Looking back on Max’s early months in our household, I often wonder that he turned out as well as he did. Some of those early diary entries sound like utter bedlam. April was particularly fraught, though the chaos was understandable, given the start to the month. Second Street School had an outbreak of nits during the first week, and both our girls managed to get them, bring them home and pass them on to me. Hugh, of course, likes to point out that, unlike the rest of us, he was nit-free. Sample entries for the month:
Friday, April 9: Easter marathon. Ran the proverbial Chinese laundry all day while delousing everyone’s hair. Hugh vacuumed non-stop in between stuffing the turkey and helping me with dinner. We warned our guests but they decided to come anyway. My mother’s comment on arrival was, “Oh, my dear, if you got those when I was young, you were considered absolutely beyond the pale. I still remember Nitty Nora.” Everyone was very witty at our expense. Max was cross because he missed his walk, so when our guests arrived, we handed him to them, along with his leash, and told them to take him for a quick hop around the block. Started on the sherry mid-morning to cope with the pandemonium, so we were borderline catatonic by bedtime, but at least we didn’t itch.
Sunday, April 11: Max enjoyed Easter Sunday. He did a Good-Boy hunt while the girls did their Easter-egg hunt. Once he found all his Good Boys, we gave him a new chew toy. He became fiercely possessive about it and worked at it all day. He was still chewing hardily when we came back from church. Finished the rest of the laundry in the afternoon. Max every bit as busy as the washing machine, which was still chugging away well into the evening. Max gnawed his toy right up until bedtime and I had to remove it before he’d go to sleep.
Saturday, April 14: Hugh took Caroline to skating and I tried to sleep in. When he returned, I was looking forward to tea in bed. Instead, I heard a crash and a lot of swearing. Katie came up to inform me that Max, in the process of exuberantly greeting Daddy, had got his foot caught in the phone cord, knocked it down and broken it.
Monday, April 19: Came home from my singing lesson to hear the girls announce they’d seen a mouse in the kitchen. When we traced its bolt hole to a bottom drawer, I found mouse droppings all over my tablecloths, plus dog food that the little critters had dragged in. Given Max’s adventure with the mole the previous week, I figured that he might prove to be good at nabbing rodents. However, the girls informed me that Max had seen the mouse and looked the other way. Apparently he only likes dead ones. I saw the girls off for school, closed the drawer and had lunch. Then, when Hugh got home we tackled the mess. As I vacuumed, the mouse came out of hiding and did a few more laps of the kitchen. While I shrieked for help, Max looked on inquisitively, watching the mouse run back and forth and making no attempt to catch it. However, he seemed vastly entertained watching us try to corral it.
Friday, April 23: Out for a swim at Pauline’s in the morning. Left a note for the girls with their lunch. When I got home, I saw that Katie had added a creatively spelled postscript: “Caroline gave Max a hole waffle.” That evening, we went to the Whittakers for dinner. Max was delighted to see Tootsie again, but blotted his copybook by trotting into the rec-room and cocking his leg on a bar stool. Needless to say, he spent the rest of the visit in the car.
The leg-lifting incident was actually a warning of things to come. Generally, Max was a perfect gentleman in that regard, but occasionally he would lapse, such as the occasion of Caroline’s birthday party at Ioco. When I was setting clues for a treasure hunt in the area around the boat club, Max mistook my leg for a signpost. Everyone thought this was hilarious. However, as our trainer, Gary Gibson, later explained to us, these incidents were not accidental; they were a sign of dominance. This was his way of showing defiance; he was telling us we weren’t his boss.
Of course, Max wasn’t the only creature in the family who challenged authority. Another diary entry described a day when Katie was playing with the girls next door. Anna and Emily had come to visit, and Katie had taken them down to the basement to play dress-ups. After a while, all three trooped back next door, and when I went downstairs, I found a big mess in our basement. I went out onto the deck and looked over the fence to call them back, but I couldn’t see Katie anywhere. However, Emily was there with a little girl I didn’t recognize, so I asked them to send Katie home. To my amazement, the little stranger started to quiz me as to why Katie had to come home. I was galled by her impudence, but explained that Katie had cleaning up to do. To my further disbelief, she started asking more questions. I was about to tell her exactly what I thought of rude little children who didn’t know their place, when suddenly I realized there was something familiar about the precocious monster. Looking closely, I saw it was Kate herself, disguised by a riot of colourful paraphernalia from the dress-up box. Yes, Max had some pretty good examples to follow.
In hindsight, though, in spite of all the high jinks, April and May contained the seeds for the beginnings of a sad period in our lives. However, we did not realize the significance until many years later. That spring, my parents had returned from a lengthy trip to Australia. Soon afterwards, my mother developed a blood clot in her leg. At the time, it was a concern, but did not seem life-threatening. It simply resulted in us making lots of extra trips to West Vancouver, where Katie, seeing Nana as a captive audience, would sprawl across the bed with her Barbie dolls and play happily for the entire visit. Max, too, liked the comings and goings as they usually resulted in extra walks in Lighthouse Park. Although the thrombosis appeared to heal over the next few weeks, it sadly proved to be the beginning of the mini-strokes that ultimately caused my mother’s dementia. At the time, though, she was still such a bright and lively lady, always there to listen to my scripts or soundtracks and ready to discuss ways to improve them. The girls loved their Nana dearly, and so did Max. Inevitably, once he’d had his walk with my father, he would mosey in to visit Nana, a pattern that continued throughout his lifetime and one constant that never changed, even after my mother became dependent on us for care.
But not knowing what lay ahead, we had lots of fun amid the chaos of those months. There were boisterous games of baseball with Max joining in enthusiastically and ineptly; squishy rides to skating with a carload of girls and Max taking turns riding on everyone’s laps; Father’s day, when I served Hugh breakfast in bed and found him, Kate, Caroline and Max all tucked up together watching the westerns and war movies he’d received as gifts; and school picnics in the park where Max helped at clean-up time by eating all the scraps under the tables. All this and walks with Brandy too! There was no question that Max was enjoying life. Like Gerald Durrell, he had many tales to tell of the odd assortment of bipeds and quadrupeds that inhabited his home. My family and other animals personified!
Next: Leader of the Pack!