Are there deer and ocean beaches across the Rainbow Bridge?
It was late June of 2007 when I received a call from a phone number that I recognized as a Houston, TX area code (I grew up in Houston and Spring, and still have family there, so I know the area codes there). Rather than a family member, it was someone vacationing on the North Carolina shore, all the way from Texas. They called me because they had watched a dog roaming free for days, very friendly, but obviously hungry and homeless. They were preparing to drive back to Raleigh to catch the flight home from RDU to Texas, and wanted to bring this dog to a rescue. They had found us through PetFinder and the recommendations of a local vet.
They described a tricolor hound, male, adult but young, and quite friendly. They wanted to bring him to Raleigh and drop him with our rescue on their way to the airport. At the time, well at most times, we were quite full, and did not really have a place to put him for foster. They were disappointed, but they were also ready with a response. They offered to make a sizable donation to our rescue if we were willing to take him in - that is how much they liked this dog! I relented, and we agreed on a place, date, and time.
So, on July 1, 2007, I met these kind folks from Houston in a parking lot in Apex, NC, and met Max for the first time. Yep, he was young, friendly, and a little malnourished. Pretty obviously a Treeing Walker Coonhound. Looking at his teeth, we guessed that he was about two years old.
At the time, we did not have a hound-lover foster home, and hounds can be notoriously challenging to adopt out. So, Max went to a foster home where he could get some socialization with several other foster dogs, and we put his profile on our web site.
It was not long before the foster was telling us what a horrible dog Max was. Ill-behaved. Loud, Obnoxious. Disruptive. A Pain in the Ass. The foster really disliked him, and doubted he would ever be adoptable. So, I was rather hesitant when Caroline, a coworker I admired, asked me about Max in November. She had two young kids, a cat, a nice house, and no fenced yard. It did not seem like a likely match, but Caroline wanted to try.
So, Max and I headed out for his meet and greet with his best leash and collar. He was a hit right away. It was so heartwarming to see the light in the smiles and the eyes of the kids, and Max just ate it up. He did not seem to care much about the cat (although the cat was, of course, purrturbed), but he certainly did want the cat food and those special kitty treats they leave in the litter box. After everyone met and some walking around, Caroline and her family decided that Max was one of them. They adopted Max on November 15 and made Max a part of the family.
I was worried, as were others in the Rescue, that Max would proved to be too difficult. Indeed, Max started having tummy problems right away, but Caroline stuck with him, and worked with the vet to get his tummy settled down. It was quite surprising how quickly he settled into his new family, his new home. It seemed like he just knew he was where he belonged. I heard occasional stories from Caroline about Max hijinks - wanting to join them in bed, the play times, the goofiness, the walks and runs, and trying like anything to get to the cat goodies. The pictures were adorable, and he was clearly adored.
I still remember the day that Caroline told me about Max and the SUV. She would pack up the kids and take them to school, and Max got to go. One day, Max slipped out the side door to the garage, and there was panic. But, Max jumped right up into the SUV and assumed his position - he was ready to go! From that day on, he was a champion car rider.
Caroline walked and ran with Max just about every day. They live in an area with lots and lots of natural area nearby, literally across the street, and Max just loved to take short jaunts into the woods, chase a few deer, then happily trot back to mom. Caroline told me about one time when they were in a nearby field when a neighbor rode up on her quarterhorse. Max immediately took position next to the horse and assumed the stance you would expect of a hound ready for the hunt. He was ready to go!
Over the years, Caroline shared lots of pictures of Max. In costumes, with the kids, with the family, and on the beach. The beach pictures really touched my heart, because that is where he came from to find this special family half way across the state. He had found heaven on earth.
My heart sunk when Caroline messaged me a little while ago to tell me that they had received a diagnosis of untreatable stomach cancer for Max. He was being kept as comfortable and pain free as possible. Yesterday morning Caroline told me that Max had passed quietly and peacefully in his sleep. Our best guess is that he had lived ten years - and eight of those in the most loving place any hound could hope for.
I grieve for Caroline and her family, and hope that they regularly visit their memories, pictures, and videos to remember what a great, goofy, lovable boy they rescued and loved, and to know that they made all the difference in the world to Max.
I hope that there are plenty of playful deer running on ocean beaches across the Rainbow Bridge, Max. You deserve that.