Everyone was exhausted after the New Year’s party, but Max, who’d slept upstairs throughout most of the festivities, was wide awake and raring to go for his morning walk. Mum and Dad were heading home that day, so Hugh and I dropped them at the station and then took Max to the Foreshore Park, where his nose started to bleed and we had to take off his muzzle. Needless to say, he was very pleased with himself, so it was another victory for naughty Max, which was just what we didn’t need.
Max loathed his muzzle and he would duck and dodge, doing whatever he could to prevent me putting it on, even though it was the prelude to the off-leash section of his walk. As time went on, he became even more bothered by it. I hated making him wear it but dreaded him getting into trouble if something triggered his aggressiveness. I tried letting him run with Brandy in the bush trails first, and only putting the muzzle on when we reached the top trail; this helped a bit as he had burned off a lot of energy and had enjoyed some fun playing with Brandy. However, the day came that he hid when it was time to leave for our morning walk, and I realized that it simply wasn’t going to work.
We decided to try the promise collar again, but this time, to go to the SPCA and get Gary Gibson to help us fit it. When we arrived, Gary informed us that we had bought the wrong type, so were sent away with instructions to exchange it and to try a Velcro muzzle instead. On a positive note, Gary did manage to make contact with Max without getting bitten so it was a successful visit in that regard. From Max’s point of view, it was also a successful visit because it meant another visit to Tisol and more treats to compensate for the muzzle fitting. Once he was fitted with his Velcro muzzle, we tried it out on his morning walk. I was concerned that it would hamper his breathing, given that it had far less leeway for jaw movement than the cage muzzle. However, Max seemed not to mind. He came to his whistle when called and surprised us all with his angelic behaviour.
The next day, he was back to normal. Now that the dreaded cage had been discarded, he was a happy dog again. He came roaring down the hall when it was time for his walk, in his enthusiasm, managing to have a head-on collision with me as I bent to put on his leash. Since Max had a head like a boulder, I saw stars for the next five minutes. Once in the park, he took off after another dog, chasing it up the hill at high speed. Having caught it, he roared about, happily playing with his quarry, then thundered back, tongue hanging out the end of his muzzle. He screeched to a halt, leaped into a puddle and drank thirstily. So much for my concern that the muzzle would hamper his breathing.
However, it was a few weeks later that he really demonstrated how little he was hampered by the muzzle. Edna and I had walked the dogs through the lower George Derby Land trails, and when we came back to the top trail, I left Max off leash but put his muzzle on. Shortly afterwards, we ran into Kelsey and her owner. To our surprise, Kelsey growled at our dogs, but we soon saw the reason why. Kelsey had a large bone. Her owner explained that there was a camper in the nearby field and that Kelsey had pinched the bone from the dog that was tied up outside the trailer. Edna and I moved on, and sure enough, as we rounded the corner, we saw an old beater of a trailer in the middle of the field. We couldn’t see a dog, but I thought I’d better leash Max in case it suddenly appeared.
However, at the very moment I reached for Max, he picked up the scent and darted forward. In the same instant, a large dog appeared in front of the trailer. As I sprinted after Max, I saw that the dog had spotted us approaching. He was almost a Max look-alike, though as we drew nearer, I could see he was more Malamute than husky, and much larger than Max. He was also attached to the trailer by a sturdy chain. Max thundered forward and then skidded to a stop. He appeared to be sizing up the situation. If I could have put a thought bubble over his head, I swear it would have said: “I may be muzzled, but he’s tied up!” I raced forward and reached out for Max’s collar, but before I could catch hold, Max loped over to the Malamute. As I stood there, with baited breath, wondering what was going to happen next, they began playing head-over-head to see who was going to be top dog. Max, with his short stubby legs, practically had to stand on tiptoe to do this, but he seemed determined to assert himself in spite of the Mally’s superior size and impressive jaw, not to mention the fact that his own jaw was wrapped in a Velcro muzzle.
At that moment, a man emerged from the trailer, but before he could rein in his Malamute, the two dogs started to fight. It was amazing. In spite of their restraints, they went at it hammer and tongs. The Mally could bite, but he couldn’t manoeuvre, and Max couldn’t bite, but he could hop about and do body checks. Seeing that the Mally’s owner was not going to make a move, I plowed in and pulled Max out of the fray, whereupon he made one last lunge, forward and down, before I managed to yard him back. Having got my breath, I raised my eyes and saw that the other dog’s owner looked stunned as he stared at my dog. I looked down, and realized the cause of the man’s amazement. Hanging by a thread of meat out of the end of Max’s muzzle was a humungous bone – clearly the object of the fight. Goodness knows how Max managed to grab it with a jaw wrapped in Velcro. He must have pursed his lips up like a twenties vamp in order to grab it, but grab it he did.
Since the poor Malamute had already lost one bone that day to Kelsey, I was determined to return this one, though the glint in Max’s eye dared me to take it away. However, after a few vigorous shakes of Max’s collar, the meat broke and the bone dropped. I kicked it back to the dog and we went on our way. I was exhausted, but Edna was in convulsions. As for Max, he looked very pleased with himself and trotted beside me like a little racehorse. Velcroed but not vanquished. Muzzled, but most definitely not moderated. Max had conquered the muzzle.