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Backstory: 'Maya'

Why I'll always be glad I painted this portrait of my longtime best gal

Maya - Tom Delamater

This one isn’t as much backstory as it is an after story. When I took a job in Texas several years ago, I left my dog Maya with my friend Lesley, who owns a wonderful pet resort in Ohio. I expected to eventually have her join me in Texas, but I was working a lot of hours, and she became accustomed to life there. And it was a great life. She got to see a lot of dogs and people every day, and was active and happy. Lesley and I agreed it would be best to let her live out her remaining years there.


I returned to Ohio in 2020 and saw Maya often. She was getting older and slower, but was still the happy, funny companion she'd always been.

In early 2021, I painted this portrait of Maya in an abstract style I’d been wanting to try. It was fun, and I liked the way it turned out.

Not long after, I had an interesting dream one night. Maya and I were walking through the floors of a big building. She was young and full of life, excited and curious, her tail wagging the whole time. There were other people there with their dogs, and everyone was having a good time.


We eventually made our way back down to the lobby, where a woman wearing scrubs came over and asked if she could help. I wasn't sure why she was there, but I said no, thank you, and we headed out into the sunshine. I woke up smiling because it was such a happy dream.

Later that very morning (it was a Sunday) Lesley called from out of state. Her staff had reached her; Maya was very sick. Could I drive over to be with her? Of course, I headed right over. It was an hour‘s drive, and when I arrived it was obvious Maya was not going to live much longer.

She was lying on a dog bed in a side room and had very little strength. (As it turned out, her organs were shutting down.) When I walked in, she knew it was me, and I laid down on the floor and started to talk to her and gently rub her head. I ended up staying with her for about six hours, mostly right there on the floor. Around 7 p.m. the veterinarian stopped by (remember the woman in scrubs?), confirmed that it was her time, and left to get the euthanasia medicine.

After the vet left, I was sitting on the floor next to Maya. She was still on her side, eyes closed, her breathing shallow—when suddenly she lifted her head, looked right into my eyes for a few seconds, put her head back down. . .and let out her last breath. Just like that, she was gone.


A sweet goodbye to my longtime pal

It was a little startling, but also one of the coolest, sweetest moments of my life. She may have just been looking to see if I was still there—they say dying animals do that sometimes—but it felt to me like she was saying goodbye. She was 15, just a great dog, and I felt fortunate to be with her when she passed. The vet returned, took care of her body, and it was all over.

Lesley and I had been in touch all day, so I called her, and she was understandably heartbroken that she hadn't also been able to be there. Then I texted my kids, who are now adults but were all school-age when we got Maya. As I got in my car and began to drive home, I thought about the dream I’d had the night before, and how happy she was in it, and how she and I had been together—just like we were in her final hours in real life. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

At any rate, I’ll always be glad I painted that portrait of the old gal. It still hangs in my home, a forever reminder of one of the best friends I’ve ever had.

February 2023

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