Living vs Existing

Max is my 14-year-old craigslist miniature schnauzer. When he entered my life, he was 7 years old. The story that the “free to go home” family gave me was that their teenage daughter had a baby and having a dog was too much for them. However, they also had a giant schnauzer and a golden retriever.

I went to meet him the same night I found the ad, with no intention of taking him home without discussing with my husband. When Max walked into the room, he didn’t take interest in anything.  Didn’t care that there was a stranger there, didn’t acknowledge his “family”. He wasn’t living, he was just existing. His human told me that she wanted me to take him that night. He was pitiful, and he broke my heart, I couldn’t refuse.

She gave me his crate and all his paperwork. I was surprised as I read it and found that he was a champion sired puppy from Blythewood Kennels. There were also sporadic records of problems with his ears. His former owner did tell me that he had a history of ear infections. What I didn’t know was how severe they had been.

First vet visit marked a healthy dog with exception to his ears. He would often shake his head and when you would touch his ears, he would grimace. Tests revealed a medicine resistant bacteria and also E.coli infection in his ear canals. After several months of trying to find a cure for the infections, it was finally recommended that we see a specialist to discuss a procedure called a TECA (total ear canal ablation).  This dog that had only been in our lives for a few months was starting to cost us a pretty penny.

Through all the ear cleanings, ointments, pills, and general discomfort, Max was extremely calm and accepting. He let me touch and massage his sore ears and when something did hurt him, he would let me know with am almost inaudible whine. He never showed his teeth or snapped at me.

After his TECA procedure and the healing that went along with it, Max really came out of his shell. He was now alive, not just living and no longer just existing. He ran, he played with toys, he looked for us and wanted to be with us. It was like we gave him a new lease on life and he grabbed it with both paws. We were told that he would only be able to hear loud sounds like clapping and that he could also feel vibrations. It was a learning curve, but we all adjusted.

Fast forward to 2018. Max REALLY slowed down. He had some major unknown health issues in February. Was vomiting and losing weight. He ended up being admitted to the vet’s office for a week to monitor him and to re-hydrate him. When we picked him up, they gave us the terrible news that he wasn’t any better, in fact, he was worse. They estimated he had up to 2 weeks left. I took him home that night and for the whole weekend I held him and spent time with him. At this point we were giving him anything he would eat. Two weeks passed, then 3. Around 4 weeks we had a scare with stomach bloat.  Our boy pulled through that, even the vets were baffled.

Present day. Max is still with us but he no longer runs or plays. He needs to be carried up and down the stairs. He loses his balance when he’s eliminating. He looks lost a lot. . . I know the time is coming and I am prepared (or as prepared as I can be).  He’s no longer living, he’s just existing.

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