The first weeks of 1994 were depressing. We and the world were out of joint. The news was dominated by news of Sue Rodriguez’s right to die, or downers from the world of figure skating. Brasseur and Eisler placed third when they should have won gold. Harding and Kerrigan were feuding. Kurt Browning was over the hill. On the home front, everyone in our family was sick. The doctor said Caroline’s chest sounded like a chain saw and mine was squeaking with pleurisy, so we were both on antibiotics. I was also struggling ineffectually with my Max scripts, yet nothing was flowing off the pen. And poor Max was missing Brandy.
For a dog with Max’s exuberant energy, it was torture to be confined to leash walks with no opportunity for play. When we walked through the Derby trails, he would stand on the bridge, looking down to Brandy’s favourite waterhole, and cry pitifully. But since the vet had said that Max had to be kept calm, Edna and I couldn’t risk joining up for our walks. One day, though, as Max and I plodded through the trails, we met Edna with Brandy, who was also leashed due to an injured shoulder. Brandy was ecstatic to see Max, but funnily enough, Max was standoffish. It was as if he couldn’t understand why she’d neglected him for so long. Still, they managed to behave, and with both dogs leashed, we were able to return to our old routine. The next day, I walked Katie to school and continued on to Edna’s house, and this time, Max was thrilled. His tail went a mile a minute. He and Brandy behaved on their walk too. They seemed to understand that they couldn’t run and play. They were just happy to be together
When we finally took Max to the vet to have his stitches taken out, there was one small spot still bleeding, so Dr. Zinger ordered the leash walks to continue for another three weeks. You could have sworn Max knew what was being said, because he became most uncooperative. He lay down in the corner so we couldn’t lift him up and refused to roll over. Once we’d forcibly dragged him out and held him down so that the stitches could come out, he grudgingly allowed Dr. Zinger to pat him. Such a contrary animal. Around this time, the movie, Iron Will, came out and we took the girls to see it. It was a gripping movie, set during the 1917 Iditarod, the annual sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome. Gus, the lead dog, looked a lot like Max and certainly had some of his temperament. Watching the show brought to mind much that our trainer, Gary Gibson, had told us. When we returned home, we all made a fuss of Max, but Hugh wryly commented that we had landed ourselves with dog who should be christened ‘Wus than Gus’.
To be fair to Max, he co-operated on his leash walks. I supposed he realized it was that or nothing. Occasionally something different would happen to make the walk interesting. One weekend, we noticed a new trail and went exploring. The path soon ended in a glade, where we discovered a locked and camouflaged shack in the woods. Once home, we reported it to the RCMP, and were asked if we’d accompany a constable back to the woods and show him the location. Max was delighted to get a second walk, though he was not too sure about the large, uniformed male who accompanied us. The locked cabin turned out to be nothing more than a teen hangout, and nothing was discovered on the premises, other than a porno magazine, which the officer confiscated and put in a black plastic bag. As we walked back, I went ahead with Max, and Hugh and the constable walked behind us. As we emerged onto the main trail, we met Samantha and her owners. They took one look at the policeman, walking three paces behind me, and said I had it pretty good to have an RCMP officer assigned to follow me and my dog with a plastic bag. The constable did not look amused.
By the first week in February, Max was due for his check up and shots. We went on a Saturday, and Dr. Zinger was very jolly with him. As Hugh commented, “Why wouldn’t he be? At the rate he was going, Max was going to pay for Dr. Zinger’s early retirement.” Max behaved moderately well, and to everyone’s relief, we were told that he could now run and play for short periods, although we had to break him in slowly. So the following day, we took him to the Foreshore where we let him have his first off-leash gambol since his injury. What a happy dog he was. On Monday, he was even happier, for he and Brandy were finally allowed to play. He even had a bonus, for we met two ladies with three friendly dogs, and all five had a terrific romp while the humans chatted. So much for starting in gradually,
By Valentine’s Day, Max was completely healed. He enthusiastically took part as we shared out Valentine’s chocolates and cards. His treats, of course, were not chocolate, but hamburger chews, which he liked, though he proceeded to make rude smells for the rest of the day. He also enjoyed his present from Brandy, and later, we walked round to deliver his present to her—cookies enclosed in a fancy box made by Katie.
It was no wonder, later on, I created a show called Guard Dog with Heart, loaded up with all sorts of silly puns and a rock group called The Hearts. Max and Brandy really were Valentines. Two dogs who were always happy when they were together. He might have been howling the blues as the year began, but by February 14, he was right back in the pink.