That year was the beginning of difficult times for me and Hugh. I was missing Luigi and worried about my father, and on top of that, we were dealing with the start of teenage rebellion and often joked that Max wasn’t the only one who needed a long line. I have always dealt with stress by keeping myself busy, so poor Max must have thought his mistress had turned into a workaholic during the months ahead. Suddenly, I was multi-tasking multiple projects, and Max soon adjusted to the fact that morning-coffee time after our walk was now in the study rather than the living room. Philosophically, like the ho hum husky he was, he became used to curling up under my computer desk and napping on my feet.
One project that was proving challenging as well as diverting was the completion of my play, Casting for Murder, which at that time was still under its working title, To Catch an Actress. The work I had previously done was fine for the first two acts, but the third act wasn’t working. Writing a mystery play was a lot harder than I had anticipated. With my mind so focused on untangling my plot, we found ourselves attending a lot of mystery plays to analyze what worked and what didn’t. One evening, Hugh and I took the girls to the Richmond Gateway Theatre to see Agatha Christie’s Black Coffee. The actors playing Poirot and Hastings were delightful, but some of the other characters were less appealing and there were sections where the dialogue went on rather long. Five minutes into Act One while one of the actors was delivering what seemed an interminable monologue, Katie leaned over and whispered: “You know, Mummy, I wouldn’t be surprised if she were the one who gets murdered.” Wisdom out of the mouth of babes—I made a mental note to check my script for overly long speeches.
The next three months were a struggle to reshape the piece, and by the beginning of May, Act III had been changed beyond recognition. However, there were so many other family commitments and puppet activities happening that it was hard to find time to complete the task. My opportunity came on the May long weekend, when Hugh took Katie on a fishing trip. Caroline was busy with her own friends, so having seen Hugh and Katie off in the motorhome, Max and I had three days to do our own thing uninterrupted. Walkies and writing galore! Each day, we went for long rambles through the woods, then came home to spend companionable hours while Max played with his toys and I hacked away at my computer. Max also seemed to enjoy having me read him sections of the script. He would sit up attentively and hang on every word, his wolf smile showing approval at hearing his mistress’s voice changing to accommodate the various parts. By the Monday when Hugh and Katie rolled home, I had polished up the manuscript and was finally satisfied that I had done all I could. Max was thrilled to see his people back, and raced around, tail wagging a mile a minute. Happy dog and happy Mum. He had his family back and I was ready to begin the process of sending out scripts in the hope that someone would produce my play. It was actually five years before the play was staged, but since that first production, it has bobbed up in some part of Canada every other year, so the struggle was definitely worthwhile. As one of my writer friends commented: “That one has legs.”
Although Max had enjoyed his quiet weekend with me, he had been very indignant when Hugh and Katie had taken off and left him at home. In Max’s eyes, the motorhome was not supposed to move without him. Max not only believed he owned our motorhome; he seemed to think all such vehicles were his domain. Around that time, Edna and Dick acquired a new motorhome. Max was thrilled to see Brandy’s new ‘house on wheels’, which was very large and luxurious compared to ours. He leaped in, sat on guard in the doorway and tried to claim it as his own, even refusing to let Brandy on board. What he didn’t realize was that he was soon to have his own weekend away in our motorhome while we made some exciting arrangements for the summer. If all went well, Max was about to become Dog on Tour.