Maybe this doesn't have anything to do
with fly-fishing, but I believe it has
a lot to do with fly-fishers. Most all
the fly-fishers I've ever known are
animal lovers, especially dog lovers.
It just seems that somehow it works
out that outdoor folks and dogs go
hand in paw.
Last week a sad and inevitable event
took place. Linda and I had to make a
logical decision, a decision that couldn't
be clouded by emotion. That's so hard to
do, the separation of logic from emotion.
I've always said, "One can't look at logic
through emotional eyes." But now we both
had to forget the emotion, and just simply
do the right thing.
Max was our eleven year old "pound puppy."
I was blessed to know Max for nine of the
years he spent on this Earth. He was April's
birthday present, but she was unable to take
him with her when she left home. So, Linda and
I took care of him, or maybe I should restate
that to Max took on the responsibility to take
care of us when April left. Either way, and to
put it simply, we took care of each other for
the next nine years.
Max was a mix-breed that was adopted from our
local animal shelter. A pup all his own that
had perky ears. A pup that sat all alone from
his little brothers and sisters. A pup that
turned his head from side to side questioning
why April and Linda were talking about him,
and not playing with all the puppies that were
around him. Maybe he thought he wasn't that
much different from his littermates. But he
When I came into Max's life, he took me in
as a family member. No growling or barking
at me when I would come home from work late
at night. I was met at the front door by a
black dog with a wagging tail. I suppose he
knew I was meant to be there. And so it was...
a demonstration of unconditional love from
a dog to a human, one of the greatest gifts
one could ever be given.
Max began to feel badly this past Thursday
morning, and his condition deteriorated quickly.
By the time I got home from work, the old guy
stayed down, not jumping around and barking to
greet me. I knew in my heart something was
seriously wrong, and he seemed to agree. Of
course it was bad news when our vet took the
x-rays and did the lab work. A cancerous tumor
had invaded his body. He hid this from us until
he just couldn't, said Dr. Joe.
The next morning Linda and I made the trip to
say our final farewell. It felt as though I was
saying goodbye to an old friend…I guess I was.
I've only had two dogs that affected me the way
Max did, my Irish setter, Rusty and Max, the
"pound puppy." I spoke to both of them in full
sentences, and they understood each and every
word, it seemed. However, Max was different
than Rusty. Just an old mutt from the pound,
hardly. He was a dog of all dogs.
I remember Max when he was younger, running
through the grass in the front yard then
jumping into the back of our pickup truck,
then sailing off the tailgate and ripping up
the yard in circles. There was a tree in the
backyard that had a chunk of rope hanging off
one of the lower branches and Max would fly
out the back door and jump up then grab the
rope and swing from it growling and wagging
that tail of his. All for our entertainment,
I suppose. He let Linda paint his toenails
with red fingernail polish, dress him in a
sweatshirt and socks and he would pose as
she took his picture. What a ham! Max would
bark furiously at fish I would bring home for
the table, and raise holy hell at jumping,
live shrimp that Linda would give him out
of the live well from the skiff.
We spoke of Max Friday as we rode around,
somehow trying to make ourselves feel better.
Linda asked me where I thought Max was.
Through tears of sadness and a large lump
in my throat, I tried to tell her what my
feelings and thoughts were.
"I think he's with Rusty. There has to be a
special place for dogs, and good pets. It's
somewhere just over that green hill, just past
the horizon. A place where they don't hurt
anymore. A place where streams flow, and where
trees abound to shade those green hills where
they can now rest and not be on guard watching
over us. A place where they know we aren't too
far away from them. It just has to be beautiful,
The lumps in our throats and the mist in
our eyes are still fresh. But Max is just
over the rise, and he's okay.
I never trusted anyone who didn't like dogs.
Dogs are unconditional. No matter what mood
you happen to be in, they are always there
to cheer you up, to laugh with you, to
celebrate your excitement and entertain you,
no matter what. I wondered why dogs don't live
as long as we do.
I figure this. We, as humans, live longer
mostly, in order to get "things" right along
our path of life. It takes us longer to love,
to trust, and longer to let someone know us
for what we are. Dogs, on the other hand, live
shorter lives, because they come into this world
trusting, loving and just being who they are.
Their loyalty for us humans set deep within them.
Do dogs go to Heaven? I think so. There is that
special place, just over yonder, past the misery,
past the turmoil of human life. That's where good
So long, Max. ~ Capt. Gary
Gary grew up in central Florida and spent much
of his youth fishing the lakes that dot the area.
After moving a little closer to the coast, his
interests changed from fresh to salt. Gary still
visits his "roots" in the "lake behind the house."
He obtained his captain's license in the early '90's
and fished the blue waters of the Atlantic for a little
over twelve years. His interests in the beautiful shallow
water flats in and around the famous Mosquito Lagoon came
around twenty-five years ago. Even though Captain Gary
doesn't professionally guide anymore, his respect of the
waters will ever be present.
Gary began fly fishing and tying mostly saltwater
patterns in the early '90's and has participated as
a demo fly tier for the Federation of Fly Fishers
on numerous occasions. He is a private fly casting
and tying instructor and stained glass artist,
creating mostly saltwater game fish in glass.