Rest in Peace, Max the Pekingese

My industrious assistant Max the Pekingese died today. Why write about it on this blog? Well, I dedicated the second edition of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting in part to him; I hope that’s enough of an excuse.

Max joined us nine years ago, after he was found wandering the not-so-mean streets of our town, Garden City. I’d never had a dog before. We had discussed, in an altogether sensible manner, how we might go about getting one, but that was short-circuited when we found ourselves providing a home for Max on some three hours’ notice.

Max had a tough last few years. He ruptured a disk, then developed cancer. We lavished him with care and attention, to an extent that was clearly irrational. But he was part of our family; we had no choice. Time and his ailments took his best steps away from him, and over the past couple of years I cut quite a figure in the community: we’d go out walking, he’d make it a couple of blocks, or a few houses over, and I’d carry him home.

Max was endlessly adorable. With his infant-sized body, his fluffy coat, and his big eyes, he was a living teddy bear. He also had an imperious, Winston-Churchill-as-dog quality about him, with his dignified manner, his smooshed-in muzzle, his snaggle teeth, and the way his bowed front legs give him a rolling gait, a swaggering waddle, like a sailor on shore leave. I was aware that he triggered in me instincts designed for things other than spoiling a dog, but I didn’t begrudge him his success at duping me.

In his prime, he was a grab-bag of endearing behaviors. We’d walk for miles; he’d do his best to insist on going the way he wanted to go. He’d bark the moment anyone set foot on the walk to our front door. He’d chase and savage an assortment of stuffed things. When he was hungry, he’d park himself in front of me and shift his weight back and forth from one front paw to the other. During nighttime thunderstorms, he’d insist on clambering to the highest point of our bed, which usually meant he’d end up draped over my head. When we’d be having a serious discussion with our daughter, Max would seek to lighten the mood by doing his party trick, which involved pivoting on his front legs and energetically spinning around on his rear, his ears flapping. In other words, he was scratching his ass, but he’d obviously gotten enough of a response from this routine that he had decided to turn it into entertainment.

Of course, Joanne and I were entirely too pathetic. We’d give him dopey names. We’d sing bits of doggerel in his honor. He spurned dog food, so we prepared entirely upscale meals for him.

But I’d never describe myself as a doggie person. I have no time for “unconditional love” folderol. For the longest time I struggled to articulate to myself how I saw my role, until I read Adam Gopnik’s article “Dog Story,” in which he says that dogs are “the dignified dual citizens who plead the case for all of mute creation with their human owners.” That captured it perfectly for me. (That’s why he’s Adam Gopnik and I’m the contract-drafting guy.)

The life force I saw in Max is the same life force I see in every living creature. We humans deserve the hell we inflict on each other; animals don’t deserve the hell we inflict on them. I wish I could do more to stop the endless savagery and destruction we visit on the natural world, but looking after Max was all I could do.

There are of course countless Maxs out there, so sentimentality is an indulgence. But I’ll permit myself to indulge for a moment, just to mark the passing of a dignified companion into memory.


About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

11 thoughts on “Rest in Peace, Max the Pekingese”

  1. Sentimentality is okay by me. Not long ago, my wife and I lost Rocky, the Persian. Kind of like Max—big eyes, fluffy coat (hard to manage!), and medical issues his last few years.

  2. Sorry for your loss. “It is not given to us to choose the times into which we are born, only to do what those times require.” The times required you to look after Max — you did the job that fell to you to do. Kudos and consolation.

  3. I am so sad to hear of the passing of your beloved Max. Our pets certainly do hold a special place in our hearts. Whether or not you have time for their “unconditional love”, that is just what they give us, asking for so little in return. RIP Sweet Max. xoxo

  4. I lost my own beloved Buster just over a year ago, and Zoe is now nearly as old as Buster was then. I know exactly how you feel, and you have my deepest sympathy.

  5. I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope you know that you, and your family were the greatest love of his life. You were both so lucky to have found each other. My condolences to you and your family.

  6. I have had two pekingese. One does not know the love and loyalty of a dog until you own this breed. Both of mine passed away from cancer. I fully understand how one feels about their pet. They are a member of the family. These are just not ordinary dogs, they work themselves into your home and heart. I so relate to walking Mugsy, then carrying him home. He has been gone 8 years, we have since adopted a ‘pound puppy’ but still miss my loyal companion. We were in the military at the time, he traveled with us and even hotels who didn’t accept dogs were happpy to have him. He never barked, was happy to just be wherever you put him.

  7. Sorry for your loss. I had a Pekingese for about 12 years & she passed on last year. Part of us died with her. It was very hard for us & until now we still cried over her demise. I still don’t think I can keep another dog.


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