The family dog, Mac, was put down this week due to Stage IV cancer. Mackie was a horse-sized, slightly neurotic and constantly shedding beast. He was also one of the gentlest dogs I’ve ever known.
My sister and brother in law adopted Mac from a cousin right before my sis found out she was pregnant. Mac established a pattern of doing stupid stuff right off the bat – he was particularly fond of eating dryer sheets and then puking them up. He was a talented eater and puker of non-edible things.
Nine months later, my nephew came along and that’s when the dog began to exhibit other talents. The only worry we had is that the baby could be run over by the energetic Mac. I came home when my nephew was six weeks old and stayed up with him one night. Mac slept by the bassinet and every time the baby snuffled or peeped, he was up to check on the baby (at a year old, the dog was huge). Neither of us slept much that night – apparently babies make cute noises all night long. Mac always made it to the bassinet before I did. We were his pack and he knew immediately to take extra care with the kids.
One day, on the phone with my sister when the nephew had begun crawling, I was treated to what would become a phone-call routine. In the middle of a thought, my sis gasps, “[Neph], NOOOOOOO!!!!!!” It turns out that the crawling nephew had discovered Mac’s balls (the dog was sleeping on his back) and was in the process of giving them a thorough squeeze. Mac never even flinched. (He hadn’t been “fixed” at that point either.)
Right before the family moved into the new house, they fitted these little mittens onto his paws so when he went outside to do his business, he wouldn’t track mud into the house. Poor Mac took off and ran around and around like a crazed Tennessee Walking Horse, desperate for any way to remove the hated mittens. He was able to remove two during his frantic run and we all nearly wet our pants laughing at the spectacle.
Before having him fixed, Mac was mated to a friend’s lab. The subsequent first litter consisted of 7 or 9 puppies, and I believe that 4-5 is normal for a first litter. But having him neutered was a good thing for Mac – he finally calmed down enough to not get excited at simply being patted on the head. He also stopped making odd noises at girl doggies. He ran off less, which was good since the electric fence was no deterrent to run for a hoss of a dog.
The puking was a constant thing throughout Mac’s 8 years, and had begun to increase slightly over the past year. It wasn’t really noticed until a couple months ago when the weight loss became obvious, and then he couldn’t keep any food down at all. At his heaviest, Mac was 116 lbs, and he had shrunk to 77 lbs, losing about 30 pounds in the past year. An x-ray was inconclusive, but things seemed wrong. The family determined that an MRI would just prolong things (why wait till he became even more weak and wouldn’t even survive surgery?) and opted for surgery with the knowledge that the vet would end the dog’s suffering if surgery couldn’t fix the problem. Surgery revealed advanced cancer, tumors having spread throughout his organs. My brother in law blames himself for having not acted any sooner.
The night before Mac went to the vet for the last time, he was outside playing ball with a group of small boys. Despite not being able to keep food down and feeling terrible, he was never mean, he never snapped at anyone, and he continued to treat all people gently. His wagging tail was his most dangerous weapon, but mostly to small children and home decorations. The fur on his head and ears was so soft.
This was taken the night before.