Christmas Letter 2021

At 4 o’clock in the morning, we sat in the parking lot of MedVet as a man, who just finished peeing ten feet from us, started flicking a fly-fishing reel back and forth. Brian and I had no idea what was going on, what to do, or what was going to happen.

We had spent all day in Cincinnati at a different MedVet. As Max had his MRI, we went to the zoo. We needed a distraction. Brian fed a giraffe. We watched parents seem to wish they never had children. And we got attacked by a lot of bees as we tried to stomach a sandwich. It was at that zoo we learned Max had a brain tumor. But this parking lot still felt the strangest part of the day.

Hope remained for a short time as we were given different options. Mainly, we were glad to have him back as we drove home. Then he had his first seizure as we neared the house. We called the vets and they told us to observe him. If it happens again, take him to the emergency vet in town.

It did happen again. At 2 AM. I carried the 100-pound dog to the car and when we got there, I yelled at two vet techs who were only trying to do their job. After several weeks of vets not seeming to care and so many days wondering what was going on, I had enough. My anger and fear got the best of me.

Of course, I apologized – many times over – as we were back at the emergency vet often before the fateful day that Max left us. They did their best in an impossible situation.

But I don’t write this sad story for a Christmas letter to upset you. I write it because this year sucked. So many horrific things happened. Everyone seems to have given up. We wanted to give up.

But anger and fear cannot win. We had to find the joy, the light, and the love. We thought about why it hurt that Max left us or that my uncles left us or cherished friends left us or the hundreds of thousands of people who have died at the hands of a virus with an available vaccine left us.

It all felt so painful. But life rolls on. And you have to find something— anything—to hold onto.

Eventually, we learned why the formerly peeing fisherman in the parking lot was at the emergency vet. The tiny dog he hated, and only his wife/girlfriend wanted, ate their pot. To remedy that, they gave the dog baking soda, which, as a simple Google search will tell you, is toxic to dogs. Yet, before the vets could take care of Max, they needed to treat this dog. When we watched them carry out this tiny dog, all better, to two ungrateful and undeserving people, all we thought was what did we do wrong.

But it had nothing to do with us. He had a terminal issue that we had to accept. No matter what we would try, the reality was the same. A week later, we sat in the same parking lot after even more severe seizures, again at 4 AM, and we both had to accept that our time may be up. We got only one extra week, not the months we were told, with our best friend, who, for those few days, was back to his usual stuff.

On his last day, he once again barked at the refrigerator producing ice; he walked the fence with the dog behind us and howled at its owners; and he gave us paw, kisses, and many laughs.

It’s still very hard for me today to not see him in his last hours – scared and nervous. It makes me cry. Brian and I have grieved and laughed and enjoyed our memories. But that pain is fully present every day.
Yet, when I told a friend the story of the poor pot-eating dog and its idiotic owners, she laughed and she made me smile. She helped me think about the wonders of Max, the wonders of life, and the wonders of the future.

Even in the darkest days with the most horrific events, you must find the joys in the people, things, and moments we love. I continued to play games with my friends, who would send me kind thoughts as we would wait in the parking lots. Brian continued leading his D&D games and going for runs. We both continued to work. We enjoyed our third wedding anniversary with a hike together and a lunch at Culver’s – Max’s favorite (probably). And each day, we try a little harder to be less sad and to be content about that month and remember the over five years we got with the most ridiculous dog we could have dreamed of.

Life is bizarre. It’s full of terrible moments. But the holidays remind us what matters. Caring for each other. Letting the stranger stay at our inn. Wondering about the lights in the sky and those before us. Experiencing and appreciating miracles.

May you find joy. You must create joy.

But don’t pee in a parking lot.

It’s really weird.

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