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Pets Large & Small

I remember …

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(8/2012) I remember finding you in the SPCA all those years ago. Looking back, I was just so young back then -- working a summer job to help pay for my books at college. You were young, too, just about six months old. You leaned against the cage like you could push yourself through the wires just to get closer to us.

Even while all the other dogs were barking and jumping, you were so calm, so sweet.

I remember sitting with you on the bench outside of the adoption area until we completed the paperwork. You were surprisingly well-behaved for a young pup.

I remember we decided to name you Max, after the dog in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, our family’s favorite holiday special. Every year when I watch the cartoon, I think of you.

I remember dad made a crate for you – he’s a scientist, you know, so he’s good at coming up with contraptions. You slept there with your blanket every night and would always go right inside without any kind of fuss.

I remember, even in the beginning, how special you were.

I remember you loved to sit between me and Mel at the dinner table. You never reached for anything you weren’t given. It was almost like you were a fourth kid.

I remember you’d lie with your head on the table with the leftover meatloaf literally inches from your nose, but you wouldn’t take it. We realized one evening that we had all walked away from the table and left you alone with the food, but you never took a bite. You always wanted to make us proud and happy. You never wanted to disappoint; it wasn’t in your nature.

I remember how dad loved to share his cookies with you for dessert.

I remember when you learned to take food from our mouths. You were the most gentle creature. We could put the smallest nub of a carrot in our mouths and hold it out for you and we never felt your teeth. It was as though you always knew the boundary and you would never hurt us.

I remember the only thing you ever spit out that we gave you was a salt and vinegar potato chip.

I remember when you had to have surgery -- I can't even remember what for now -- and I was so very scared that something would happen and we wouldn't see each other again. Do you remember when I talked to you that day? I snuggled you and begged you to be okay. That was such a scary time. Thank heaven you made it through.

I remember you’d always greet us when we came home from playing in the marching band during high school football games and later, when we came home from our freshman dorms at college.

I remember how much you loved to crawl into a chair with one of us for belly rubs. You always loved to be touched by your family.

I remember how much you enjoyed playing with Trudy and Allie.

I remember that you essentially became the matriarch of our canine family.

I remember you’d always race to the window and bark every time one of us said, "Where’s the squirrel, Max? Get the squirrel."

I remember grandma always thought your name was Mack because she was always too endearingly stubborn to get a hearing aid. She'd say, "Where's Mackie?" and we all couldn't help but smile.

It makes me happy to picture both of you together now, just hanging out, spending time with each other. Would you say hi for me? I miss both of you. A lot.

I remember when I first knew time was running out with you. You stopped coming to greet us at the door and spent a lot of time sleeping and didn’t seem to care at all about squirrels anymore.

I remember trying not to think about it.

I remember the phone calls home to help mom and dad know when to make the decision to say goodbye, even while my heart was breaking.

I remember that you taught me more about love and loyalty and devotion and beauty and goodness than just about anything else in my life. You always had that quiet grace about you – even in the end when you were a little wobbly.

I remember your final moments and I hope you weren’t too scared or confused or mad at us. I hope you know how very much we loved you and that we didn’t want you to suffer anymore and we were all so scared that your quality of life wasn’t good enough to justify keeping you with us. We wanted to do something for you after all you had done for us for almost 19 years.

I will remember your brown eyes and your gentle spirit for the rest of my life and when I see the photos of you, I will always, always smile and remember what it was like to love and be loved by you.

This is dedicated to Max. The best shelter dog ever.

Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website

Read other articles by Jennifer Vanderau