In 2004, Max gained added novelty to his life when we started using our Pender Harbour cottage as a summer/weekend retreat. Our first tenants had been great, but work had taken them elsewhere, and there were problems with their replacements. These were serious enough that we had to issue an eviction notice, so rather than rent again, we decided to fix the place up so that all the family could enjoy it. Hugh had just retired from teaching, so cottage renovation became his first retirement project.
Max took to his new home-away-from-home like the proverbial duck to water. There was a fair-sized garden, and Hugh built a fence around the property, so Max had a big lawn to run on and a wild grassy slope to explore. He had cottage toys and town toys; he had treats and his own bowls in each location; best of all, he had a whole new set of walks to enjoy.
He loved the marine park, where he was able to run on the trails, but he also liked his extender-leash walks around the lagoon or up the road to the lake. In town, Max had his morning walk, and the rest of the day was usually spent at home. However, at Pender Harbour, he would enjoy a long morning walk, and then have two or three more outings. I did most of my writing at the cottage, so had to get up and stretch my legs after a couple of hours at the computer. Max reaped the benefit as my break always included a stroll around the pub path and the lagoon.
There were several hiking trails that we could drive to from the cottage. Ruby Lake was bordered by a narrow, but accessible path, and the Lion’s Club park had a loop through the woods that was a great adventure walk for dogs. The longest hike was at the Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park. This walk provided Max with a good run—though he had to be leashed once we reached the rocks on the far side of the park. We kept him well back from the cliff while we watched the raging whirlpools below.
Max adapted well to the laid-back ambiance in Garden Bay. There was a disparate but congenial assortment of characters living in the area, and rich and poor alike seemed to like dogs. There were a lot of local dogs, but there was also an abundance of four-footed visitors during the summer months. The Royal Vancouver Yacht club had an outpost in the bay, so there was a frequent parade of boaters exercising their dogs around the lagoon. Unlike in town, where Max tended to be feisty, at the cottage he seemed to accept all these other canines as being part of the scenery.
Max soon became familiar with the locations that provided treats. He enjoyed ice-cream cones from Laverne’s fish and chip shop, which was next door to our cottage, or soft cones from John Henry’s Store if Laverne’s was closed. Shopping excursions by boat to the other side of the harbour usually included a hot-dog break at the stand by the IGA. Max also figured out quickly which of the locals kept treats in their pockets. Bribery worked every time if people wanted to make Max their friend.
On one occasion, when we had been in town for the winter months, Max really made us laugh on our arrival at the cottage. He had received his usual batch of new toys for Christmas, and forgetting that he already had a squeaky Kermit frog at Pender Harbour, we had bought him another one to be that year’s ‘cottage toy’.
When we arrived, I realized our mistake because the old green Kermit lay in the middle of the living-room rug, along with a variety of other cottage toys. However, I took the new toy out of the bag and gave it to Max anyway. He looked a little puzzled as I gave him the frog. Then, frowning as if concentrating took a huge effort, he took the toy over to the rug, dropped it to one side, then picked up the old Kermit toy and placed it side by side with the new one. Max was one smart dog, for all his naughty ways.
Usually, it was just me and Hugh present on these holidays, but sometimes the girls would drive up to join us too. When Caroline came with her children, we had to be vigilant. Max had never been overly tolerant of little people so the children were issued with strict instructions that they could talk to Max but were not to pat him. If I was busy and unable to properly supervise, Max would be banished to our bedroom. However, one morning when two-year-old Veronica was still asleep on the living-room sofa-bed with her little bare feet sticking out from under the quilt, Max showed a surprisingly benevolent side. He ambled out of the bedroom, sniffed the tiny feet and deposited a gentle lick on Veronica’s toes.
Max spent many happy holidays at the cottage. He was always excited when it was time to set off, and settled in, blissfully content, when we arrived. He particularly liked our cottage deck, where he could sit above the road and view all the action as trippers and boat dogs paraded around the lagoon. He sat king-like, viewing his subjects, happy in his superior position with the 180 degree view. Was it the advancement of age, or simply the laid-back Coast ethos that made him a much more mellow fellow? Who knows, but whatever the reason, Max loved being a cottage dog.