Sometimes you can only do the best you can do

Maxton arrived at Homeward Bound in the middle of July. Of course, I noticed him right away because he was a big, red boy. That always gets my attention. I took him out for photos not long after he showed up that and spent a little time with him. I soon realized that he had a hole in his soul — there was something missing. This isn’t unusual in rescue. Most of the dogs we get are reasonably happy and balanced given that their lives have just been turned upside down. But for some, like Maxton, there is a deeper wound. I was powerfully drawn to him from the beginning. But it wasn’t a comfortable feeling.

I ended up taking him home to my own kennels because the HB was temporarily full. I didn’t exactly pick Maxton. He just happened to be outside in a yard when I was leaving for home. I liked him though, so I was happy to have him.

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One of the first things you noticed about Maxton was his coat. Flea dermatitis had done a number on him. He actually looked much worse when he arrived than in these photos. I brushed him out, eliminating many of the mats snarling his coat. Lori and Carolyn U., HB volunteers, did the hard work under his ears. The next day I gave him a bath because he smelled so bad. Only the bath didn’t seem to wipe out all the odor so I made a mental note to repeat the bath in a few days.

I looked at Maxton’s file and saw that he was dropped off at a shelter in SoCal. That means we know almost nothing about him. Our vet estimated his age at eight years. I suspect he was an outdoor dog, at least for the last few years. He obviously hadn’t been groomed in a long time, and was left to fend for himself against the fleas. He like people well enough but he also seemed a little awkward about interacting with me.

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Maxton was an easy dog to have in the kennels. He trotted out to the yard on his own. Didn’t bark or argue. When I sat outside with him, he was content to place himself in front of me facing out. Presumably to see what might be going on. He’d sit quietly and let me pet him. After a couple days he started to lean against one of my legs. After another day or two he began to tilt his head back to glance at me. Perhaps he wanted to make sure I was still there even though he was already leaning against me. The glances grew longer. Finally he started touching my face with his nose and letting go with the occasional ninja kiss. My heart jumped at this because that is what my first Golden would do. I suppose these are the ways we mark the progress of of our rescue relationships. I’ve learned to be patient and let the dogs go at their own pace . . . even though patience is not typically counted among my virtues.

One evening I had collected a few balls in the corner of the yard where we sat. Suddenly intrigued by one of the balls Maxton began to play with it. By himself. He’d pick the ball up and toss it a few feet. Or nudge it with his paw. Then roll around with it while scratching his back on the grass. Now and then he would stop and stare at the ball for long seconds or just grin at it, seemingly quite pleased with his clever self. These were the times he seemed the most content.

I was delighted to see Maxton enjoying himself but I wondered if he would let me play with him. I recalled that previously I had tossed the ball for him and he would sometimes fetch it and sometimes not. So I approached with another ball and tried to engage him . . . mostly without success. He still played with one of the balls but didn’t seem to get how we might play together. I was pierced by a sudden sadness to think he might have always played ball alone.

I mentioned above that Maxton somehow drew me to him but that I wasn’t quite comfortable about it. I felt somehow that Maxton needed something but couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. I watched him carefully and made some mental notes. His vision wasn’t great (I was administering meds for “dry eye”). He walked funny at times and his back legs occasionally looked unstable. He had a little trouble getting up and usually needed help getting into the van. I determined to keep an eye on all these items to make sure there was nothing serious that needed attention.

Then one evening I noticed blood coming out of the side of his mouth. I was concerned but once he rinsed his mouth the blood didn’t return. A couple evenings later there was some blood in his water dish. I thought maybe I was squeezing his tongue between his teeth when I gave him his eye meds. He struggled some so I had to hold his still. The bleeding returned a day or two later when I knew I hadn’t been near his mouth. It was Judy K. who suggested that I check his mouth for any suspicious growths. It turned out that the smell I thought might still be in his coat was really in his mouth.

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I’ll spare you the final details. You may have noticed that I wrote about Maxton in the past tense. He is no longer with us on the physical plane but for me he lives on in my memories and my photos. I had hoped to play a part in making up for a crappy life. We don’t know for sure what his pre-HB life was like so I’m hoping that most of it was good. But just in case I intended to get him started on the right path as best I could. I bought him a bag of Orijen dog food and ordered some salmon oil. I’ve used both to good effect for skin and coat before. And they were working. I had such hope for him.

Losing Maxton was not like losing a long-time pet. I know that pain and it runs much deeper. But I think dogs like Maxton tap a different emotional vein. For me he represents all the dogs that slip away — the ones we couldn’t help.  But there’s nothing for it but to mourn the loss and move on. It’s crucial to keep a good focus on the successes. I choose to remember Maxton in his happier moments knowing that I did give him something.

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30 Comments

  1. 😦 You’re a good man, I’m glad he was with you at the end. Poor Maxton, too many dogs with crappy lives. Giving my rescue girl a big cuddle right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It’s important to appreciate them every day.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Poor Maxton. So glad her last days were happy and she was able to play some and have enjoyment in her life again. You are a wonderful person to do rescue work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind comments. It’s never enough it seems.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. sargentmt

    Oh Rob, i am so sorry. so glad he was able to spend is final days at YOUR sanctuary. He spent his final days knowing that he was loved. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Maria. Don’t forget to stop in and spend some time with us. Hope Yule is doing well.

      Like

  4. Mary Tonningsen

    I’m so sorry, Rob. 😦 I remember seeing Maxton a few weeks ago when I was out at HB and you were walking him. He had just come in the day before, I think, and I was admiring his beauty. He looked very happy with you on the other end of his leash. I’m so glad that you took such good care of him and gave him a sweet life til the end. He was a lucky dog. Thank you for caring about him, despite the smells and his other ‘issues’. I’m sure he loved you and appreciated all that you did for him. RIP Maxton. .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Mary. Several people commented that he looked better each day he spent with us. As to the smell . . . he told me I was no spring flower myself so I shouldn’t talk.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jana

    Damn cancer! I am so happy Maxton was with you Rob and felt love. RIP dear Maxton.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, cancer keeps popping up way too often.

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  6. Oh Rob..I’m typing through my tears as I recall taking Maxton off the transport van, getting those mats out from behind his ears, how good he was in the bath and the dog he was becoming after spending time with you. So beautifully written and those photos capture perfectly the way I want to remember him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you like them, Lori. Maxton told me that one of his favorite times here was the day you and Carolyn fussed over him for so long.

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  7. susanaw108@aol.com

    Oh my gosh, …… I don’t know you Rob K, I don’t know if you will get this but through tears I write.

    Maxton looks like my Ohana.

    I had lost my Woodstock, my everything dog; a gorgeous caramel Golden who was the epitome of the breed. Happy, smart and always appropriate in any setting. Show dog, obedience dog, tracker boy. When he died suddenly (because he smiled to the end) of hemio I knew I would never love again. Finally I called Homeward Bound and other rescues. No one had anything. We would be put on a list. We waited and waited. We have always had Goldens.

    Then we found Ohana at the SPCA. A Maxton type: gorgeous, red, no coat, sores, matted, filthy, malnourished and emaciated. A stray who had been adopted and returned TWICE to the SPCA within 2 weeks. (And no one had groomed him!!!!!?) I don’t think he had been in a house – he was wild! (He had slept in the garage previously and been kenneled.) He had no idea what to do with toys or balls or a bed or regular meals twice a day. He went to the vet, he went to the groomers and then he relaxed and flourished. He was “about” 6 when we rescued him. I loved that dog as no other. He was my heart. He aimed to please. The little tumor he came with 7 years later suddenly doubled overnight, then tripled overnight, then burst. He had chemo and I changed the dressing each day or more. I would say “we need to rewrap” and he would immediately lay down on the towel and hold his leg up. He would run into the chemo center and would jump up at reception to get his snack. He didn’t last long after that but smiled to the end. My gorgeous red boy. I knew I would never love again. But I called all the rescues. Nada. A Goldendoodle? NO. A Golden mix? no. Nothing.

    Then on a local lab rescue I saw a little 3 month old chocolate lab. Maggie was very sick, with a large liver shunt and only expected to live a few months. I thought she would live long enough for me find another Golden, a red Golden. She is now 18 months and doing really well. I love her dearly. She is a smart, sweet, goofy girl. A miracle dog. But someday I will find another big, red, Golden boy. Meanwhile, I read your wonderful, deep and heartfelt writings and photos and always smile (or cry).

    Thank you. Susan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Susan, that is quite a series of stories you have going. Thank you so much for taking care of the dogs that need help the most. I hope you get your red boy very soon.

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  8. Maxton did need something from you: time, attention and love. That was your gift to him when he needed it most.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. Just wish I could have done more.

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  9. Maxton was so fortunate to have ended with you. I am so sorry for this outcome. Maxton had his moments with you…you gave him so much…he’s over the Rainbow Bridge…happy, safe and content and knows how to play ball, thanks to you. Peace

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your very kind words.

      Like

  10. JoAnn Daniel

    Beautiful but sad. This is one of your best. Wonderful that you have such beautiful pictures of Maxton.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I’d certainly trade all the photos I have for more time with him. Sadly, that’s not the way it works.

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  11. You are a good man, Rob.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Mike.

      Like

  12. A sad but beautiful story. It reminded me in many ways of our Ray who, we are pretty sure, was an “outside farm dog” and knew nothing about playing or interacting with people. Even now (3 years later) he will occasionally play with a ball, but playing in general seems an alien concept to him. Ray had contracted heart-worms while running as a stray but, fortunately we had both the desire and the means to get him the necessary treatment. I really cannot imagine a life around here without him (which is why I wrote the book about him of course)!
    Keep up the good work! So many dogs are living the lives that they deserve thanks to you “guys! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Colin. I knew you would be able to relate.

      Like

  13. Carol

    I’m so sorry for Maxton’s passing. Made me cry. You do amazing things, I’ve said that before, and this time you gave a beautiful dog time with someone who cared about him. I’m sure Maxton is happy and playing ball now with friends in heaven. God Bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maxton surely deserves whatever good things he is experiencing now. Thank you for commenting.

      Like

  14. Such a sad post. I am so sorry for Maxton – he looked such a lovely dog and because of you, he passed surrounded by love and care. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your kind comments.

      Like

  15. derrycats

    Awwww…so sad. But I’m so glad that Maxton had some love and a good place to spend his last days. Bless you for giving him a better end than might have been the case otherwise. Hopefully he has found someone to play ball with in doggie heaven!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I just wish we had more time.

      Like

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