‘Caving in’ was among our best decisions ever

It was 14 years ago when my husband and I planned a weekend trip to New York City, and my parents eagerly agreed to keep our sons while we were gone.

We drove the kids to western Pennsylvania to drop them off at the home where I grew up.

At the time, my dad’s beagle had recently delivered a litter of pups. Every puppy except one — a boy — had been sold to buyers anxious to get their hands on the champion bloodline AKC-registered pups.

“You will be coming home with that puppy!” my friends quipped in advance of the planned trip.

“No way, no how! Not gonna happen!” I responded with absolute certainty.

We already had a dog, Maggie, who, let’s just say, was quite a handful. We certainly did NOT need a new puppy.

Looking back, my parents have said they remember the boys spending much time that weekend playing with the sole remaining pup, but never saying a word about taking him home.

Clearly, they were plotting.

Upon returning from New York to Johnstown a day or two later, we were greeted with a verbal barrage — particularly from my youngest, then 7.

“Can we take him home? Pleeeeeease?” is how it began. “Pleeeeease??? We love him! We can’t leave him here! All his brothers and sisters are gone! He’s soooo lonely!”

It escalated from there.

“We’ll take care of him! We promise! We’ll feed him and walk him and clean up after him! And we’ll never ever ask for anything else again! EVER! We promise!”

My husband and I responded quickly with a unified front. “No, no no! Absolutely not! We do not need another dog! He’s staying right here!”

We were standing firm on this.

And so, a few hours later, we were back on the road, heading for home with a pair of happy children, including an especially gleeful 7-year-old who clutched on his lap a brand new puppy.

We named him “Max.” Stone Hollow Maximus to be exact, according to his AKC registration papers that we later completed.

Maggie, a troubled and unhealthy beagle, died at age 8, a few years after Max arrived. Despite her struggles, Maggie was Max’s alpha dog. He loved her and was never far behind her.

After Maggie passed, we started to see a new side of Max. He became more of a “people” dog, following us much like he previously did with Maggie.

He, of course, would greet us daily at the door. And when he came in from outside, he always headed straight for the pantry where he’d wait patiently for a treat.

Unfortunately, that was the height of his talents. Somehow, in our chaotic lives, we failed to teach him any other tricks. He never learned to play fetch or chase a ball.

However, like all beagles, he was happy just sniffing for rabbits in our backyard. Classified as a 13-inch trial beagle, Max would move slowly, baying once on the scent of each and every hop left behind by a rabbit.

We walked him every day, learning to do it late at night in order to avoid interaction with other passers-by because, undoubtedly, he would greet them with loud barks and strong, unruly tugs of the leash. (Despite my constant shouts for him to “walk nice!” we also failed to teach him to do that.)

On the very rare occasion that we missed our walk, come 10 p.m., like clockwork, he was sitting before us, staring and waiting. And even as he aged, struggling with arthritis and congestive heart failure, he still leapt up, barking and scrambling for the door anytime he heard us pick up his leash.

Throughout his life, Max was far from refined. He lapped his water sloppily, leaving trails of drips as he puttered away from his bowl, and always begged for food from the table. (Yes, we taught him that “trick,” albeit unintentionally.)

Max died last week on his bed in our home where he has slept for many years. He was surrounded by the family who has loved him from day one, especially my son who 14 years ago had insisted we take him home.

Turns out, our inability to stand firm against those pleas was among the best decisions we ever made.

Rest in peace, Max, our good and faithful friend.



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