Max was very sad at the loss of my father. He had no idea why this special human had disappeared from his life, and it was one of the saddest moments when, for the first time after Dad’s death, we took Max to my parents’ house, for he searched every room and corner of the garden looking for his namesake.
It was hardly surprising that Max, the dog was so bonded with Max, the human. Dogs had always been a part of my father’s life, but he was old by the time his last dog died, so he had not wanted to get a new pet of his own. Therefore, Max filled a gap in his life during his old age.
My father’s love of dogs, along with his love of his bank book, is noted on a unique gravestone in the tiny Pender Harbour cemetery where his ashes are buried alongside my mother’s. Mum is commemorated with engraved roses and a poem touching on her charm and grace. Dad’s gravestone sports a German shepherd in one corner and a dollar sign in the other. It also contains a quotation from my play, Renovations, which only people in the family circle would understand. However, I suspect Dad would have been highly entertained by the fact that strangers who wander through the pretty country graveyard would see the gravestone and puzzle over the significance of the inscription. Like Max, the dog, Max the human was quite a character.
Max, the dog, was not a happy camper in the period after my father died. To add to the sorrow of Dad’s demise, Max also had to suffer the indignity of some new arrivals around the home. Minx the Manx was now firmly entrenched in the household, so there were frequent battles when Max cornered Minx and received a claw in his nose for his pains. A pesky cat was definitely no substitute for an adoring grandfather.
As if this wasn’t enough, new tenants appeared next door along with a large and beautiful dog named Sheamus. On the day they moved in, I was painting scenery in the garage below our deck. I had the door open to reduce the fumes, and Max was enclosed on the upper deck since I didn’t want him running out onto the road. As I continued with my painting, I was vaguely aware that there was activity in the driveway next door. Jody and Trevor were in the process of moving in. Suddenly, I had company. The large, shaggy and exuberantly friendly Sheamus had bounded in to introduce himself. As I patted the newcomer and told his owners how beautiful he was, I heard the clicking of paws and huffing and puffing overhead. Max was not impressed.
Although I expected some scuffles on either side of the fence when the two dogs were out in their yards, Max and Sheamus seemed to declare some sort of truce. As long as they kept to their own gardens, there didn’t seem to be a problem. I suspect that Sheamus attempted to be friendly and was snubbed by Max, who would have ignored him on principle for daring to make friends with his mistress. However, one day when Jody and I inadvertently left for our walks at the same time, the two dogs forged through their side-by-side gates, found themselves adjacent to each other, woofed loudly and veered joyously towards each other, finally given the chance for a scrap. If Jody and I hadn’t hauled on the leashes and back-pedalled at speed, doggy mayhem would have ensued.
No sooner had Sheamus moved in on one side of our garden, the neighbours on the other side also acquired a dog. This was a large black German shepherd, and to add insult to injury, he was also called Max. His owner informed us that their Max had trained to be a police dog but had ultimately been rejected for being temperamentally unsuited. The moment Hugh heard that the newcomer had failed police school, he christened him Max F, and so we distinguished him from our own Max from then on. Poor Max. He was so irked to have large male dogs on either side of him, especially since his mistress always talked to them when she was in the garden.
However, just as he had with Sheamus, Max proceeded to ignore Max F—until the day we returned from our walk and Max F was outside with his owners. We stopped to talk and I made the mistake of saying hello to Max F. My Max’s eyes narrowed and glittered, jealousy emanating from his pupils like laser beams, and the next thing I knew, Max F was flattened in the road. This was no mean feat considering that our Max, with his short stubby legs, only came up to the big shepherd’s midriff. I hauled Max off and took him inside, but his eyes continued to glitter, this time with delight. Two dogs and a cat invading his territory, but finally he had been given the chance to put one of the newcomers in his place. Once again, Max had proved he was leader of the pack.