I open the back door and Maxie runs out and down the steps. I see him pause to sniff the air and stare towards the back of the apartment complex beyond the yard. Nobody is there, but if anyone shows up he’ll be ready to bark and bark until well after they’ve gone out of sight. He’ll be ready to let everyone know this is his domain. His empire.
He then trots across the yard to the back fence where he’ll slowly make his way sniffing, very thoroughly, every inch along the bottom of the chain link. Several of the apartment people own dogs and walk them along the grass near the fence so I know Maxie has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to checking who’s been there recently.
Maxie works his way along the fence until he disappears from view into the next yard. Nobody there ever seems to care if he trespasses since they never use the yard themselves anyway. Although I can no longer see him, I can picture him stopping every so often to check if anyone has appeared outside the apartments, and I can imagine his nose twitching while he checks the air for interesting scents. Nobody is there yet, so with his nose back to the bottom of the fence he presses on.
I know he will be pushing through the weeds, that have grown taller than him, until he reaches the far corner of the fence and he can briefly survey those back yards while thoroughly exploring around the jungle of tangled grass and saplings. His little black, furry body partially concealed by the neglected growth, his little bobbed tail sticking up like a flagpole.
Once finished he’ll turn back and emerge from the tiny jungle, the fence now forgotten, and trot down through the neighbor’s yard and straight to the back door. I’ll see him suddenly reappear from around the shed that separates our two properties. If I’m not there at that moment I know he’ll stand there and wait, staring at the open door until I return, and once back inside the people from the apartments will be able to come and go in peace.
He has done this several times a day for the past several years and so I can see it clearly in my mind, but only in my mind, because once the horrible kidney disease took hold, those days became fewer and far between. He stopped barking. He stopped going to the fence. He stopped being able to go on walks. One by one we saw him lose the things that made life enjoyable for him.
Yesterday he gave up on eating and drinking. He couldn’t stand anymore and he couldn’t rest comfortably. He twitched and gasped and there was no life left in his eyes, and so I had to make the decision I’ve been dreading, and give him his peace. We stayed with him until the last breath and the vet carried him away, still in his bed.
Goodbye my friend. You were deeply loved and you will be greatly missed. Goodbye.