Last week was a bad one for my family. We lost one of our most beloved members, our young boxer, Max.
Now, to the non-animal lovers among you, this may seem a silly column. But I beg your patience as I explain the unmitigated torture we've endured in being forced to say goodbye so soon to our lovable, loyal friend.
It was nearly three years ago that he came into our lives, a perfect little tumultuous ball of fun.
I'll never forget the look on my then 7-year-old son's face when we surprised him with the pup he would name Max, over protests of something more sporting such as Pavlik, Sugar Ray, or Ali.
Nope, Max it was.
"Is he really mine?" Kyle said, wide-eyed and deliriously happy.
Was he ever.
Max loved his boy, as he did his "Mom and Dad." In fact, Kerry and I jokingly argued over Max's favorite human.
As with most boxers, Max was unabashedly uninhibited in showing his adoration of people. He immediately attempted to kiss anyone and everyone whom he encountered. In fact, he had no idea of his size whenever greeting folks, large and small (at his healthiest, he weighed more than 70 pounds).
One of Max's favorite things in life (other than devouring the occasional unguarded hot dog or hamburger) was his daily run with "Daddy."
Like clockwork, Kerry and Max went on morning runs; they were a fixture in our neighborhood and far beyond it.
Some other Maxisms included:
l Trustingly walking in front of our cars in the driveway to greet us anytime we returned home;
l Parading his chew bone around the family room until every onlooker told him what a lovely choice it was; and
l Sitting so closely beside you that his massive paws actually straddled your lap.
Then there was the tail. You know, boxers traditionally bear more of a nub than a tail. Max's never stopped wagging, even at the end.
Even when he had lost so much weight that he could barely support his frame. Even when it became evident that he could not go on. Even as we cried and hugged and wailed and did what we'd hoped and prayed we wouldn't need to do for another seven or eight years - said goodbye.
It is excruciatingly painful to watch your child suffer. It was almost unbearable to hear Kyle uttering the words, "Maybe there can be a miracle? Maybe Max will wake up healthy tomorrow?"
But, as we all accepted the cruel fate of our young, sweet dog, we entrusted him to the best place ever. Indeed, we baptized Max the night before he died.
"Dear God, please welcome Max into Heaven. If you can, please take him on lots of long walks because he really likes that. Oh, and I think I should warn You, he gets a little crazy sometimes," prayed my brave young son.
And, just when we asked aloud why our favorite canine was fated for lymphoma, we got a signal that he was doing well -just someplace else.
A few days after Max's death, a monarch butterfly was circling about me for an extraordinarily long time. As I called over to Kyle to view the spectacle, he said, "You know, monarchs are good luck."
"Actually, I know a girl whose mother was dying and told her that once she reached Heaven, she would send her a monarch as a sign to let her know she was fine. After her mother's funeral, she walked outside the church and was greeted by three Monarch butterflies," I said, just as the butterfly landed on me.
Almost as if to assure us that Max was sending us a sign, the butterfly then proceeded to fly back and forth in front of Kerry's car as he pulled into the driveway. An unmistakable Max move.
My point is, it's easy to become closed off whenever we lose someone we love, whether they walk on two legs or four, have fur or feathers, or sport scales or a hard shell.
It would be understandable after losing someone you love, to feel like you never want to love that much again and risk the pain that comes with parting.
But, as Max so perfectly proved, being loved unconditionally is a true gift that we never know how long we will have. Don't refuse it, just appreciate it every moment that you can.
Goodbye, sweet Max. Sleep well, good boy.
Kimerer is a Tribune Chronicle columnist. Contact her at email@example.com.