Max had no excuse for his fits of temperament. He had a dog’s life to envy: Kind owners, lots of outings, a female canine entourage that indulged his male chauvinist ways. But then, it was probably all this attention that encouraged his tendency to be a little ham. What a show he put on if he was hurt. After one of our walks, Edna found a cut on Max’s foot. I took him home and doctored it, but he hobbled around all day looking very pathetic. He was also naughty and kept pulling his bandage off. He was still limping the next day, so I drove him to the woods for a short walk, and what a pitiable show he made, holding his paw up to elicit sympathy every few steps. The cut healed quickly, but a few days later, Max trod on a chip in the woods and hurt his paw again. How he hopped and howled! Edna and I mixed mirth with our sympathy. Max was turning out to be a real Sarah Bernhardt.
The hamminess I could tolerate. Max was really very funny at times. However, with the onset of fall, came further rebellion. It was changeable and uncomfortable weather, and possibly the muggy atmosphere affected Max’s spirits, but whatever was prompting him, he began to challenge me again. After a day from hell, where I was troubleshooting with naughty dog, naughty children and a barrel of problems related to our puppet recording, I decided enough was enough. Family conference for the kids, tech list for Hugh, and more school for Max. I called Gary Gibson and set up another appointment.
Max was extremely naughty when Gary arrived. He bit him within the first five minutes. Gary was very concerned about this tendency to nippiness. We finally decided that there were two causes for the speed with which Max used his mouth. One was the fact that he was scared of big men. He had become a fear biter, and we suspected this was a product of his treatment in his first home. However, as an alpha male, Max also believed he had the right to put other creatures, canine or human, in their place, and a nip was his way of doing that. Whatever the causes, it was obvious that I had lots of work ahead.
On the bright side, Gary was delighted with Max’s training. He was pleased to see how cleverly Max picked up on what he was supposed to do, and how enthusiastic he was when he mastered a task. Gary encouraged me to invent more games for Max, and I promised to put my thinking cap on. Very soon, I conceived our first new trick. I had started doing a daily aerobics routine, using the Body Moves TV show as my personal trainer. The next day, the final exercise of the episode was set to Offenbach’s exhilarating Can Can music. This planted an idea in my mind. Gary had taught Max to shake a paw, so I decided he could just as easily learn to shake both paws. Very quickly, he picked up my signals, and in no time, was raising first his left, and then his right paw, one after the other. At first he looked at me as if I was dumb, making him repeat the process over and over, but when I started to sing the music in time to his actions, his eyes twinkled with delight. It really was the cutest thing to watch, but my artistic sense wasn’t satisfied. The act needed a climax for the last dum de dum de dum of the song. Envisioning how Can Can dancers always finished by throwing up their skirts and bending with their backsides in the air, I decided that Max simply had to learn to bow. This was going to be complicated, I thought. But no, it wasn’t. It was a breeze. The moment I bowed to Max, he bowed right back.
When Hugh and the girls came home, they were in convulsions watching Max go through his routine. As I la’d my way through the music, he threw up his paws in perfect time, and bounced into a beautiful bow on the closing phrase. Dancing eyes, dancing paws! What a clever dog, and didn’t he know it. The next day, we tried demonstrating the trick for Edna and Brandy. Funnily enough, Max seemed almost embarrassed to perform in public and kept looking over his shoulder to see if anyone else was watching. However, once Edna lavished him with praise, he got over his stage fright and there was no holding him back.
Without realizing it, I had just created the beginning of Max’s future job.
Next: Max has a birthday party.