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The Story of Max

In the spring of 2001, when my youngest brother Jimmy was 9 years old, he asked my parents for a dog. They were unsure (our track history with dogs was not good – one was returned to the kennel, one was returned to the farm – but those are other stories).

Jimmy asked some more.

My parents considered that our house once filled to the brim with kids, between the 4 of us and all the neighborhood kids running in and out, was soon going to be more of an only child house. Jeff and I had long since moved out, and Tommy was on the brink of getting his license.

Jimmy asked them again.

They thought about it. We watched My Dog Skip one Friday night, and all fell in love with the little boy and his dog. My parents asked Jimmy if he was sure.

He swore he was.

On a piece of lined paper torn from a notebook, in the clumsy handwriting of a young boy, Jimmy wrote his promise to always feed and walk his dog, even if he didn’t feel like it, even if it were cold and snowy. For years it hung on the wall above my father’s desk upstairs.

They said, if you want a dog, you need to find the dog… my parents decided that a beagle would be a good fit for our family and Jimmy called up breeders and asked them if their dogs would be good for a 9 year old boy.

And one day they drove an hour west of Worcester, to a breeder of beagles. The breeder opened the kennel and out came all the puppies running everywhere pell mell. Except for the runt, who ran right up into Jimmy’s lap.

That puppy was Max.

In his puppy years we loved to feed him Cheeze Balls, the neon orange puffs of deliciousness… Max loved Cheeze Balls. As we realized how terrible they were for him, we switched to Rice Cakes, which he loved even more. You could get Max to do anything for the promise of “Rice Cakes”.

He was a sweet dog, who loved most to snuggle and be loved. He slept in Jimmy’s bed, and loved to curl up under the covers behind his knees. He delighted in being scratched behind the ears, and when you stopped, he would gently nudge you with his paw to ask for more. At the sight of another dog would scrunch down on his belly and frantically wag his tail, letting out whimpers of uncontained excitement. He fought the good fight against the wild turkeys in the woods behind my parents house – barking at them as if sheer force of will would transport him beyond the fence and into their domain.

When we brought our diva shih tzu George into the fold, Max is the one who patiently taught him his dog manners. How to stand still to be sniffed. How to play nice. How to not be an ear biting pest of a puppy.

They were best buddies.

We had always felt like we were one kid short, like our family would have easily fit a 5th child in… and Max had come to fill that place.

After EJ was born, Max solidly performed uncle duties – watchfully minding the tiny baby on the floor, gently eating the Cheerios offered by EJ’s baby fingers, his back and ears happily offering a sturdy handhold as EJ learned to walk these past 2 months.

Over the past few weeks Max started having accidents around the house. Last week his belly swelled and he stopped eating. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and not eggs, cucumbers (his FAVORITE), or hamburger could entice him to eat… and with it the heart medicine needed to relieve and prevent the fluid build-up.

On Thanksgiving, we all spent our time giving him our love, and saying our good-byes.

After improbably making it through two horrible nights, and one day of relief after my mother literally force-fed him the medicine, my mother brought him to the animal hospital, in a hopeful and desperate attempt to do something, anything, to help him.

His heart was failing, his kidneys were failing, and his liver had shut down. There was nothing the doctors could do, and he was suffering greatly.

And so, with profound grief, my mother had him put down.

We miss him terribly.

Bye buddy.

Thankful

An unexpected topic indeed.

1) Coffee.

Iced, hot, lukewarm, hours old…. I don’t care, these days, I drink whatever is close at hand and already brewed.

What would I do without this magic elixir of energy and sanity? I would probably cry several times a day and also probably spend way more time drooling and staring at a wall than I already do. With it, most days I reach the level of a normal functioning human. And usually even get a little knitting done.

Which brings me to…

2) Knitting.

There are several things that disappear, by circumstance and necessity, when one becomes the mother of a baby/small children and ones’ means are not limitless. (I mean, if I were a stay at home mom, and also had access to a full time nanny — ooooh, and a cleaning person, I would definitely have a cleaning person too — let me tell you, I would be doing more than knitting. But I would also be knitting more.)

Things that include needing a babysitter on a regular basis, say for adult classes on any subject; regular social outings that include cocktails; movie theaters in which you don’t want an angry mob shooting daggers at you and in which you actually want to see the movie; restaurants that don’t have pictures on the menu…. you get the drift.

Well, knitting is still allowed. I can do it wherever. I can do it a little bit at a time. I can do it while still interacting with EJ. (Guess how many times I’ve sung “Old MacDonald” in order to get another row finished.) It’s practical, and so I usually don’t feel guilty about it – even though there are so many other things that need to get done – because it’s a sweater for EJ! Winter is coming! It’s cold here! Except, oh yeah, everything I’ve been knitting lately is for me. Whoops!

3) The Internet.

See above. The Internet allows me to be part of the outside world, even when I’m holed up in my living room, in our little country town.

4) Our Public Library.

Our local public library allows me to be part of the Real outside world. Just 5 minutes up the road, it hosts a weekly baby & toddler storytime, which morphs into a playgroup once the story hour is up. And unlike most things like this offered by mommy boutiques, or even the Y, the public library is free and I meet the other moms and babies who live in our tiny country town.

Also, our public library is in a gorgeous stone Victorian, on the town green, at one of the highest elevations in the state, from which you can see the skyline of Boston 50 miles away.

Breathtaking.

5) Being at home.

Despite my constant griping, I am truly grateful that I can be home with EJ. It’s not easy, the work never ends, I rarely leave the house alone and if it weren’t for knit night I would rarely talk to other adults that I’m not related to. (See #2) There is constant stress about relying on only one salary, a constant struggle with guilt about not working for a paycheck (something that until a year ago I had done, often juggling several jobs, since I was 14), a constant search for balance between Eric and I…

But.

I realize how fortunate we are, and I realize how fortunate I am that EJ is nuzzling his head into my waist right now and babbling to me about his teddy bear Curly. When he talks to Curly he uses a tender, high-pitched babble. It’s beyond adorable.

Oh, wait, he might be babbling about breakfast. It’s 8:30, and instead of feeding him, I’ve been on the computer all morning. Mother of the Year! Gotta go!

Happy Thanksgiving y’all.

Sock Talk

Progress continues apace on the February Fitted Pullover (the pattern is wonderfully compelling to knit) but not enough to warrant another post. To keep you knitting hounds at bay, I’d like to show you my on-the-go project:

Pomatomus (Rav link), knit in Maple Tree Sock Yarn, colorway “Bootcamp”.

I am, at heart, an extremely practical person. Almost to a fault. I can shut off my emotions and coolly analyze a situation with cutting logic faster than you can say “that hurt my feelings”, and for 5 years I wondered what the hell was the point of handknit socks that incorporated anything but stockinette or ribbing. I had a short-lived dalliance with the Jaywalker pattern, while not exactly practical, it did transform many ugly variegated yarns into an ordered structure that is pleasing to the eye. And making ugly yarns usable is, in its way, practical.

Theoretically I understand that there are many knitters that enjoy knitting patterns for the sake of the knitting, the technical challenge, or the art of the finished project. Me? I am all about the finished project, and its usefulness. It may be a feat of knitting, but what’s the point if I don’t want to wear it?

Anyway. I was like that with socks, until one day, I wasn’t. I have a drawer full of beautiful sock yarn (um, Sundara much?) and stockinette anklets just aren’t going to cut it. This sock yarn is meant for patterns that do it justice.

But, that means if I’m going to wear these socks outside of my living room, I need shoes that will make it possible. I simply won’t wear handknit socks with my Merrill sneakers.

And so, I made a deal with myself. If I knit 5 pairs of worthwhile socks, I will buy myself a pair of shoes to showcase them.

Worthwhile is defined as follows:

1) They must fit perfectly. (I WILL perfect the art of negative ease.)
2) They must be visually attractive (cool patterns, no pooling)
3) They must not itch, not even a tiny bit. (Mohair, I’m looking at you.)

In the meantime, I’m enjoying window shopping for shoes. Suggestions are welcome :)

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