Max’s first few days with us had been deceptive. As he’d arrived on a Monday, he was introduced to a household where three of the four humans were out during the day so that many hours were spent having quiet time while the lady of the house did chores or worked on arts projects. He had a nice outing in the morning when we walked the girls to school and continued on for an amble in the park. Once the girls were home, there’d be some playtime, but even that was limited as both girls took dancing and gymnastics, and Caroline was heavily involved in figure skating, so often as not, Max’s after-school activity was to hop in the car and ride along while I delivered the girls to their classes.
If he was lucky, the activity of the day was at the Totem Figure Skating Club. Then he would get a bonus walk around Queen’s Park while we waited for the session to be over. He particularly liked the smells by the petting zoo. Based on how well Max coped with those first few days, I’d assumed that he was going to settle down to become a best-boy-in-the-class, good-natured companion.
But then came the weekend. Max, I discovered, was only good as gold when temptation did not fall his way. Once all the gang was home, best-boy-in-the-class became hell-raising-class-clown-with-an-attitude. A walk and a play didn’t tire him out; he just wanted more. As the day wore on, he became thoroughly naughty, dumping my vase of roses, ripping up his soccer ball, jumping on the bed and chewing the dowels on the kitchen chairs. He was so excited having everyone round all day that I had to forcibly isolate him and make him take a nap. It was just like having a naughty toddler again.
On Sunday morning, we took Max for his first off-leash walk in the woods. He had a wonderful time, racing around on his stubby legs and getting wild-eyed with excitement, but trying to settle him down afterwards was like trying to stop a steam engine under full throttle going down a 90% gradient. He puffed all the way home, still emulating a steam engine. I was merely the caboose on the other end of the leash, probably causing him to work a bit harder, but certainly not having much control over his progress. That afternoon, Katie had a friend over to play, and between them, they got Max thoroughly over-stimulated by setting out a mini-gymkhana in the garden and encouraging him to roar around the course jumping the hurdles. Later, he was still hyperactive, so I took him for a stroll through the George Derby Lands. Nothing seemed to tire him out. As long as we were up and about, he wanted action. I was very relieved when Monday came round and we were back to the quiet routine. However, having had a taste of whoopee, Max’s guarded observation of me had taken on a new aura. A question hung in the air: “When does the fun start again?”
The following weekend, some friends that we knew from Pender Harbour came to visit. The Whittakers owned a tiny ball of fluff called Tootsie. This little Pomeranian was not impressed with Max, but he was fascinated by her. In the interests of canine bonding, we took them to the park together. Max bounded all over the place, showing off, obviously trying to impress, but Tootsie decorously trotted alongside the humans and ignored him. Once home, Max was still determined to play, so much so that we were afraid he would sit on Tootsie and squash her. Finally, we had to place him on the far side of the living-room door, where he sat with his black nose flattened against the glass panes, the wild eyes tracking Tootsie’s every move. It wasn’t until close to the end of the visit before Max calmed down enough that we were able to settle both dogs in the same room.
On the Sunday, during his off-leash romp in the woods, we met a lady with a small white dog. Whether Max mistook the dog for his would-be lady love of the previous day, or whether he just wanted to make a new friend, he took off after the woman and flatly refused to come when he was called. When I say ‘refused’, I mean ‘refused’, and not simply that he was too excited to hear me, because he looked back at me, sized up the alternatives, and then made a conscious decision to run the other way. The owner of the other dog kept power-walking on her way, clearly contemptuous of the incompetent dog owner at her rear, and I had to jog half a mile before I could catch her and corral my misbehaved mutt. It was quite apparent that Max was no longer getting a gold star for behavior, but it was equally apparent that I was flunking dog ownership. I had a dog that I couldn’t train. For the first time in all my dog-owning years, the words, ‘obedience school’, started to slip into the conversation.
Next: A Visit to the George Derby Centre