In the days following Max’s defiant sprint after the dog in the woods, he reverted to good-as-gold, and we were back to debating whether his misbehavior was just puppy high jinks or whether he needed serious training from an outside source. He had done very well during his visit at the George Derby Centre, and other than a lapse when he took off to tree two young raccoons on the trails, he had settled down well again. He was as happy being leashed for a walk to the store or coffee shop as he was being taken for a romp in the woods. He was attuned to our daily patterns, and woe betide me if I tried to send the girls back to school on their own after lunch. Max would get his leash and tear up and down the hall with it until I gave way and said we could go too. So although Hugh and I were still talking obedience school, some of the urgency had dissipated and we were content to roll along, guiding Max as best we could.
Three weeks after we acquired him, something happened to make February 22 a momentous day in Max’s life. The bitter cold had continued, and on the Sunday, it had snowed, so come Monday, we were well bundled up as we set off for our morning walk. Max was very frisky, thrilled with his introduction to snow. After dropping the girls at school, we continued on to the Derby Woods, and he bounded about and had a wonderful frolic in the exciting new white stuff that lined the trails. As we reached the old sports field, I saw another dog-walker on the far side of the grass. This turned out to be a neighbor who lived near the Derby Woods. Her name was Edna Lotocky. The dog racing back and forth beside her was her new pet, Brandy.
Over the years, Edna and I had met many times in Robert Burnaby Park, where I walked with Beanie and she walked with her aptly named St. Bernard, Trouble. The name sprang from the fact that Edna’s son had presented the new pup to her one Christmas Day when she had twenty-two people coming for dinner. However, the name turned out to be sadly appropriate. Poor Trubby was from a puppy mill. She was only six weeks old, full of ear mites and fleas, and had lost the sight of one eye. Mind you, Trubby could easily have been christened Lucky, because she couldn’t have found a more loving and caring owner than Edna. Still, true to her name, Trubby tended to be feisty, and whenever I had met Edna in the park, she had been squished into the bushes, holding onto Trubby to make sure there were no incidents. I was aware that Trubby had passed on and that Edna had acquired Brandy, but as yet, I had not met her new dog. Judging by the way Brandy was running free, I realized that Edna had acquired a more easy-going pet this time round.
I hailed Edna and hurried across the field. Max loped ahead, excited at the prospect of a new friend. However, when he reached Brandy, he jammed his brakes on. Brandy was six months older and already full grown. Max was daunted. He only came up to her undercarriage. Brandy, however, had no qualms about the newcomer. She was delighted to meet this eager new pup and started to run circles around him. Max was still overwhelmed, because she was boisterous as well as large, but she soon won him over to play with her. Edna and I continued our walk together, while the dogs raced about us. They were hilarious together. Brandy, with her long slim legs, would bound like a deer, circling around us, then charging back and forth. It was as if she had springs on her feet. Max, short and stubby-legged, thundered across the ground with as much deviation as a torpedo seeking its target. Brandy would leap in the air, and low-slung Max would zoom underneath her. By the time we finished our walk, he was exhausted. He flopped on the lawn in front of Edna’s house and had to rest before we set off for the walk home. When he finally got up and was ready to leave, he and Brandy kissed each other goodbye. It was the start of a lifelong friendship.
This first meeting with Brandy made a big impact on Max. The next day, we didn’t run into Edna on our walk and Max was visibly disappointed. When we reached the field, he looked for Brandy and was very dejected when he failed to find her. Then, the following day, when we met Edna again, Max was overjoyed. The two dogs frolicked so much that Max seemed relieved to go back on his leash at the end of the trails. Once again, there were kisses when they parted. After that, Edna and I did not leave meetings to chance. We arranged to walk together. Edna would wait with Brandy on her front lawn until I dropped the girls at school and crossed over to meet her. Thus began a daily pattern, and the dogs were thrilled to set off together for their morning adventures.
Over the course of his lifetime, Max did gradually develop a circle of friends, both canine and human, but the special friend whom he loved above all others was Brandy. He certainly showed good taste with his special pal, for Brandy was a lovely-natured dog. She was a Heinz 57 whose breed no one could pin down, although sheepdog was in there somewhere. That was obvious, not only from her appearance, but also from her herding instincts. On professional days, Edna, who looked after her grandsons, would bring them along to keep Caroline and Katie company on what we jokingly referred to as forced marches. If any of the children lagged behind, Brandy would leave Max, and zoom back to shepherd the laggards into line. Then she would hurry back to play with Max.
They were an odd pair to have struck up such an alliance: Max, with his wolf throwback genes, and Brandy, the sheepdog wannabe. So devoted, and so utterly different. He was feisty where she was friendly, suspicious where she was accepting, adventurous where she was cautious, and dominant where she was pliant. Yet the two of them forged an alliance that stood the test of time and outweighed their friendships with any other dogs. Lucky Max. He’d found a home with people who were willing to cope with his challenges, and now he’d found a friend. I was lucky too, because I’d also found a wonderful friend in Edna. Many happy years of walking lay ahead.
Next: Hindsight is always 20-20.