So it was a roller coaster of a week. Our beautiful boy was baptized on Sunday surrounded by family and friends. It felt like a fairy tale. I loved seeing so many people who mean so much to me in one place. I loved knowing that RJ is going to grow up surrounded by such amazing people.

Then Monday came.

For those of you who have known me a long time, you know that I had two beautiful dogs that have meant so much to me. They were 13 and 14 years old, so they have been fixtures in my family. If you signed up for the newsletter, you have seen pictures of Maynard and me doing a “selfie.”

Maynard had been ill his whole life with skin infections and allergies. Over the last several weeks, however, it was becoming clear that he could no longer walk or even stand up to eat. He was falling often.

And my heart was breaking.

I am an animal loved in every way. I couldn’t stand to see him in pain but my husband held some hope that maybe there was more that we could do.

So we tried.

But on Monday we had an appointment to put him at peace, and I was trying to come to terms with it.

When Monday came, our veterinarian had a family emergency and was forced to cancel Maynard’s appointment. This left me wondering if we were making the right decision. It seemed like trying to reschedule was almost impossible.

But on Tuesday it became very clear that putting off his appointment would only harm him further. He fell going up the stairs. I called my husband to get him to come home from work, and our veterinarian saw us very late that night. We said our final “good-byes” and held Maynard until he slipped away. I was a mess. I couldn’t breathe for crying so hard. Our veterinarian was crying too since he had known Maynard since he was a tiny puppy.

So you might be wondering what this has to do with pitching and softball.

Getting to that.

For all of his illness, Maynard was an absolutely majestic animal. He was a fighter and a protector. When we first adopted him and brought him home (at a whopping 8 pounds) he was already growling and bristling if he thought that anything was a threat to either my husband or I. He either hated you or he loved you, but if he loved you he would go to every length imaginable for you.

He was a unique soul: unlike any other dog I have known or will know.

What struck me most in his passing was this: our veterinarian said that Maynard would keep living for us because he has always been a fighter and always would be, but he was hurting and exhausted and we shouldn’t make him fight anymore.

Maynard lived with constant skin infections and, later in life, trouble with his back and legs. Yet still he fought. The day before he passed I wanted to try to take him for one more walk since he loved them so much. As he struggled and continued to stop just to make it halfway down the block I was in tears. He was still fighting. He would keep trying as long as I asked him to.

But I couldn’t ask him to anymore.

Maynard taught me so much. It’s impossible to summarize it all in a few paragraphs. I would literally have to write a book. So here are just a few things:

Maynard taught me that love and trust are processes. When I first took him home from North Shore, he didn’t like me very much. I bathed him and fed him, and still nothing. When I came home from giving lessons that day and he had rolled in his own poop, and then I bathed him again, he learned to trust and love me. From that point on, my veterinarian said he was deeply imprinted to me. So much so that he would literally follow me around the house. I knew he was getting close to the end of his life when he no longer followed me around.

Maynard taught me to keep trying even when things seem hopeless. Though his skin infections and allergies always plagued him, we always searched for new ways to help him. We tried traditional medicine, herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic, special diets, and special medicated baths: pretty much anything you could potentially imagine. No matter what, we still held out hope and still continued researching the best ways to help him.

Maynard taught me how to show love without words. He always used to “mash” into me for hugs, but there were two other instances that really stood out where he demonstrated profound love. Once I was the sickest I had ever been in my life and had chills that I couldn’t stop. I had layers and layers of clothing and was piled with blankets. Still, I was shivering uncontrollably. Without me saying anything, Maynard and my girl Kona sat on top of me until I stopped shivering. They stayed there nestled with me and helped me feel better physically and emotionally.

Maynard showed a deep commitment to us: one that is difficult to describe and impossible to repay. My parents and I once took him and Kona for a walk near my house. We were nearly home when a huge, pitbull without an owner or a leash started approaching aggressively. Though Maynard was leashed and therefore somewhat handicapped, he went after that dog immediately. He was committed to protecting us even though the other dog was bigger than he and unrestrained. Needless to say, Maynard put himself on the line that day to protect us. He showed unwavering commitment and loyalty.

Do you see how this comes back to softball and to life? Do you love your sport? Do you trust your teammates? Are you committed to your team and coach? Are you willing to go through the process of getting better and not just going for a quick fix? Are you willing to keep trying even when you don’t see things getting better right away?

Most importantly, Maynard’s life makes us all ask ourselves the following question:

What kind of fight do you have in you? What lengths would you go to in order to be the best at your sport, at your academics, at your relationships? How hard will you push to become great? It’s important to ask these questions of ourselves on a regular basis. If your fight is gone, it can be hard to admit it sometimes. But you know deep within you, don’t you? That’s when it’s time to move on.

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