It’s taken us a couple of weeks to get to a point where we can write this post. Our stay in La Crosse, Wisconsin was Max’s final campground. He was just shy of 13 years old.
Our Max was part Great Dane (average life span 8–10 years) and part Labrador Retriever (10–13 years). Over the past 10 months or so, Max’s health was slowly deteriorating. He gave us quite a scare last November when he was diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia while we were in Texas and had to be hospitalized for a few days. After a couple months of gradual recovery, he was mostly back to his old self but never fully bounced back. Between his laryngeal paralysis, degenerative myelopathy, and old age, we knew he didn’t have a lot of time left. He still enjoyed short walks, long naps, and sniffing out (and receiving) bits of our dinner (he could barely see due to cataracts, but his nose more than made up for that). Boy did he get spoiled!
In October 2014 at a campground in Florida, another camper who was disposing of a dog ramp they no longer needed saw old Max and his weak legs and gave us the ramp to help him get into and out of the motorhome. The ramp helped Max and us immensely (we’ve since passed it on to another camper to help his dog). In March, even the ramp was not enough, so Max received a Help’EmUp Harness which again made a big difference in his mobility. With its front and rear handles, we were able to give his back legs extra support on walks, when getting up, and when using his ramp.
Since Austin, we’ve had “the discussion” several times when Max was having a particularly bad week, but he always bounced back the next week and his mind was always alert. Unfortunately in LaCrosse, it became clear that his body just got too tired to carry the burden any longer. We made the extremely tough decision that it was time to let Max go and on August 12, Max crossed the Rainbow Bridge just shy of 13 years old.
As many of you know, we’ve been volunteers for Labrador Retriever Rescue for many years. Max was one of our many foster dogs in 2004, but we fell completely in love with him and couldn’t let him go (check out his profile on the Lab Rescue web site). He was the first foster dog we adopted (but not our last!).
Max was the kindest, largest, and most chicken of all our dogs. He was known to hide behind humans when 10 pound dogs would bark menacingly at him. His sweet deposition helped numerous toddlers learn to like dogs. They would come close to him and because Max never made sudden moves and spent a lot of time laying on the ground, they could do anything to him and he would just wag his tail and give them one good lick.
Max tolerated and welcomed the dozens of foster dogs that came through our house over the years and even welcomed three more canine brothers into the family.
Max was such a sweet-natured dog with a mischievous streak. He loved carrying things in his mouth, so he would regularly drag out our dirty laundry and strew it everywhere. When I would come home, there would be a trail of dirty clothes from the bedroom into the hallway and sometimes halfway down the stairs!
Since he was so tall, he could easily reach the countertops and therefore food was often a self-service item for him. He helped himself to half a bucket of halloween candy one year with no adverse reactions at all! Then he jauntily pooped out silver candy wrappers three days later. Max snagged some apple crumb mix (just add water) from the pantry and helped himself. When I came home, his legs, muzzle, and dog bed were covered in hardened apple crumb, making it difficult for him to hide the evidence or blame another dog.
One year Max gained weight at an alarming rate over a few weeks. We took him to the vet and ran all sorts of tests which showed nothing. One day I happened to be working from home, heard some odd noises in the laundry room and snuck over to see what was going on. Max had figured out that he could just nudge our wall-mounted dog food container’s handle slightly open to self-feed! The goofball was gaining weight due to all the extra food he was sneaking! He was the only one tall enough to reach the handle, but the other dogs were very happy to participate by cleaning up any evidence that spilled onto the floor.
Just in the past 18 months since we started traveling, Max visited 21 different states, swam in the Atlantic, Pacific and many lakes and rivers in between, and made many new friends at our various campgrounds. We miss him terribly already, but we’ve also been smiling and laughing as we reminisce about all the adventures (and misadventures) we’ve been through together. If you knew Max, we hope you’ll join us in remembering him…