Once the excitement of the shows was over, Max became sulky again. There were just too many family outings that didn’t include him. The week leading up to Christmas was one event after another: two open houses, a matinee at the Playhouse where the girls and I were convulsed by a wonderful production of Charley’s Aunt, a visit to Stanley Park for a ride on the Christmas train, our anniversary dinner at the William Tell, where, although we had a great chat with Mr. Dobeli talking about our respective dogs and comparing notes on their antics, Max was still left at home to sulk. At least he got to accompany us when we made a meals-on-wheels visit to Mum and Dad to deliver presents and pick holly. Max thoroughly enjoyed the holly cutting with his namesake, but I was sad to realize that my father was gradually losing the battle with his illness. Still, he soldiered on, insisting on taking Max around the crescent for their usual walk. The two were deeply bonded, and I knew Max was going to be very sad when Dad passed on.
In spite of our busy schedule, Max still had his daily walks with Edna and Brandy. He loved the crisp, cold air, but his antsy mood showed up in his behavior. One day, Hugh came with us for a walk down to the Brunette River. The river was running so fast that Max was afraid to go in, but Brandy made a couple of forays into the water to reclaim the sticks that Hugh had thrown. Macho Max was clearly put out to be shown up by his girlfriend, and later, when Hugh was playing with him, he started to nip again. Sigh! One certainly couldn’t roughhouse with this dog. Home for yet another long down.
Max was much happier on his next walk. By now it was two days before Christmas and we came home with a ton of loot from Edna and Brandy. Max was very excited to see his presents going under the tree. Fortunately, our old house had glass-paned doors on the living room, so we were able to close off the area. However, I noticed an increase in the number of nose prints on the glass once the gifts started to pile up. In between worshipping the tree, Max watched me clean silver, put up holly, wrap gifts, and busy myself in the kitchen making Christmas treats, the latter activity definitely being his favourite.
Christmas Eve was lovely. After some last minute shopping, we took Max for a long ramble in the park. Our friends, the Dahlos, came to visit in the afternoon, and that was delightful because they understood that Max was not a pattable and followed the directive to just say, “Hi Max,” and ignore him from that point on. Caroline was visiting Andre that afternoon, but Katie acted as hostess, passing round the trays of goodies, and Max, after weeks of iffy behaviour, was suddenly transformed into best-boy-in-the-class mode. In the evening, we took the girls to the early carol service at St. Albans; then came home to sit around the tree and anticipate the morrow.
But oh, what a morrow it turned out to be. The day started well, with all the usual fun of present-opening. Hugh and I put the turkey on early; then I beavered away getting everything else ready for Christmas dinner while the girls played with their loot. Mum and Dad arrived by noon, so we had a lovely visit throughout the afternoon. However, like all Christmas Days when one hosts a turkey dinner, it was a busy one for me. Carla and Ron arrived shortly before dinner, so I reminded them of the don’t-pat-Max rule, since Ron took the attitude that he got on well with dogs but made a habit of staring them down. By the time I served up, all the adults were extremely merry. Dinner went well, with Max continuing to behave himself, even though Ron had looked his way several times and received a baleful stare in return.
Not wanting to take any chances, I made Max come to the kitchen with me while I cleaned up. Finally, the chaos in the kitchen was brought under control and the dishwasher was on. I decided a quick bathroom break was in order, and then I’d be ready to party. Max had snuck back into the hall, so I went to fetch him and take him upstairs. Foolishly I let Hugh and Dad persuade me that they could watch him for two minutes, so I reissued the ‘don’t touch’ directive and went to the loo. Within a minute, there was a knock on the bathroom door and I heard Hugh’s voice informing me that Max had bitten Ron. So much for peace and goodwill! I was ready to brain every one of them. The moment my back was turned, they’d all decided that Max was just fine, Mummy was simply paranoid and Ron was free to ruffle Max’s ears to his heart’s content. That was the end of the party for that Christmas Day.
The moral of that story, according to my well-lubricated-with Christmas-cheer husband, was that I shouldn’t go to the bathroom. Needless to say, the frost in the air wasn’t just outdoors on that particular night and Max wasn’t the only one in the doghouse.