the day, letting him rest in between, and by dinner time, when we put his bowl between his front paws, he condescended to eat a few mouthfuls.
By the next day, Max managed a solo flight. He no longer needed the leash and harness, but wobbled around the garden by himself. He ate his meals and saw to business. He was unsteady, but I have never seen such a happy dog. He had a new lease on life, and by the third day, he was completely back to normal. We were overjoyed. All the next year, it was as if we had a young dog again. He ran and played with Brandy. His energy was high. He relished his trips to the cottage. He had been reprieved, and the whole family was delighted.
However, sorrow was around the corner for my dear friend, Edna, for Brandy was not so fortunate. She had also been losing weight and had not been as energetic as usual, and when Edna took her to the vet for a check-up, it was the worst possible verdict. Brandy had cancer and had only a few months to live.