On the heels of bringing Maximus in to see the vet on Monday, I’m faced with a tough decision.  The fact is, he’s not going to get any better – this despite the special diet, the radiation treatment, and the anti-cancer vaccine.  He only has a little time left.  Of course, one could argue that, relatively speaking, we all have little time left.  How much “little” is the question.  Maximus has hung in there despite the odds. The vet calls him “a tough little guy,”.  True, but he’s a tough little guy fighting a losing battle and I have to decide when it’s time to throw in the towel.  The decision isn’t as simple as it may seem to the impartial observer.  While he has been lethargic since his diagnosis back in July, it’s not exactly out of character for Maximus who has always been the laid-back type, preferring a cozy snooze over an afternoon walk.   Also, the vet suspects that this lethargy may have more to do with the tramadol he is taking for the pain than the pain itself.  As for his loss of appetite, the fact that he’s still drinking suggests his unwillingness to eat isn’t wholly pain-related either.  In fact, the vet informs me that loss of appetite is common in cancer patients.

And so, because Maximus can’t talk to me and let me know exactly what’s going on, how he’s feeling, and what he’d like to do, I’m at a loss.  Yes, given that I am leaving for Montreal this Friday, it certainly would be easy to make the final call over the next few days, but I won’t make a decision just because it’s easier for me.  I want to make a decision that gives Maximus the most quality time available to him.  I don’t want to ever look back and consider the possibility that, even subconsciously, my decision was dictated by my personal comfort.  Max may be ill but he has nevertheless continues to demonstrate flashes of his old self, looking downright happy and excited when some kids came to the house the other day (and, notably, whenever he’s LEAVING the vet’s).

It would be easier to leave him back at home with the dog-sitter, or at the vet’s, but in the likely event that these are his last few days, I think I owe it to my buddy to be there for him.  And so, I’ve arranged to bringing him along with us to Montreal.  He’s always been a great traveler, sitting quietly in his sherpa bag for the duration of previous flights.  The last time he stopped eating and I assumed he was on his last legs, the change of scenery from Toronto to Vancouver seemed to give him a second lease on life.  Here’s hoping the switch from Vancouver to Montreal does the same.

Well , I’m pleased to report that I’ve covered everyone on my Christmas list.  Figuratively speaking.  The task of the literal covering has fallen to Akemi who gift-wraps with all the professionalism and artistic sensibility of – well, someone who has worked retail in Tokyo.

I’ve elected to go with a balance of personal and impersonal gifts this year.  Sure, it’s easier to go with various scented soaps (see above), but I figured I’d also roll the dice this Christmas by offering some reading suggestions in the form of a few of my favorite non-genre books.  It’s tough because almost everything I read is genre fiction (either SF, fantasy, or horror), but there have been a few exceptions…

The Man Who Ate Everything and It Must Have Been Something I Ate by Jeffrey Steingarten

You may know him as one of Iron Chef America’s most hard-to-please judges, but he’s also been Vogue Magainze’s food critic for the past twenty-two years.  Along the way, he’s written countless food-related essays and these two books collect some of his most humorous pieces.  Endlessly entertaining even for non-foodies.

City of Thieves by David Benioff.

Before becoming a writer and show runner on HBO’s Game of Thrones, David Benioff published this wonderful coming of age novel set in Leningrad during the second world war.  Two young men are charged with the seemingly impossible task of locating a dozen eggs for the wedding of a Russian Colonel’s daughter.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Another humorous collection, this one an assortment of personal essays from one of the funniest writers out there, David Sedaris.

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon.

Yes, I said non-genre but this book’s near-future setting and endearing protagonist make it incredibly accessible.  One of my top ten favorite reads.

Fool by Christopher Moore

King Lear told from the fool’s point of view.  You don’t have to be familiar with the bard’s work to thoroughly enjoy this riotous novel.  A terrific introduction to the wild and wonderful world of author Christopher Moore.

Finally – mom just finished Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and is looking for another book along its quaint and comical lines.  Any suggestions?

49 thoughts on “December 20, 2011: Maximus! My Holiday Gift Reads!

  1. You are the best doggy daddy and Maximus loves you very much. good thoughts for your journey. {{many hugs}}

  2. Heya Joe, Akemi, and the lil ones.
    Not that I have a vote, but your decision to take Max is a good one that he will be close at all times which can be very important to one who cannot communicate/verbalize what is going on within.

    Hope the family in Montreal is well and you all have a good visit over the holidays.

    Wondering if you introduced your Mom and Sis to the books by Jasper Fforde. These are delightful and easy reads. Regard the Speed of Light, that is an all time fav.

  3. Joe, sometimes animals can surprise us. Take my Big Girl, for instance. She’s started eating again, and though she still has the cough and fluid in her lungs, she’s holding her own, for now. Not sure how many of her nine lives she has left, but we’re cherishing each one. In fact, just took this picture of her today…had to add a little lolcats treatment to it:



    So cherish these days with Max, and who knows, maybe that change of scenery is just what he needs!

    {{{hugs}}} to you both.


  4. People who keep dogs alive because they can’t make a choice or don’t want to lose them even if they are suffering stress me. You are doing what you think is best for MAXIMUS. That is all anyone can do for anyone else, human or companion animal. We all hoped for more time, but what time you have had him has been quality.

    Travel safely.

  5. Great decision. No one will take better care of Maximus than you.

    Too bad you cannot give an autographed copy of your first comic book as a Christmas gift to everyone. Or can you…?

  6. The hardest decisions will have you second guessing even after those decisions have been made. When I was in this position I took some time alone with my dog and after a great deal of reflection I knew it was time. It didn’t make the moment any more bearable but knowing that it was his time and it was the right thing to do for him gave me the strength to carry through. I believe you will know when it is time. I will keep you both in my thoughts.

  7. I’m glad Max is going with you to Montreal. In my opinion, whatever time he has is best spent with you. I only wish there was something I could do to help. Through your stories and photos, we’ve gotten to know him a little, and that’s been so lovely. Please give him a kiss from me. 🙂

  8. Whatever time Maximus has left he will spend with the one who loves him most, this is important. He’s done incredibly well over these last months – beaten the odds for a long time now. I can’t help but feel that it’s been due to your diligent care. Enjoy your trip.

  9. {{{hugs}}} to Joe and Maximus


    Eggs were not hard to find in Len…St. Petersburg in 1996. There were huge stacks of them being sold on streetcorners every morning.

    I’ll be picking up a three or four titles from this post.

  10. I’m sorry about mighty Max. I’m going through the exact same thing. My 13 year old girl mitze, an Akita-sheppard mix, is a sinking ship. After a car crash with me last year, her hips are going out and she’s deaf to all but the deepest of sounds. It’s so sad. My thoughts are with you the holiday season.

  11. I continue to hope for another recovery for Maximus!

    I’m jealous of Akemi’s gift wrapping. I work in retail, but I just hand the gift card boxes to the customer because those things manage to outsmart me still, after 2+ years working there. And I’d rather they fuss with it at home instead of having to wait while I look at it like a Rubrik’s Cube. It’s also why most gifts go in bags rather than boxes that require wrapping paper.lol

  12. The best therapy you can give Max is you. Montreal is the right call for you both. He’ll be comfortable and pampered. He’ll give you a nudge when the time comes. But lots of family hugs and kisses is the perfect recipe to keep him happy.

  13. I am so sorry to hear about Maximus. It’s never easy, as you know.

    Christopher Moore is always a good bet as is David Sedaris. I have listened to both on car trips.

  14. As others here have said, I know you are doing what is best for you and Maximus. I’m sure he finds great comfort in your being with him and that is all he needs for now. I am also sure that, being the compassionate pet daddy that you are,, you will make that tough decision if and when you must, when his pain level and quality of life just doesn’t make sense.

    But, this is never an easy thing to do, even if it is the right thing to do in the end. I’ve had to face that decision before in the past, and so I know how hard it is. I just hope that you and you family can still manage to enjoy time together this Christmas and find some happiness somewhere in the sadness.

    – Gina

  15. I understand what your going through with Max because my husband and I have also been in the heartbreaking position your in. We were never sure if we could have made the decision at the right time, but please let me reassure you. Max will let you know when the time is right……trust me. Nobody knows their pets like the people that care for them day in day out. One day Max will look at you with those big eyes of his and you’ll know it’s time. You won’t want it to be, but you’ll know it is. My heart, prayers and thoughts go out to you and your family. And when the time does come for Max to leave this earth I’m sure my Pug Ugg will greet him at those big pearly gates so Max doesn’t feel so alone. Also be asurred you couldn’t have done anymore than you have for Max, he is one lucky little man to have found his way into your big happy family.x

  16. Joe, my heart goes out to you and Maximus. As others have said, you and he will know when is the right time. Be well, and have a good Christmas.

  17. I’m sorry that horrible decision has almost arrived for you. Its also headed towards me, though hopefully not yet. My cat has kidney failure and while she is generally ok, I see it starting to take her and I know our time is running out.

    You won’t regret taking Maximus whatever happens. He will be happiest to be where you are. When I lost my first cat I left him overnight at the vet. He was young and I never dreamed that I wouldnt get to see him again.

    My thoughts and best wishes with you all as you enjoy this time together. Hopefully it will be longer than you think.

  18. You are making the right call with Max. Unless he’s in actual pain(unlikely with the tramadol), he certainly deserves the chance to enjoy that extra little bit of quality time. And being around you, plus the change of scenery, should perk him up. And when the time comes, you’ll be glad that you were there, rather than across the country. It’s heartbreaking our best buddies enjoy such a short time with us, and it’s proof of your decency that you are doing so well by Max.
    One more gift to buy and my shopping is done. Pity I don’t have time to send it Akemi for wrapping. I;m more the use lots of tape and double the amount of paper needed to make sure the recipient can’t tell what it is. have a good and safe trip, and looking forward to the holiday festivities of the mallozzi clan.

  19. I’m glad you’re taking Maximus with you. I know he’ll like being with his doggy daddy. And Akemi did a great job with all that wrapping.

    Guess what I did this morning?? Got up at 4:30 AM to take hubby to the airport. He’s going to where we used to live to get the rest of our stuff. But, the most amazing part was that I got back to where we live. (my first time driving from the airport when it’s pitch black, LOL)

    Have a good day!!!!

  20. Hugs to all! I hope your trip goes smoothly. When I took my animal behavior class in Vet Tech school, they said dogs are more attached to their owners than to the place they live.

    Here is one great doggie Christmas story: http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2011/dec/20/kapone-comes-home-missing-dog-found-alive-mississi/
    A miracle if you ask me! This dog was picked up by a sleazy Memphis Animal Shelter employee and never made it to the shelter. They found the dog alive in Mississippi. I would like to believe that someone will be charged but animal protection laws are not what they should be in the South.

    Das: I’m glad your “Big Girl” is rallying.

    Thank you for the book endorsements. I’ll definitely look those up!

  21. Joe, we’ll be keeping you all in our thoughts over the holidays.

    When we finally decided it was time for our Melissa, who we had faithfully taken to the University of Pennsylvania Vet Hospital for cancer treatments every Monday for a solid year, it was one of the most difficult decisions we have ever made. Ever.

    Even though we knew full well for all that time that the time would eventually come, it comes down to quality of life. On the last day, she just suddenly started hyper ventilating and couldn’t seem to catch her breath. She was just laying there, suffering. So I scooped her up and off we went. And thinking about it doesn’t get any easier. That was in 2003 and I still tear up when I do.

  22. Hard decision to make but I like to hear that you are taking Max with you. Seeing the pleasure in your doggie’s eyes will be some of the best memories you will have. Have a good trip with Max and have a great time with family. Montreal should be unseasonably warm and almost snowless for Christmas (almost like Vancouver…?…not). Have a good time, anyway.

  23. I’m so sorry to hear about Max. If Max was a human person instead of a dog person, I think a lot of people would view it very differently. Spending what little time you have left with him makes you a good person too.

    *hugs all around*

  24. I think you are making a good decision to keep Maximus with you and as others have already said, the loving people he’ll be with may give him lift.

    I was going to suggest Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books for your mom. Has Mom read any Terry Pratchett? If she doesn’t mind fantasy, she might enjoy some of the “City Watch” books (Guards! Guards!, etc.) – can’t ask for writing more clever and amusing than Terry Pratchett.

    I love watching Jeffrey Steingarten on Iron Chef! I’ll have to add those books to my wish list.

  25. *hugs for Joe and Maximus* Poor Maximus. 🙁 I shed tears as I read your blog. Give him all the TLC you can give him. Sometimes your companionship is enough to make a doggie feel better. I pray for Maximus.

  26. You might want to talk to your vet about prescribing an appetite stimulant. There are several out there that might just give Maximus the little extra push that he needs. And if nausea or vomiting is an issue then there are drugs for that as well. Cerenia has been a god-send for my 17 year-old cat with small cell lymphoma in his intestines. Vomiting used to be a daily occurance, but on the Cerenia he hasn’t thrown up in months. It’s definitely improved his quality of life. If getting pills into him is problematic you can also have his meds compounded into a liquid. Might go down easier.

    Heartfelt best wishes to you and Maximus.

  27. Joe, I fully agree with your thoughts about Max, hey, you know him best. Keep him close and love him.

    Safe travels with Akemi and Max and try to enjoy the good tidings of this season with your loved ones.

    My prayers continue to be with Max and you and I believe prayer is powerful.

    Blessings of the season to all —

    Angel for Max
    (\ __ /)
    ( \ (__) / )
    ( /\ )
    (\ / \ /)
    / \
    ( )


  28. Your are the best doggie daddy in the whole wide world. Max is probably happiest with you. Much love.

    Such beautiful wrapping, go, Akemi, go! I miss going to shops where even my smallest purchase was wrapped so nicely I felt as though I’d purchased diamonds and ermine, rather than simple ohashi. I hear the big stores have wrapping schools for the employees.

  29. “I won’t make a decision just because it’s easier for me”

    And this is what I love most about you.

    You will do the right thing in the right time for Maximus. In the meanwhile, hugs to both of you.

  30. I’m glad you got answers about the meds causing Max’s lethargy and lack of appetite. Having lots of love is the best antidote for pain. I’m glad he’ll be with you in Montreal. Give Max a hug from me.

    The books above are so tempting; last night I pulled two huge stacks of books out of a closet along with an old 13 inch pot bellied TV and the box for the DVD player that’s on the fritz. I plan to donate the books before Dec 31, so I’ll be ready to try something new then. Speed of Dark and City of Thieves look excellent.

  31. So sorry to hear about Max. I’m glad he’s going with you to Montreal. It will be good for him to be with you ~~~ and you with him. Hugs to both of you (and the rest of the doggy crew).

  32. So sad. Hugs to Max and you. Pets bring so much joy to our lives… but there are times when I almost wish I had never taken pets at all… The giving up part is just too painful… My Leo the Lion’s time ran out on Monday… You just enjoy the little time Max has left, every moment is too precious. Take care. <3

  33. Do what your gut tells you Joe. If you have a peace about the decision you make then that’s what matters. As long as you are with him he will feel your comfort. He’ll sense it.

    We lost our lovebird of 17 years this past summer and it was awful. It still feels like yesterday.

    All the best you and Maximus and your family.

  34. Oh Joe, hugs to you and kisses and cuddles for Maxi-boy.

    Ditto to many of the comments Re: Maximus. Good that you will keep him with you. Nobody reads his nonverbal language as well as you. Dogs do relax in the presence of their dads/moms.

    Was on the phone last night with a friend in CA who just lost her elderly doggie grrl. “Holly” had survived cancer about 10 months, but then an infection tipped the balance, and she took a sudden turn. Neurological symptoms cropped up, and by then illness was distracting her from reality. It was obvious.

    Nothing can prepare you for the good-bye, but at least knowing when it’s the right time helps a smidgeon. You have always done the right thing for Maximus. When it comes time you’ll know it. Take heart. It will be the last “best thing” you can do.


  35. Mr. M., no one could have done more for their friend. To me, it sounds as if Max is still engaged with life, but you know him best, and I am sure you will know when the time has come to say goodbye.

    Big hugs to all with poorly pets.

    More big hugs to all with health issues of their own.

    Hugs and a wry smile to all those gritting their teeth at the thought of spending time with rellies…or is that just me? 😉 ‘Tis the season of peace, love, and spiteful remarks about other people’s lives. 😛 I shall be trying to adhere to the precept, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On.’ 🙄

    Am thinking of all you guys over the Christmas season. 🙂

    Happy to hear Big Girl has rallied. Lovely LOLcat-esque pic, cheers! 😀

    Mr. M., I haven’t read ‘Major Pettigrew…’ but the following are authors/novels I’ve seen referenced in book reviews as being similiar in tone (hope this helps!):

    ‘Mr. Rosenblum’s List’ – Natasha Solomons
    ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ – Mary Ann Shaffer
    ‘Rosewater and Soda Bread’ – Marsha Mehran

    and author Alexander McCall Smith:
    ’44 Scotland Street’
    ‘Corduroy Mansions’
    ‘La’s Orchestra Saves The World’
    etc., etc. (he’s very prolific).

    Ta for the recs; I shall be checking out ‘Fool’ & ‘City of Thieves.’

    Take care, peeps!

  36. Not much to say except hugs to Maximus and all. I know how hard it is — wishing your beloved pets could tell you what they need, and wishing also you could explain to them you’re doing everything you can for them.
    But even if Max could talk, he couldn’t have asked for a better home or a better doggie dad to look after him.
    – KB

  37. akemi did a nice job on the wrapping.

    i hope maximus improves.

    i second Sparrow_hawk’s recommendation of the amelia peabody mysteries.

  38. Um, in case it wasn’t clear, I haven’t read any of the books I listed, I was going by reviews of similar to ‘Major Pettigrew’, so if there’s a startingly unexpected sex scene a la SGU’s infamous ‘broom closet’ scene in any of them…I guess it’s a case of reader beware! Or, possibly, a happy bonus! 😀


  39. I enjoyed “Fool” by my favorite book of Moore’s is still “A Dirty Job”, followed closely by his vampire trilogy.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.