I first met Mav in the prime of his life. At six, he was full of energy, loved going for a walk, and was always eager to bring you his toys — you could ask for them by name — especially if there might be a cookie available for him as part of the deal.
But Mav was more than an ordinary, fun-loving Labrador, “of the Colorado Labradors,” his mom, Sally, liked to say. Mav was a true “old soul” with an almost tangible presence and personality.
He was great company, and never more so than after a long day or when I was feeling frustrated or sad. Stroking his velvet ears could make even the worst day fade away. He always knew what people needed, too.
Once, when Sally’s brother had died and she was visiting with her brother-in-law, Mav picked up on the man’s grief. Lying on his bed by the fire, he looked up at the visitor, head cocked, thinking. He then went to the bedroom and brought his favorite toy, his prized hedgehog, and laid it in the man’s lap. Then, one by one, Mav brought all of his toys and placed them at the grieving visitor’s feet. Here, he seemed to be saying, cuddling these helps me feel better; maybe they’ll help you, too.
The first time I shared a home with Sally and Mav, I was learning to train service dogs, and I nearly always had a puppy home with me overnight and on weekends. A gentle soul, Mav was a great big brother and always eager to join our walks and playtimes. But when I got out the service dog cape to take my puppy on a practice trip to the supermarket or store, Mav would stand there and cry. He knew that the cape meant that he didn’t get to come, and he just hated being left out.
Mav had a special place in his heart for puppies, and was very gentle as he played and wrestled with my service dog trainees, always careful not to use his full strength and endlessly patient. As the puppies got older, they’d make up games together — one pup in particular loved to play tug. For this dog, Mav would lie on his back, holding the tug toy in his mouth. Irresistible. The adolescent puppy would grab the other end, and away they’d go, Mav sliding around the living room on his back, as happy as he could be.
One puppy in particular captured Mav’s heart though. Yasu.
A petite blonde, about eight months old when they first met, she had the airs of a princess. We called her the “Marilyn Monroe dog.” She knew she had been put on this earth to be adored and served — not to be a service dog. And Mav adored her, gazing at her, besotted, as she took away his favorite toys, nibbled at his mouth, and perched on his special bed next to the fireplace.
Mav left us a couple of weeks ago, at the age of fifteen and a half. Sally had nursed him through several serious illnesses, lovingly preparing him tasty meals and, ultimately, encouraging this always-food-obsessed dog to eat. Finally, though, it was time to say good-bye. Fifteen years wasn’t long enough. Mav was a special guy and he will be missed by many people whose lives he touched.