An Ode to My Brother
Woofies all. Your Rubie here. As many of you know, my brother, best friend and mentor Max passed away a few weeks ago. I wanted to write about it sooner, but it’s still so painful. I can’t believe he’s gone. I loved, no — LOVE, him so. He was my life. And my Dads’ too. I really don’t know how to go on without him, but I know he’s right here with me and would be awfully mad to see lying around moping. So I thought I’d write about him to try to move forward like he’d want me to.
Max turned a grand and glorious 15 this past January. We threw him a big birthday party at the winery with one of his favorite dance bands playing. He loved to dance so much. And the place was packed with 2-legged and 4-legged well wishers. What a fun night it was! Chef Jen and the Café staff made him and all of his 4-legged guests wonderful doggie snacks. I can tell you they were wonderful because I helped gobble them up. She also made a wonderful cake for his 2-legged guests. We weren’t allowed to eat that because there was chocolate in it (him being a chocolate lab and all). But it had 15 candles on it and Dads helped him blow them out and make a wish. I wish that wish had been that he would be here by my side for another 15 years, but I guess that wasn’t meant to be.
Max became a family member in January 2000. He was promised to Dads before he was born the Christmas of 1999. Anyway, shortly after New Year’s, Max’s mom gave birth to him and his siblings. Daddy Butch went over to pick out a puppy, and Max walked right up to him and sat in his lap. Daddy Butch instantly fell in love with him, and with that Max joined the family.
Max grew up following Dads around the winery. He was charismatic and friendly from Day One, charming the winery staff and greeting winery guests. Or as Daddy Joe says, surprising them. As a puppy he would lay at their feet no matter where they were. One day he was under the table at Dads’ feet in the Cafe´ and a lady came over to talk to Dads and Max popped out from under the table nearly scaring the lady to death, she was so surprised. He became the official ambassador of Americana that very day. Over the years, people came from far and wide to see Max, many before they even said hi to Dads or tried the wines!
Me? Well, I’m a rescue dog. I was adopted into the family in the fall of 2007 when I was about 4 months old. First of all, it was really scary and lonely being in a shelter. I know the people there tried to love me, but it’s not the same as feeling like you belong. When people come to look at you and then they pass you by really hurts your feelings especially when you’re a little girl. I couldn’t understand why no one wanted me. Well that was until the day Dads came to see me. They picked me up and cuddled me and I knew immediately I had found my forever home. Then they told me they were taking me home to Max who had been wanting a little sister. There were a bunch of cats at the winery, but it just wasn’t the same as having a real sis.
I got nervous again. What if Max didn’t like me? And Dads had to take me back to the shelter? I came into the house shivering and frightened. Max came right up to me and gave me a quick look and a sniff, and that was that. He instantly welcomed me into our family as his sister, no questions asked. I was home, I belonged!
Max taught me the ropes of family living pretty quick. How to play Dads for what we wanted. How to keep the poser cats in line and out of the spotlight. How to greet guests at the winery and charm snacks out of them and the winery team with just a glance. But most of all, he taught me how to love unconditionally. He made me feel important. Safe. Loved.
He was incredibly patient with me when I made mistakes, just sort of shaking his knowing head and urging me on. He tolerated my — well laziness might be too strong a word — my less than attentive manner in which I did my work as a greeter. He knew I’d rather be swimming and he may have teased me, but he always kindly picked up the slack. He knew I was (am) a hoarder, and he gently would push me to share my snacks and toys with others.
For almost 8 years we did EVERYTHING together. We scammed snacks from winery and cafe guests alike. We charmed our 2-legged guests, making them feel welcome and important. We made friends with our 4-legged guests romping in the back yard and vineyards or getting crackers from everyone off the tasting bar.
We would mercilessly tease the poser cats, yet protect them if we sensed they were in trouble. We would indulge each other in our favorite past times. Max would sit by the pond and watch me swim, just like I would sit by the dance floor and watch him dance.
We complemented each other perfectly and I can’t really recall a time when we ever fought. Sure he’d tease me, like any brother would — for being a slacker, eating too much, smelling like a dead fish after a swim. But that’s what siblings do. We were truly the two musketeers.
I have to be honest, Max always was a much harder worker than me. He would greet guests when I wanted to go for a swim. He would play with our visitors when I wanted to nap. He was always on.
He started a Twitter account and would talk to people on Twitter. He would write posts on the winery’s Facebook page. He talked me into starting this blog, and quite frankly did most of the writing while I swam or laid in the shade. He would never put up a fuss when Dads put him in all those stupid hats for all of the holidays and winery events.
He even started Woofstock, our annual event to support local shelters and rescues — which he said he did because of me and my beginnings. He said we were so lucky to have such a great home, with great Dads, we should help out other animals who weren’t as lucky. He even wrote two kids books about our life to help raise money for the cause.
And when we went on TV to promote the event, it was Max who was my rock when I was freaked out and shaking. He comforted me and encouraged me to do well. He always made me feel I could do anything.
You see, everything Max did, he did out of love. So it wasn’t like work for him at all. And how I loved that. I loved his quiet strength, his constant encouragement, his eternal optimism and bravery even in the face of the worse adversity. In fact, Max battled cancer a few years back. He didn’t feel very good at all — even lost two toes because of it. But he kept right on going with a wag in his tail and a smile on his face despite it all. And even though we thought we were going to lose him then, we didn’t, because he was so brave. He would look at us like we were crazy when we would all get upset. “What are you all worried about?” he’d say. “I’m going to be fine. I’ve got this.”
Max always “had this.” And I miss that — how on top of everything he was. I miss the way he always had to know what Dads were doing at all times, the way he would jump up and say hi to anyone and everyone no matter how he felt, his weird single piercing bark if he felt any of us weren’t listening to him like we should. When I got diabetes, Max was right there on top of it. He encouraged me to stop snacking so I’d lose weight, and when I did he was my biggest cheerleader.
God, I just miss everything about him! Even his weird quirks. Like hogging the entire bed, so Dads had no room, much less me. His incessant need to chew on empty plastic water bottles and carry them around the winery in his mouth.
In the pre-dawn hours of March 4th Max went across the rainbow bridge with Dads and I by his side. Apparently what happened was God just decided he wanted a dog just like Max. So he took Max home. I also know we’ll get him back when we all join him one day, but in the meantime I’m pretty sure he’s scoping out ponds for me to swim in, angels for me to scam food from and shade for me to lounge in.
Rest in peace until I get there Max. I love you and miss you every day even though I know you’re right here with me in spirit — still watching over me like my awesome big brother always.
Love, Rubie xoxo
PS. On St Patty’s Day Weekend, we threw Max a good old fashioned Irish wake. Thank you everyone who came out to celebrate my brother’s life with all of us. Your support and love during this time has been so touching and overwhelming. All of us — Dads, me and even the poser cats — can’t tell you how much we appreciate it. Love you all! Rubie xoxo