Max’s first day home included a walk with me, Hugh and Katie; Edna and her grandsons, Justin and Josh; and last, but definitely not least, Brandy. However, hotshot Max didn’t so much as say ‘Woof’ to Brandy, but simply tried to mount her. No finesse at all. Time in cowboy country had not improved his manners. What was interesting about the walk, though, was that Max abandoned me and Edna, and forged ahead with Hugh. The macho genes were kicking in again. Boys were the leaders; girls stayed at the rear. That was one of the reasons why Max loved it when Edna’s visiting dogs came with us. They were all females and he got to test his governance skills. We tended to stay on the bush trails in the summer months as there were fewer walkers there, and Max would lead his ladies up and down the ravines and play Chase-me-Charlie with them around the bushes. To our amusement, the dogs discovered that they liked salmonberries and would daintily purse their lips and pick them off the bushes when they felt like a mid-walk snack. However, the girls would never try to share Max’s bush. The king always had first dibs on what was available.
Max was becoming deeply bonded to Edna as well as her dogs. He was also possessive about her. If she bent to pat another dog, he would paw at her leg and demand that she gave him equal time. Edna was the only person outside the family that I could ever leave him with. On the day we took the children to the PNE, Edna dog-sat Max all day. He was thrilled to see us when we picked him up, but he had had a wonderful day. A smiling Edna reported that Max and Brandy had played until they dropped, but even after they flopped on the grass, they talked to each other. Oh, to be able to understand dog-speak!
The holiday might have been over, but Max still had lots of stimulation. With Hugh home for the summer, Max enjoyed outings to many different locations. We started to walk him at the Fraser Foreshore where he could run on the dykes and swim in the ditches. The boat rides from Ioco also helped him develop his swimming skills. He became as powerful in the water as he was on shore. He’d leap off the Optimist and swim a long way from the boat, and one day, he made it all the way to shore and back again. At that point, we moved the boat further out into the inlet. The last thing we wanted was to lose Max up the mountain.
Lighthouse Park was another favourite destination, especially if we went by boat. Hugh would drop me and the girls at Caulfield, and we’d hike down to visit my parents while he went fishing. One day, we arrived at my parents’ house to find another visiting dog. Zach was pleased to see Max, but Max was jealous and looked offended to see another canine with his grandparents. My mother smiled and said: “Wag your tail, Max!” whereupon my father turned and said, “What?” Naturally, this resulted in an eruption of giggles from the girls. At Five o’clock, we walked back to Caulfield, where Hugh was waiting with the Optimist. Then home we went, with a stop for pizza at Dundarave Pier. On the journey back to Ioco, we were eating our pizza and admiring a huge cruise ship that was coming under Lionsgate Bridge. Little did we realize the size of the waves it would produce, and as it went by, we were swamped. Max and I were soaked, much to the girls’ delight. Hugh managed to keep a straight face and rigged me out in oilskins from the cabin, so at least I didn’t freeze on the trip home. Poor Max wasn’t happy, though. We rubbed him down, but we couldn’t get him completely dry. I had a damp, bedraggled dog trying to snuggle up to me for warmth all the way back. It was dark when we reached Ioco, and by the time we drove home, Max was so tired he could barely keep his head up.
All this activity should have made for a contented dog. However, as the summer went on, Max’s behavior was still problematic. He couldn’t seem to settle down after the holiday, and he challenged every attempt to re-establish the work we had done before we went away. One day, after a training session, he ripped up our green garden table and then coughed and hiccupped all day because he’d swallowed bits of plastic. That summer was a busy time, too. Not only did we have a rebellious dog, but we were also dealing with the start of pre-teen ups and downs with the girls. We were preparing new shows for Halloween, and Caroline was getting ready to start high school. A municipal election was coming up in the fall, and because I’d run for Council on previous occasions, I was getting calls from reporters and pressure from potential candidates who wanted me to throw my hat into the ring. However, I was busy with my husband, my girls, my dog and my shows, and that was quite enough of a challenge for me. In fact, at that point in time, Max was enough of a challenge for me, and a difficult one at that.
Still, it was time for our next session with Gary Gibson, so help was on the way. When Gary arrived for the lesson, Max looked extremely put out. He was unimpressed with the whole concept of school. But in spite of his surly attitude at the start, the training session went well because Max actually liked doing tricks. The sense of achievement made him feel good about himself, and whenever he did something right, his eyes would sparkle. However, having gone through the session like a trouper, Max bit Gary on the ankle when the lesson was winding down. He just had to show that he was king. Gary put him in his place yet again, and by the time he left, we were set up with bitter apples, pamphlets galore, more training tips and a very tired dog who was worn out from the effort of all that thinking. Gary declared Max one of the most challenging dogs he’d ever come across, and warned us that we would probably never achieve absolute obedience. There would always be a degree of negotiation. He also informed us that Max needed a job. Obviously Pets and Friends was out, but he urged us to think about ways we could make Max feel more useful.
As the weeks rolled on, I persevered, and gradually, Max became more obedient. He walked well on the leash, and he performed his tricks enthusiastically. His long downs became a pleasant time when I read and enjoyed my cup of coffee, while he napped. For Hugh, who was not at home as often and had less interaction with our pet, it was a different story. Max, we soon realized, was not a dog that could be trained, and then follow commands for anyone who issued them. With this dog, it was a question of leadership, and every individual had to prove themselves worthy of being his commander. Max had accepted me as leader, but now he began to challenge Hugh. When Hugh put him in a Long Down, Max would throw a tantrum, and it took all Hugh’s might, plus the sturdy sofa leg, to keep him down. Gary Gibson had declared Max “More Dog than Most”. He had also told us we would learn more about dogs from Max than from any other dog we were likely to have. We were beginning to understand why.
Next: Dead Ringer?