Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Max and the True Meaning of Christmas

I wanted to write this Christmas morning, but when I woke up at 7:30 in the morning to write it, the power to the laptop was not available. Laying back down, I woke back up 2 hours later my small little family of 4 furkids and hubby waiting for Christmas to start. With yesterday as hectic as it was in the morning and on top ofthe beginnings of a migraine that took a turn for the worst yesterday, the blog would have to wait. It's an important one though that I couldn't leave unwritten as it is about the true meaning of Christmas. Yes, I know I am an adult and should already know the true meaning of Christmas, which I do, however there are events in one's life that changes his or her life forever. This is one of those times...this is the story of Max and the true meaning of Christmas (and really of life in general)

As a photographer, I take pictures of anything and everything that inspire me in life. There are many things that inspire me, the landscapes God has provided for us to the unique and beautiful architecture designed by man. There is nothing more precious than seeing a newborn's parents proudly snuggling and comforting their newest little one that I am then able to capture in a photograph. To me, all these subjects are inspirational and a sign of unconditional love in some way. Last week, I had the hardest assignment of all though of all since I started my photography career. Capturing the last few moments of unconditional love between man's best friend and his family.

It all started around Thanksgiving. A good friend of mine was taking in a new foster dog. This was not your typical foster dog placement however. Max was being taken in because his owner who he'd shared many good years with was being moved into a new assisted living home where she was not allowed to have any pets. Max was also in poor health himself. They ha

d both taken care of each other for a very long time and kept each other company until it was time for them to part ways. His owner was hesitant about euthanasia for him just yet, but did not know what else to do. She knew if she took him to the pound they would almost immediately put him down. This is where Maria stepped in along with her husband Paul. They decided they would see if they could help Max buy a little more time by caring for him themselves.

After several weeks of trying medications and Max's condition becoming worse, the inevitable decision was made to proceed with the euthanasia. We had already entered into December by this point and Daniel and I were busy preparing for Santa Paws pictures that we do every year. Maria had asked if we could get some Christmas pictures of Max to send to his previous owner so she would have something special to remember him by. The two different times we
were at the Santa Paws events, Max was not able to attend. His poor joints had just completely given out on him and he could barely stand let alone walk into a store with somewhat slippery floors. So we decided to go to him. Often times with my photography that is what has to happen, I have to go where my subject is, this time would be no different. If Max couldn't come to us, then we would go to him. Simple as that.

We went over the Tuesday morning before Christmas. Paul greeted us at the door. As we entered the apartment, there lay Max. He was laying on his blanket and trying to stay as comfortable as possible. He wasn't able to get up and greet us, but he started giving us kisses and tail wags as soon as we came to him. There is a reason why dogs are called man's best friend. They do love you unconditionally, without regard to how you may treat them. All they want is love and attention from those around them. You could tell that
is all Max wanted too. He was definitely getting it from Paul and Maria and their kids, they loved him so much even though they had been taking care of him f

Max was very sweet and very patient while we took photos of him. He even managed to give us a funny grin now and again showing off his playful side. When he felt well enough to hold his head up for us he did. In between takes was more petting, kisses and telling him what a good boy he was. He was growing weary and tired so we didn't want to push him more than he was able to handle. We left him resting on his blanket.

The next day I got the news from Maria that Max had crossed the rainbow bridge that morning when they took him in to be euthanized. We both cried at his loss, but I can only begin to imagine her sorrow as I went through it several years ago when I lost Buttercup and then after my miscarriage. Those losses were different though, those were mine. To take in an animal you barely know and grow to love it like your very own pet only to have to make the most painful decision ever is heartbreaking to say the least. Many people would not have done what Paul and Maria did. Many people who own their own pets would not have done what they did. I used to think that euthanasia was "cruel" in some ways, but after going through it and having seen what Max had to go through, I now realize that it is the most humane thing to do for an animal who is in so much pain and is suffering. Max crossed the rainbow bridge knowing he was loved and can rest now, rest in Heavenly Peace.

You may be asking yourself how this relates to the true meaning of Christmas? Well, when I first began to write this blog it was 7:30 Christmas morning. I had been able to sleep for about n hour thinking about Max and the fight I had had with my husband on Christmas Eve about a broken picture frame and so many other things. Christmas shouldn't be about the commercialism, the trinkets you buy that will only be broken or lost a year from now. Picture frames can be replaced and rings can be found, but the loss of loved was cannot be replaced. It is about being with family and friends (those that know me well enough know my friends are my family). It is about seeing a good friend return from overseas unhurt while remembering those in your prayers who will never get to come home and making sure their families are cared for. Today is the day after Christmas and was suppose to be a day my husband had planned for my birthday celebration. While a massive migraine prevented those plans from being carried out, I got the best birthday present of all. The unconditional love and support from my husband being there for me today and caring for me for 8 plus hours while I coped with my migraine.

While this time of year is called the "season of giving" my challenge to each of you that may read this is to make every day a day of giving. I heard about about 4-5 dogs that all had to be put down this past week, and while it is sad that it had to happen at this time of year, the reality is that it happens every day. People are sick every day and need prayers every day and someone checking in on them every day, not just at Christmas time. If you would like to donate your time to being a foster parent, please do so. There are many children out there that need a good home and there are many four legged "children" that need a loving home to call their own too. Food banks need volunteers year round, not just at the holidays. Senior citizens love company any day, not just Christmas Day. When you give yourself and your time to others you will be rewarded in more ways than one, I promise. I know I have. I may not have known Max but for a few brief hours, but he has left a paw print on my heart forever.

***Update to this post**

It actually took me quite awhile to even post this blog due to many of "life" activities getting in the way, etc (not to mention making sure I was blogging correctly). The story of the Hass family continues, yet is bittersweet. A new furry addition will be added to their family tomorrow. A little female PBT they have been fostering that loves the kids and is very sweet. The hope was that the new dog and Pepper, their little Jack Russell would be good companions for each other. However, due to sudden turn of events (my guess is sudden illness but I am not sure yet) will also cross over the rainbow bridge tomorrow. I add this part to pay tribute to Pepper and her family. As a pet photographer, I have come to realize that sometimes the pictures I take may be the last pictures of that beloved family member. This was the case with Maria and Pepper at Christmas time when I took their photo. I had no idea at the time that just a short time later we'd be saying good-bye to such a sweet dog. You will be missed by your mama Pepper!

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