Friday, May 19, 2017

My Boy

My handsome boy
.A couple of weeks ago we lost a beloved member of the family.  My dog, Max, was the best dog ever.  He was the sweetest, most intelligent, most well-behaved dog I have ever had.

When I first got him, back in 2003, he was already fully grown but still a youngster.  We were all quite impressed with his remarkably white teeth.

Anytime I instructed Max about the rules of his new household, I would swear that this dog understood every single word I said.  He would look me straight in the eye and seemed to connect with my meaning exactly ... and then do what I had just asked him to do.  It was a little uncanny, to say the least, as I remarked to my sister at the time.

Max was a lick-er.  In fact, that was one of the things that endeared him to me when I came across him at the pound.  He licked my hand with such sweet affection and supplication, that I just couldn't pass him by.  I fell in love with that sweet boy right there.  My niece often complained that Max would always manage to give her calf a quick lick anytime she walked into the house, no matter how much she tried to keep him at bay, but that was just his form of greeting.  Kisses for everybody!

Max and Nola: inseparable
Max was the only dog who ever watched tv with me.  He could see the images on the television clearly, and would react immediately to any dog or other animal that appeared on the screen.  At first, he would charge at the screen, barking fiercely, but he soon learned to tone down his behavior over time.  I think that he figured the tv was some kind of big window, because every time he saw an animal on it, he would ask to be let outside immediately after.  He never did find those tv animals out there, though ... go figure.

Eventually, he would only glance occasionally at the screen to check things out, but he always still took in what was being presented on the screen.  Those tv animals stopped fooling him altogether in his later years.  He knew they weren't really there, after all.

His uncanny eyesight was evident when we walked into the vet's office, as well.  He noticed a couple of bunnies in the artwork hanging in the room, and immediately ran over to bark at them.  None of my other dogs had ever reacted to an animal in an art print before ... I was amazed he could make them out at all and that it didn't just look like a big blur to him ... but Max's eyes were amazing.

Clockwise from bottom left: Sasha, Nola, Max and Noelle
Max had a lot of girlfriends.  Noelle, the husky, was the queen of the pack and Max respected that.  Soon a puppy, Sasha, was brought into the mix, and Max and Noelle both kept her in check with strict schooling.  My niece's dog, Nola, was next and immediately made an enemy of Noelle by challenging her authority.  From that moment on, Nola employed Max as her personal protector, never leaving his side, especially when Noelle was around.  There would be Kena and Cassie later, as well, and Max got along famously with all of them.

Max was my constant companion.  He would come with me on visits to see my mom, frequent trips to the park or to see his girlfriends, quick trips to the grocery store, and any other errand he could join me on.  He hated to be left behind at home, and would sometimes sulk if I did so.

Max (center) awaiting treats with his
girlfriends Sasha, Cassie and Kena
Which reminds me ... Max was also the moodiest dog I have ever known.  He was extremely adept at making it clear when he was not happy with me for one thing or another, or if I ever had to reprimand him for some reason.  He would place his chin directly on the floor and just follow me with his eyes, and his sulking and facial expressions were unmistakable.  My niece commented on his moodiness more than once.  In many ways, he was almost human.

It may be a strange thing to say about a dog, but the one thing that really sticks out in my mind is the fact that Max made me proud.  He was always the best-behaved dog in the dog park.  He made doggy-friends effortlessly.  He would mind his own business, eminently interested in inspecting the brush around him, and causing no trouble whatsoever.  However, should a skirmish break-out, he would come running in with a chest-bump to separate any fighting dogs.  He wouldn't stand for discord.  He would come to any of his girlfriends' defense in a flash, but only to end the fight ... never to engage or prolong it.  We started calling him "The Pacifier" ... he was the peacekeeper of the pack.

Max keeping his yard safe from squirrels
He was very quiet, rarely barked.  My neighbor commented once that he was so quiet, she didn't even know I had a dog.  She had made his acquaintance one day when he got out of the yard and ended up calmly smelling the flowers in her garden.  When I found him there, he obediently allowed me to take him back into the yard.  (My previous dog would have taken off at a break-neck run, instead, just for the fun of it.)  He was the most well-behaved dog I ever had.  He made his mama proud.

The exceptions to that rule were squirrels and another neighbor's loud lawn equipment.  Both were favorite sports.  He would chase and bark after them both, accepting no intrusions into his backyard domain, especially the pelting dirt and grass that came flying through from the other side of the fence from the edger.

He became "top dog" after the death of my sister's beautiful husky.  He took the lead easily and naturally, and wore that title proudly until age made him unable to keep a rambunctious new puppy in check.  He dealt with the blow of being knocked out of the lead dog position as gracefully as he had handled his turn at leadership.  He always made me proud of him.

One of many dog park excursions
I know that Max had a good life.  He was a happy boy who enjoyed lazing in the backyard, chasing squirrels, playing with his many girlfriends, taking rides in the car, going to the dog park with me or his best pal, Patrick of E3 Dog, going for walks, and many other excursions.  And treats!!  Maybe he had more than his fair share of treats, but I couldn't help myself ... he was such a good boy!

Time finally caught up with him, and he started experiencing issues of failing health.  I bought him a couple of dog ramps, to help with his weakening legs, so he could still join me on car rides.  I bought a sling to heft him up when he needed additional help.  I got him booties to give him additional traction on the floors, which he never really liked but tolerated like a champ.  I tended to him as best I could for the last few months, and he was holding his own very well for a long time, but the inevitable always comes to pass.  Some goodbyes are harder than others.

Max gave me many years of companionship and happiness.  He was such a good dog ... my peace and calm in the house, my affectionate pup, and my dependable joy.  I miss my boy.

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