When I first met Maynard I didn’t know how to feel about him. He lived in a cage in this guy’s basement, didn’t smell good, and shed like crazy. I felt bad for the guy, but didn’t know if I wanted to be in for the long haul. Nonetheless, my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, wanted to take him home – so we did.
Maynard was sweet, docile, and mellow. He made all people, even strangers feel welcome. Leaning was his love language, and by this I mean that when he greeted someone he would turn to the side and put all of his body weight against you. He would make his rounds greeting people in the room-by leaning, then walk to his bed and enjoy everyone’s presence. I could go on telling stories about the great times Maynard and I had together, but suffice it to say, he was my sidekick through college and into my adult life.
October 13, 2014 9:00 a.m.
October 13, 2014 was the weirdest day of my life. A few months before, the vet called and alerted my wife and I that Maynard had kidney disease. In short, this led to his eventual inability to eat food and process nutrients. On October 13, I decided that it was his time. At 9:00 a.m. I called the vet and scheduled an appointment for 5:00 p.m. I took the day off and had eight hours to be with my dog.
When I hung up the phone, the reality of the situation hit me like a punch to the face. I had just made a conscious decision to end life, and I could never anticipate the empty and awkward feeling it left me with. But I was short on time, so I needed to make the most of it. I started by feeding Maynard a whole pack of one of his favorite foods, bacon. This only took about five minutes so I had to think of something else to keep him happy. It was nice out so we went on a walk in a field by my house. This scene likely looked ridiculous because I uncharacteristically cried while Maynard enjoyed his final smells and sights. After about an hour he began to tire significantly. We had one hill to climb before reaching my house but he didn’t have the energy to conquer it. In my emotional state I carried him up the hill and into the house.
Once we got in the house, I wanted Maynard to be comfortable, so I laid him on the couch. But because this was not typically allowed, he quickly became uncomfortable and signaled that he wanted to lie down on the ground. Maynard was tired and I wanted to be with him, so we spent the rest of the day hanging out on the floor and eating all kinds of snacks – arguably his two favorite pastimes. 4:30 came quick. My wife got home, gave Maynard a big hug, and we drove to the vet.
Like most dogs, Maynard hated the vet. Once we helped him out of the car and he realized his location, he immediately wanted to get back in. We walked into a small room that looked like a storage closet and sat on the floor. The vet got Maynard a blanket, which was good because he couldn’t resist the urge to claim it as a new bed. But almost immediately as he lied down, his body tensed up.
Maynard tucked all four of his paws tightly under his body and looked directly at me. I put his head in my hands and whispered in his ear like I always do. He trusted me, so he relaxed and rested his beautiful head in my lap as I hugged him. Everything happened so quickly. I wasn’t ready to look my dog in the eyes and say goodbye.
Ready or not the vet administered a barbiturate overdose and I could feel the life leave Maynard’s body as it relaxed. I couldn’t help but feel like a traitor as he rested in my lap. I could have laid there and held him for hours. I understand it was for the better, but making a conscious choice to end a life is one of the most unnatural things a human can do.
Afterwards, my wife and I drove straight to the woods where we walked for hours and told stories about our pup. I loved remembering the great times we had with him, but my experience at the vet kept coming to mind. I couldn’t get over the fact that his life ended at my discretion and in my arms.
As I write this today, the word eternity will not stop infiltrating my thoughts. Eternity is a weird concept. It’s overwhelming, incomprehensible, amazing, and terrifying all at the same time. Because eternity is not tangible and cannot be fully explained, it contemplates something bigger. Thinking about eternity takes faith. But for me, not a faith that blindly accepts, but one that asks questions and seeks answers. It encourages a faith that doesn’t give up because explanations are hard, or maybe even impossible.
This life is short, and we make decisions that impact eternity and our place in it. My experience with Maynard didn’t just provide me with an incredible dog, but the end of his life reminded me that life is a lot more than what we can comprehend. There is something greater, something amazing.