Max weighed less than 10 pounds when he met his humans. He was merely a 4 week-old puppy back then. But because dogs do not understand their own age, weight or the passage of time, these things were not on his radar. Instead, Max paid attention to the home in which he was placed. There was carpeting underneath his tiny paws, a lively human woman who cooked things on a skillet and a few other humans whose feet he noticed as they walked by him. But there was one human who came to the house infrequently who really made Max stand up and pay attention. This human smelled of testosterone. He must be transitioning from a boy into a man, Max figured, because that hormone was potent in this human. He also gave off a scorching energy – this human had a raging fire underneath his skin. When Max leapt onto the lap of this particular human, the dog became suddenly aware of something breeding under the human’s left thigh. It was like a bunch of black fleas, clustered together on a bone. Max nestled himself onto the lap of the human, and felt scared, angry and emboldened to do something about the black spot on his human’s bone. Yes, Max decided: this one is MY human! Even if he rarely comes by, this is the person who I must protect.
Richie the human spent two years in a hospital for cancer. From age twelve to fourteen, Richie lived in a small room on a hospital bed, with another twin-sized bed for his mother to sleep upon. The osteosarcoma that tore through Richie’s young system destroyed his left femur bone. There was a brilliant physician, a young doctor who loved to throw cancer on the floor and stomp upon it, who took on Richie’s case. This doctor removed Richie’s left thigh bone and replaced it with a metal apparatus which resembled the same bone which had become rotten by cancer. But that wasn’t all: Richie needed cycles of chemotherapy which lasted the two years that he spent in the hospital.
Richie was only allowed to go home on occasional weekends. On his first weekend back from the hospital, he met the dog Max. Richie and Max bonded immediately. But what happened when the human came home from the hospital was that his body responded to the new environment with a raging fever (this was the scorching smell that the dog sensed without a thermometer). Richie usually left his home within 36 hours after arriving, leaving Max behind. Neither being had any choice in their circumstances then. So, they both waited to be reunited. They had their occasional weekends over the span of two years. But that did not weaken the bond between the dog and his human. Max paced and waited for Richie to return.
At the age of fourteen, Richie was released from the cancer hospital. Those dark fleas that had infested themselves in his bones were now gone. Richie had a brand new femur made of titanium. When Richie returned to his home, Max never left his side. Richie trained Max to stay close to him and not run away, as the human could not run after the dog with his new metal femur. The dog knew all of this, and never strayed away, no matter what other distractions were around. A few years later, Richie met a girl in school. Her name was Hillarie. Richie dated Hillarie for several months and figured it was time to introduce her to his family. But Richie’s relationship to his high school sweetheart came with a contingency: “I really like you, Hillarie. But I have this dog Max. He and I are very close. And if he doesn’t like you, I am not sure that this is going to work.”
It was a celebratory time, when this human couple knew a great passion of theirs would be realized, with the food truck. And the dog Max was elated. He loved his new human Hillarie (she bought him really good food and he really loved sleeping in bed between his two humans). But there came a day when Richie was grilling outside and Max was next to him, when something terrible happened. Richie tried to climb stairs to get more ingredients for food and he fell suddenly, as he grabbed for his left femur. Max felt great fear. Hillarie sat down on the steps and cried human tears. Loud sounds and flashing lights brought big men to lift Max’s human onto a metal thing with wheels and they took him away.
But then one day, Hillarie left the house. She came back home with Richie! He was walking with these long metal sticks. Max did not like these sticks. Not at all! But that did not stop him from jumping all over his human. Richie finally sat down on a chair. Max catapulted his tiny body up onto the chair and immediately sniffed his human’s left thigh. There were no black fleas infesting the bone. There was a new smell of a different type of metal, but it was not dangerous.
In human medical language, Richie’s original titanium femur that was implanted when he was 12 had shattered when he was grilling outside with Max. This was because the human had been walking on it for the last decade and it had not been able to endure the stressors that working as a chef, or living in general, would place upon it. After this most recent fall, Richie was immediately sent back to the brilliant physician who had fabricated the initial femur; this same doctor created a new femur made of cobalt chromium. Richie is responding beautifully to his new bone and there is no return of his osteosarcoma.
Max is now eleven years old. He remains intently vigilant on the well-being of his humans. At merely 10 pounds in size, Max is entirely convinced that he is the caregiver of his family. Hillarie is actually taking care of everyone, though she would never tell that to Max. Richie has decided to keep his food truck, despite the major physical setback that occurred just as he purchased it. Some dreams cannot be smothered in the wake of adolescent cancer or a fall on the steps. These stirrings of life must keep going. Just as Max waited for Richie, through all of the absences and the sickness, some creatures watch us and wait for what lies in store for us. They know the weight of our vision, even if they only weigh 10 pounds.