Rest in Peace, Max Dauernheim

We first met Max at an adoption event at a pet store in DC. I don’t even remember why we were downtown, or why we decided to stop in to this particular pet store on this particular day. But there we were, and there we met the little fur ball that has been a big part of our lives for the past 14 years.
Max was, quite literally, the runt of the litter. While the other puppies were barking and jumping to get attention from all of the onlookers, Max was just standing there and waiting for someone to notice him. We picked him up, and it was like he knew we were meant for him. He was quiet and patient and at some point, we knew.
After the Partnership for Animal Welfare approved our adoption, Max came home to our little apartment in Falls Church. He lived in the kitchen and a cardboard box as he was being potty trained, and I came home from work every day at lunchtime to let him out for some play time.
He was always a smart dog. Before we had human children, Max was passing obedience tests with flying colors, and became a “therapy dog,” visiting nursing homes with us and bringing smiles to the faces of all the residents. Max even won a silver medal at one of the local dog festivals for running the bases with me.
The years rolled on and we had two human kids, and Max was a great companion for them too. He was never a great watchdog, he never stuck his head out of the car window, and he wasn’t the most enthusiastic fetcher of tennis balls. But feeding Max and taking him for walks became chores for the kids, and so in his way, he taught them responsibility.
Last week, Max suddenly got sick. He wasn’t able to eat anything, and when we took him to the vet, it was clear that something was wrong with his liver. The vet did what they could for a couple of days, and eventually we took him home. It looked for a while like he might be okay: he was eating some food and drinking some water, and the jaundice in his eyes was receding. Unfortunately, he took another turn for the worse and he pretty much gave up on eating. Over his last few days, we did our best to keep him comfortable and surrounded by the people who loved him.
Max died today. He was 14 years old. Rest in peace, buddy.

Game Four Memories

When it was clear that the Washington Nationals were going to make their first postseason this year, I could not resist getting tickets. I took a chance that Game Four would be “necessary,” and managed to get two tickets to the game. (If there had been a sweep, I would have gotten my money back, so no big deal.) As it turned out, the game would end up being at a perfect time of day: 4:07pm. I could take my son, Evan, to the game with me to experience our first playoff game together.

The butterflies started building in my stomach around noon, and when I couldn’t take it any more, I left work and went home to get the boy from school. He excitedly changed into his Nats shirt in the car and we hopped on the Metro to the stadium. At 1:30pm, the train was mostly full of early bird Nats fans heading down to the game with us and at one point, we spotted two teachers from his school. We gave each other a wink and a nod and went our separate ways.

Hopping off the train, I picked up a new red Nats hat for the boy, a bag of peanuts, and we headed inside and got our “Natitude” rally towels. The crowd was still sparse, but the excitement was in the air. Behind the center field scoreboard, kids were getting their face painted and Evan got a balloon sword, which he somehow managed to get all the way home without popping. We found our seats and headed down to the right field wall to watch batting practice and hope to catch a ball. We had no such luck though, in spite of the cute guy with the little glove begging for the ball. Finally, we settled into our seats and waited for the game to start.

The National Anthem was sung, and out strolled the giant Frank Howard. Howard is still a beast of a man and is most famous for hitting mammoth homeruns at RFK Stadium. There are white seats in the upper deck where Howard hit particularly monstrous homeruns. Who knew that having this slugger throw out the first pitch would be so appropriate?

Finally, the game got underway. Our seats in right field were directly in the line of the sun for a good portion of the game until the sun finally ducked behind the upper deck. On many of the early hits, we had no idea where the ball had gone, save for the reactions of the players. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be on the field in that situation. Ross Detwiler was the last hope for the Nats. The first three pitchers in the Nats’ rotation – Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Edwin Jackson – had let the fans down with their efforts. Detwiler stepped up from the first pitch and did little wrong. Only an error from Ian Desmond (followed by a foolish but overlooked throw to home from Bryce Harper when he should have thrown to second) allowed the Cardinals to put up a run. The Nats had trouble hitting as well though. Only Adam LaRoche managed to get the fans out of their seats with a solo homer to give the Nats the lead in the second. That’s not to say that the fans weren’t on their feet. We were all excited and itching for something to happen, but over and over again, we had to sit down and wait for another moment.

Evan did pretty well throughout the game. There was a moment in the fourth inning when he asked when we were leaving (“When the game is over, buddy.”), but that quickly passed when I told him that the Presidents Race was coming up. Then he spent the next inning and a half talking about that. We grabbed some hot dogs at one point and we managed to stay in our seats for most of the rest of the game until the top of the ninth. Two outs, man on first, Drew Storen pitching to Matt Carpenter. Storen runs it to a full count, and Evan says he has to pee. I manage to hold him off until Ian Desmond corrals the popup for the third out and we make a mad dash to the bathroom and make it back to our seats just in time to hear the PA announcer say, “Now batting, Jayson Werth.”

And then, this happened.

By this point everyone was standing for the entire at bat, and with each narrowly foul ball we held our breath. Finally the last crack sounded and the place erupted. We knew. The Nats had lived to see another day.

Jayson Werth was ostensibly the hero, delivering the walk-off homer. But don’t forget Detwiler’s six solid innings. Jordan Zimmermann’s electric three strikeouts out of the bullpen. Tyler Clippard striking out the side. Ian Desmond’s defense saving a fine inning for Drew Storen.

What a game. And how awesome to have my son there with me to see it.