(Inspired by Max)
By Maggie O’Neill
Photography by Sara Caruso

I am ready to go, to close my eyes and rest. I hear your tears and know your heart is breaking. There are some things I need to tell you so the memory of our time together shines on, strong and bright. You gave me a home and a life that was easy, beautiful and safe. I gave you unconditional love in return. I was your truest companion and you were my best friend. We taught each other so many things. We spoke the same language of trust and gratitude.

I know there were times you changed your plans or canceled going out because you didn’t want to leave me alone. I didn’t like leaving you, either. That’s why I was always under foot, even tripping you from time to time.

Mornings came earlier than you may have wanted but you never complained. You held the door open and just waited until I came back. That’s how I learned to sit patiently, looking out the window whenever you went out, waiting for your return.

Watching TV, you would often reach over and scratch my back or rub my belly. My eyes would half close with contentment. Other times I would lightly lay my paw on your arm or put my head in your lap. Just a gentle touch, our way of saying I love you. Some of our best times were out in the yard when I would chase a squirrel or run after the ball you’d throw. I got you off the couch and gave us some time together in the sun.

I will never forget when I had that virus. I was sick and stained the rug but you didn’t yell. You just stroked my back and held me until I drifted off to sleep. You nursed me back to my usual self with kindness and concern. That is why I slept by your side when you had the flu. I watched over you, on high alert for any scent of danger, and licked your face to try and cool your fevered brow. I admit there were times when my barking was out of control. Thanks for understanding. I hope you know the reason I would nuzzle you whenever you had a yelling fit was to try to tell you it was going to be okay.

I didn’t worry that my meals would not be on time or that you would forget my water. I was never an afterthought to you. Sometimes I dropped a bone at your feet to thank you in my own way.

The memories of our time together reflect our love. The give and take, the shared lessons of life, the perfect balance between you and me. I could not have done it without you and I suspect you could not have done without me. We were a team. You taught me well and I taught you right back.

Now I have only one request: share the wisdom we learned from each other. Take the time to run in the sun with someone you love. Be there to comfort your family and friends in time of pain or need. When things get stressed, remember our gift of patience. Never walk away and don’t bark too often or too loud. Most important, never forget to reach out with a gentle touch every once in a while to let someone know you care.

As I leave you, I hope you remember all the gifts we gave each other. Don’t lose those lessons; they are the only things that matter. Share them well and my memory will burn bright.

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