ruby’s lonely interlude

Ruby quickly came to realize that Max was gone and wasn’t coming back. It wasn’t like other times when Max had to spend a few days at the vets. This time Ruby knew, like we already knew, that Max was gone for good. Whether she picked it up from us, or figured it out on her own, or some combination thereof, Ruby did know. She fell into an almost human-like depressed state, choosing to curl up in corners of the furniture or spots around the house. From time to time she’d hear other dogs barking and would lift her head expectantly. But she’d quickly figure out it wasn’t Max and put her head back down, her eyes going down into a half-lidded, almost introspective, state. As if she were remembering times past.

I can’t help but feel her loss in this photo.

a quick note, and a short clip of max

MaxLastIcecream from William Beebe on Vimeo.

It’s been a while since the last post about Lucy. Writing about Max is a lot harder than writing about Lucy, and writing about Lucy was hard enough. This very short clip was taken by me at a McDonald’s across the street from our vet. Max loved his ice cream cones and as a final reward we took him over and got him one. I tried to film a longer clip, but was so emotional I couldn’t. But I think this is long enough. There’s no audio; it’s really not needed.

Right after this we went over to the vets and I let him and Lucy go.

I’m slowly coming around to wanting to write again, as well as photography and videography. There’s a lot that’s been happening in the world that affects me from a technological perspective as well, and I feel I need to speak out about that as well. I’ve also been very busy from a job perspective.

It’s time to re-engage with the world through my blogging.

i bid farewell to two of my little ones today

Lucy - Aug 2008 to 15 June 2015 Max - 5 Aug 2000 to 15 June 2015

Lucy – Aug 2008 to 15 June 2015
Max – 5 Aug 2000 to 15 June 2015
Napping together, 2010

Today is one of my harder days to go through, if not the hardest.

Today I had to take both Lucy and Max to the vets and put them to sleep.

Lucy had developed feline pancreatitis, feline cardiomyopathy, and small cell intestinal lymphoma. Of the three, the lymphoma might have been put into remission with current veterinary medicine. But the first two combined to cause her to not be able to keep food down. She would eat for several days, only to go into ballistic vomiting where she’d loose everything. Over time she dropped from 12 pounds to 4 pounds. She was slowly starving to death amidst all the food we could feed her. When I returned from a business trip and was told she’d dropped to four pounds, I decided to put an end to this. What we were doing at the vets was only postponing the inevitable.

Max developed complications from being an old Lab. He was fourteen years and ten months, nearly 15 years. Max developed canine Cushing’s Syndrome. It affected his hind quarters, especially his ability to stand upright. It also made him incontinent. The worst part of this only lasted the last two months, but it was rapid and deleterious. It took Judy and I to lift him up around his hind quarters. Once up he would slowly walk, but then would collapse when he stopped. He was still up for walks, having walked just yesterday evening. It wasn’t a long walk by any stretch, but it was still a walk. Just as he’d done starting at five months, he would bark at me to take him out.

One key reason for all this happening today is my need to travel for my job. I was in Killeen Texas for a good two and a half weeks right before this. I knew the animals were ill, but I had hopes that Max would last a little longer than he did and that Lucy might be on a path to remission that would allow her to live with me a little longer. But that wasn’t to be.

When I returned home late Friday I could tell that Max was in pretty bad shape. When I checked on Lucy at the vet’s the next morning I was told about her drop in weight to a little over four pounds. That’s when I came to the decision I had to let them both go. I had hoped this wouldn’t happen like this, but life at time boxes you into hard decisions that have to be made no matter what. This was one of those times.

Today was touching all the way around. We took Max to a McDonald’s next to the vets and got him his favorite, a basic vanilla ice cream cone. Meanwhile, the vets, knowing what was coming, had given Lucy all the Fancy Feast she could eat. She made a meal of four cans worth. We all knew she wouldn’t keep it down for very long, but Lucy was happy, as was Max, and that was all the really mattered.

When we got into the vet nearly the entire staff crowded into the waiting room where Max was lying, just to say farewell. He was something of a local celebrity there, and everyone knew Max and he knew them. Lucy had also become their cause célèbre, and everyone wanted to see her get through her medical challenges. But we’d all come to the honest conclusion that wasn’t going to happen.

In the end I held both Max and Lucy. I held Max’s head in my hands while he went to sleep and Lucy in my arms.

The photo at the top probably expresses the odd tie between the two of them best. While neither one came into this household together, they grew to tolerate, and then to stick by one another. Somehow it seems fitting they both left together.

That’s it for this installment. I needed to get this posted to mark their passing. I’ll be writing more in the days ahead as part of a personal healing process. Right now I have two voids in my soul, one big and one small. They’ll fill, just like all the others have (we’ve kept Labs for the past 33 years). I’ve written about all I can for now without loosing it.

Lucy will remain the mascot of Arcane Science Lab for the time being. The photo on the masthead was taken a few years back with my smartphone. I was in the TV room with a blanket over my legs. Lucy had crawled up into my lap between my knees, snuggled in, and gone to sleep. She’d started that back in November 2012 when I had my left knee partially replaced. She knew I was sick and in pain and would spend the night with me while I slept in my recliner as my knee surgery slowly healed. She was there for me when I was in pain. I tried to do the same for her, but it just wasn’t to be.

time marches on, especially for dogs

the two charactersI spent the day working and getting ready to catch my flight out to Austin on Thursday. I’m facing another two-plus week in Killeen, just an hour north of Austin. I’ve been watching all the weather reports coming out of Texas and following the forecasts on my cell phone via Weather Underground. Looks like tomorrow will be partly sunny, enough for me to fly into Austin around 10am local time without running into any bad weather. But after that, looks like lots of rain for me to face. I’ve even packed two umbrellas.

I grabbed this frame of the two Labs with my old original E-M5 (I now have two) and the 15mm body cap lens. Just because. I exposed it using the Gentle Sepia art filter, but when I got it out of the camera and into Lightroom, I decided to crop the original raw and then run it through Silver Efex Pro 2. Again, just because.

I’m going to miss those two. Especially Max. This is Max’s last hurrah. His evening walks are limited to the local cul-de-sac right across the street from my home. We take it at his pace. His hips are giving out on him, and it’s not unusual for me to go back and give him a boost back up on his feet when his rear end collapses. What’s startling to me is how quickly this has taken hold of him. Back in February (was it just three months ago?) he was still going on what I’d call a regular, if slow, walk. But these days he picks the cul-de-sac every time. Even he has come to recognize his limitation.

What hits me so hard is his mind is still there. And he knows.

More Fun Now!This is what the two of them were like back in 2008. Ruby is four months and Max is just seven. This year, if Max makes it, he’ll be 15 in August and Ruby will be seven herself. And just to show how far I’ve come with cameras, that one was made with an Olympus E-300 FourThirds DSLR and the original 40-150 f/3.5-4.5 Digital Zuiko. I’ve used a lot of Olympus digital cameras since 2006, or nine years. I bought that E-300 in March of that year.

another of life’s bittersweet moments

energizer lab, 14 1/2I took this photo of Max eight weeks ago in our backyard. Four weeks after taking this I was in Japan for the next four. Those weekly updates are significant in the life of Max as he approaches his natural end.

Labs have an average lifespan of ten to twelve years. Max will turn fifteen on 5 August, a little more than three months from now.

Max is the fifth of six labs we’ve kept over the past 32 years as a couple (my wife has spent 35 starting with Rhett, her first). It was Rhett, a male yellow, who literally helped both our girls to learn to walk. He would stand in the middle of the floor as both girls would slowly, swayingly pull themselves up to stand using Rhett as their prop, then Rhett would carefully walk while the girls used him as a living walker. He was so patient and the perfect family dog. As they grew older he was their loving companion and guard.

Rhett (and Labs in general) became an instant part of my life when I arrived at my future wife’s house for our first date. As soon as Rhett laid eyes on me he knew he had a guy to walk him long distances and do other physical fun activities with. On that first night, while sitting on the sofa and waiting to take her out to dinner and a movie, he went around my wife’s rental and picked up all his toys and deposited them in a pile at my feet.

While my wife and I dated she would bring him over, along with his little vinyl suitcase, to stay in my apartment when she traveled. As a pair of bachelors we’d then go out together in my Honda Civic with him riding shotgun for local fast food late at night. His favorite was green burritos. He turned my walk-in closet into his spare bachelor pad.

When my wife and I married, he was best Lab at our wedding and went with us on our honeymoon. He traveled with us on vacations when it was possible. He loved car rides. He lived to be sixteen. The very last thing he did was to eat some birthday cake. Which goes to show that the last thing to go in a Lab is the stomach.

Over the years, along with Rhett, we’ve had a black female (Katie), a chocolate female (Babe), a black male (Spook, born on Halloween), Max, and Ruby, the youngest Lab at six years.

Max was the most athletic of any Lab that’s ever lived with us. Max, in his prime, would out-walk and out-run anything on two or four feet, including me. He was my walking companion who kept me fit and active. But Max has slowed down over time, as we all do. Tonight, for the first time ever, he stayed on his resting pad in our TV room, gently sleeping. I knew this day was coming from past experience, but it hit me hard non-the-less. Somehow I felt Max might be a little different, walking up until the very end.

Max still goes out constantly into our big back yard where he lies and watches the birds and butterflies. His eyesight is still pretty good. But his desire to explore beyond the big back yard, I believe, is done. He still likes to walk out the front door and look around, and if another dog comes into the vicinity he takes notice. But he’s past the Energizer Bunny stage of his life.

That’s only fair. He’s been the most active, and has walked longer in his life, than any other lab. Rhett, who has the record for longevity at 16 years, stopped walking a good three years before he died. Who knows how long Max may live beyond this point. But still, it’s a sad point, and another reminder of all our fixed days in this world.

Tonight it was just Ruby and I on the walk. Both of us are going to have to get back into shape, because as long as Max wanted to go out for our walks as a group, then we walked at his pace and his distance. I never had the heart to drop Max off back at the house and then turn around on a second walk with just Ruby. I know my animals and it would have broken Max’s heart. But that’s no longer an issue; Max has moved on.

Update 27 April

He actually went out again with us. He picked the absolute shortest route, down and around a cul-de-sac that’s just across the street from my house. Part of what may have contributed to his desire to walk may have been the temperature; the evening was a bit cooler than last evening.