My Dog Celebrated His Thirteenth Birthday And I’m Sad

Kenn & Remy – Princeton, NJ 2013

A Birthday is supposed to be fun, right?

When I adopted Remy in the summer of 2006 it was for all the wrong reasons.

The first of which was that I was having so much trouble with Max’s separation anxiety I decided to bring in another dog as a last ditch effort to get Max to relax when I left him at home.

The second? When I saw his photo on the Petfinder Website, he looked just like Max and his name was listed as… you guessed it, Max.

How’s that for a bunch of wrong reasons to adopt a dog?

At the time I was living about 15 minutes west of Manhattan in New Jersey. Remy, or “Max” at the time, was at BARCS, the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, about 4 hours away in Maryland.

The first time I took the trip, yes there was more than one trip, I asked to see “Max” by name. They jotted down my information and when they realized how far I had journeyed, they looked at me like I was a crazy person. I just shrugged my shoulders, told them, “long story”.

The next step was meeting him in the outside pen. They brought the dog out, closed the gate behind us and left us. He was pulling in every direction but me, so I look him off his lead. This is the part of the story where I tell you it was love at first sight. That we rolled around on the grass together and felt a connection that we had had never felt before. The truth? He basically spent the entire time sniffing around the edge of the fencing, ignoring that I was even there.

After five to ten anti-climactic minutes, I brought him back inside and declared, “I’ll take him.” Yep, I’m a glutton for punishment. I cleary DON’T see the forest for the trees. (Feel free to tack on your own favorite clichéd, ironic saying right here.)

The clerk looked back at me with a strange look on her face. “Really?” she said.

That even worried me a bit. What was I getting into here? “Yep, I’ll take him.”

“Okay, come back in a week after he’s been fixed and he’s yours.”

“Wait, I can’t take him now.”

“You can pay for him now”, she replied.

I took out my wallet, pulled out my credit card and prepared myself for the influx of paperwork. Then I drove four hours back home without a dog.

Max & Remy become brothers.

One week later I was back on the road. It was a non-eventful trip. I went to BARCS. I picked Remy up. I drove him to his new home. Yes, I had chosen his name by that time. I thought Max & Remy sounded great together, so Remy it was.

While my friend waited in my backyard with Remy, I brought Max out to join us. They sniffed and sniffed and sniffed (hounds, what can I say) and than Remy found a hole in the fence that Max never cared about and off he went, running through the neighborhood like a crazy dog. A portent of things to come.

Yes, I caught him and yes, it was the first of many escapes. The nose of a Beagle and the smarts of a Border Collie was a mixed blessing indeed. But in my own defense, I’m sure you experienced the same thing. A friend would come over and not immediately close the door behind them, hence providing an ample amount of space for the dog in your house that was always checking for escape routes. It was also a good tell that your friend never owned a dog.

Remy was a fun, rambunctious dog. He spun in cricles. He was the epitomé of a joyful dog, whereas Max was a bit more low key and soulful. But in spite of it all, my gambit had worked. Even though Remy was a dog that Max only kinda put up with, he succeeded in bringing down Max’s separation anxiety quite a bit.

Over the years, Remy took to his role of understudy for the Dog Files like a champ. Slowly, very slowly, really very slowly, Remy mellowed out a bit and I believe, enjoyed his job as Max’s crazy little buddy.

Remy’s Adoption Photo
Remy at 13.

Many years later, in March of 2015, Max, truly my best friend, passed away at the age of thirteen and a half. It’s a pain I still feel over two and a half years later.

After Max died, many people on the Dog Files Facebook Page asked me, over and over again, when, not if, I was going to adopt a new dog. But I had already made my decision. Remy spent most of his life as second fiddle to Max. He deserved to have ALL of my time to himself for the rest of his life.

That following Summer, I noticed Remy was coughing quite a bit. I took him to my vet and found out he had an enlarged heart and all the pain I had just felt with Max came pouring back over me. They told me not to worry, that Remy probably had a ton of time left and gave me two prescriptions that I’d have to give him daily for the rest of his life.

Two years later, Remy has his good days and his bad days. He stumbles a bit when walking and stairs can be a chore for him to climb. I know his time on this Earth is limited and I wish his birthday’s were joyous things for me, but they just remind me of the little time I have left with him.

It’s been a tough two and a half years for me. I’ve lost my best friend, Max. I’ve lost the greatest Dad you could ever wish for, after watching him battle a horrible muscular disease for two years. And now, with more and more frequency, the restlessness at night, the heavy breathing, and the coughing that Remy deals with, reminds me that I’m going to have to go through all this one more time. And probably sooner, then later.

But Remy doesn’t know any of that. He puts up with the coughing and the heavy breathing and the restlessness at night the only way he knows. With a big, beautiful Remy smile that he wears like no one else. He still can’t wait for his meals and he still loves prancing around at the dog park, albeit a little slower now, and he still loves bugging me all day for more treats.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy 13th Birthday, my dear Remy! I can only hope I’ve shown as much love to you over the years, as you’ve shown to me.

With love, from your very sad, but proud Dad.



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