Max (Fall 1998 – August 21, 2014)

Max on Bed Close-up
Max Withrow King (1998-2014)

I adopted Max from the Idaho Humane Society when we were both babies. She was a tiny orange ball and when I saw her, I knew I was there for her. I learned years later than most orange cats like her were boys. She broke the mold in more way than one.

I was an idiot back then, no idea what it meant to take care of a kitten, and living in a campus house that didn’t allow animals, but she was my girl and a couple of lame rules weren’t going to get in the way of our happiness.

kitty in a lunch bagShe was a feisty girl, who loved to play, all day and all night. She played with my comb, grocery bags, and my shoes. I would frequently find her attached to the window screens, and that’s probably what prompted the notice in my mailbox that I had 30 days to vacate or re-home Max. My mom happened to be visiting, and she graciously agreed to bring Max home to Eugene with her, since I knew I’d be moving back in a couple of months. Mom was pretty entertained by Max’s love of paper bags and bemused at her habit of sitting on the ledge of the bathtub whenever Mom took a soak. Of course, Max loved the idea of water much more than the reality. She fell in to my bath once. It wasn’t fun for either of us.

In her lifetime, Max travelled across the U.S. by car twice and airplane once. She lived in fifteen different houses or apartments with me, and stayed more than a few nights in hotels and hostels across the country.

One night, shortly after arriving in Pensacola, Max disappeared for a day, after having been accidentally let out the back door by a houseguest. Totally devastated, I spent $15 I didn’t have stapling up reward posters all over the neighborhood. Long before I had a digital camera or smartphone, the posters simply gave a description of Max and said “she comes when you whistle a tune.” I walked the streets and the woods behind the house frantically whistling her favorite song: “You Are My Sunshine.” She arrived home late the night after she got out, scratched at the door, and walked straight to her food bowl when I let her in—not a girl long on ceremony.

image (5)One of Max’s favorite games was fetch. She would drop a tiny foam ball into my hand and wait patiently for me to throw or roll it across the floor. She’d run after it, paw at it for a couple of minutes, and eventually bring it back to me for another throw. She loved playing fetch on the stairs. The bouncier the throw, the better. As she slowed the last year, she stopped wanting to play and would instead leave the ball in my shoe—a gesture of nostalgic love.

When I started work at PETA, she was my carry-on bag, and her litter and food was one of the two boxes that I checked in Portland and picked up in Norfolk. She was angry at me for three days after the plane ride, and I came home from dinner one night to find that she’d squirmed out of our attic room, found her way into a bathroom in the middle of renovations, and managed to get trapped between the floor and ceiling, taking out a few ceiling tiles in the meantime. I was able to coax her out with the help of a co-worker and a can of wet food.

Max was food-obsessed. I woke up once to find a plastic box of pastries on the floor of my studio apartment, a giant hole ripped in the top and bits of turnover missing from the contents within. I quickly learned that nutritional yeast needed to be in a sealed tupperware container. And if a sandwich or toast was in play, she’d straight up paw my plate in her attempt to get a nibble.

max and giehl snuggle

Max wasn’t very fond of most people or animals. She fought nearly daily with Katie, distrusted even the gentle Emma, and read Isaiah with a hermeneutic of deep suspicion. But she loved Giehl. And she continued to tolerate me. The last year, as her health declined, she cherished opportunities to snuggle up on Giehl’s chest whenever he came near our bed. She’d talk to him nightly, telling him it was time for her wet food and time for him to lay down so she could go to sleep.

After sixteen years together, I’m sure there are stories that I’m missing. As I held her tonight, as she lost consciousness and drifted away, I told her that I loved her, that I would always love her. I whistled our song, prayed that I would not forget, and thanked God that we would one day wake up with Jesus together.


Emma (sometime in 2005 we think – October 15, 2013)


We knew she was the right dog for our household when she and Clyde met for the first time and she snapped at him when he tried to mount her at the skeevy insurance/dog rescue office where we adopted her. She had been adopted as a puppy and returned to the shelter when she got “too big.” But she was perfect.

Emma  was boisterous and playful. A little instigator, who would drag things off of shelves and counters, only to let Clyde do the eating and take the blame.

She loved toys and she didn’t like to share them. After she and Clyde ripped open their Christmas passages, we would soon hear Clyde whining and inevitably find Emma with a stockpile, either on her bed or in her mouth. I think the most she ever fit in there at once was three giant squeaky toys.Emma on Chair 1 (Jun 25, 2006)

She knew how to make herself comfortable.

She loved to give kisses and sniff our faces. Sometimes she’d follow that with a burp, for good measure.

When she played with Clyde or Bradley and was really into it, she made this high-pitched groaning sound, like she was ululating. It was her expression of joy and it grew to be ours, as well.

She kept a close eye on the trees for birds and squirrels.She was always on high alert for potential yard intruders, and let us know with an insistent bark when something wasn’t right. In true herding dog form, she policed conflicts to ensure that all parties pawed the line, even when the cats tussled upstairs, Emma offered her faithful guidance from one or two floors below.

Emma and Isaiah

When we cried, she licked our tears.

She cuddled, within reason. Eventually she’d just up and leave, heaving herself onto the floor with a sigh. She needed her alone time. But when Bradley laid on top of her for hours on end, or buried in behind her on the couch, Emma was a patient pillow.

Emma was a true lady. Sweet and deeply invested in doing the right thing. She never whined to go out (which we wouldn’t have minded at all) and instead relied on Clyde to whine at us on her behalf when she needed to relieve herself. Even on the table at the vet’s office, before that final injection, she crossed her dainty paws as she tried to relax.IMG_2920

Looking back, we can see that her last few weeks were hard, but we didn’t know she was so sick until that last day, when her face and her labored breathing told us it was time. It was as if she hadn’t meant to intrude on our day, but she needed help that only we could provide.

We will miss you, darling girl. You were an amazing, lovely, sweet, and happy dog. Bradley is doing her best to cheer Clyde up, but you have left a hole in our lives and hearts that will take much time and many tears to fill. We love you, and we will see you again.