Life Leadership Lessons - In the Death of a Dog
Every once in awhile, there comes a story that reminds me that I must learn new skills despite loss and also discover better responses to the vagaries of a world that often seems upside down. Max came to my brother and his family five years ago from the Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue League. Max was recuperating from a major ACL surgery on his left rear leg when they adopted him and he spent the first months with them learning to walk again. A year ago last month, this lovable Golden was diagnosed with an osteo-sarcoma in his left front leg, forcing amputation. The surgery and chemo bought him another year during which time, John and his family watched him joyfully and bravely learn to be as fast on three legs as he ever was on four. In fact, on one memorable walk up the seminary hill he even ran down his first squirrel. The squirrel lived to have bragging rights, but Max was awfully proud of himself. He also had the pleasure of this past winter’s snow in which he delighted to roll - part husky at heart . Two weeks ago, they found that the cancer had reappeared as a rapidly growing tumor in his left rear leg and so he ended his time with his family as he began it, but in reverse, learning to manage increasing disability. Finally this morning it became painfully clear that all his body systems were collapsing - his hind quarters had ceased to function at all and he had become incontinent . When he passed up a hot dog with the pain medication they knew it was time. My brother John, Tim and Sasha, with some effort got him into the car and took him to Angel Memorial. For the second time in seven year the medical staff graciously and skillfully helped them say goodbye to a beloved pet who was a three legged family member. It was tearful but peaceful and they were able to be with him as he slipped away … as Sasha affirmed in that moment, “to another plane of existence... but the friendship remains." It will feel very strange without Max’s presence... especially now because in the last two years of his life he would sleep every night up their bed – and on his last night he was joined by both cats. It is almost as if they all knew this was a final gathering. John’s final observations are those that I really wanted to share with you - my readers. From Max, we might all learn some of the lessons that dogs are brought into our lives to teach: wag more, bark less, be willing to forgive and to console, be joyfully grateful for the moment, and be enthusiastic for each new day. And even if you don’t catch the squirrel, it was the effort that mattered.