After regular two-week intervals between dog blogs, there has been a significant gap, and the reason for that is the blog on the front page of this website. Care for poor little Minx, the Manx as she developed more health problems became the main focus of the last few months. Minx is actually a part of Max’s story, though in that context, still to come. So now to continue with the dog blog and the story of Max, the Ho Hum Husky, and his life with our family.
Sadly, 1997 and 1998 were dreadful years. Due to a tragic accident on March 15, 1997, our family became embroiled in a criminal trial and a civil lawsuit, the latter of which dragged on for four years until it was dropped. My father was dying of cancer and my mother was being assessed and subsequently diagnosed with vascular dementia. We had massive money problems as the lawyers bills escalated, and our older daughter was not only facing the court case, but preparing for college, going through jobs like jellybeans and applying for student loans since all our money was going to pay the lawyers. During that period, I learned more about the law, social services and the medical system than I ever wanted to know. I also learned that Agatha Christie mysteries where little old ladies like Miss Marple prove better investigators than the police were not far-fetched, because Hugh and I did the necessary detective work that ultimately caused our daughter to be acquitted of all the charges. But that is a story in itself, and this is Max’s story. Still, our trials and tribulations are relevant, for if ever a dog earned his keep providing solace and comfort to his loved ones, he certainly did during those hard years.
Perhaps because I needed something to force me to stop brooding about our cares and the sad situation of the other family involved in the case, this proved a particularly fertile period for creation of shows for the marionettes. When working on a soundtrack, I had to be completely focussed, and the creative work provided a way to, at least temporarily, drive the other problems from my mind. 1997 saw the development of The Ho Hum Rescue, later to become The Sorcerer Princess, and a hilarious show for the small Pelham puppets called The Fairy-tale that Went Wrong. Max continued to be a great pal during the recording and editing of these shows. He listened to my singing, watched me edit, and whenever I headed for the music room, he took up his spot under my desk. He seemed even more settled than usual, perhaps because he sense that his mum was subdued and worried.
We also built two new shows around our clever dog’s antics. Max was very quick to learn new tricks and he’d developed a repertoire of four showpieces. ‘Bang, you’re dead’ had already been incorporated into Guard Dog on Duty, but he had also learned ‘On Trust’ (where he waited to take the cookie until we said, ‘Paid For’), and ‘Down the Hatch’ (where he would catch a treat as it shot out of the end of a long tube). His pièce de résistance, though, was his Can-Can dance, where he raised one paw after another as I sang the music, and ended with a leap forward followed by a bow with his backside up in the air.
We never managed to get ‘On Trust’ into a show, although I had written it into a script called The Mikadog. However, ‘Down the Hatch’ was a big hit in The Sausage Thief, when Caesar, the thief of the title, hides the sausages inside a drain pipe and Max nabs them as they fall out the other end. And the Can-Can trick had people in convulsions during performances of Guard Dog on Show, for leaving aside Max’s ability to do the trick, the Max puppet looked hilarious kicking up his paws alongside the pretty high-kicking puppet in the frilly dress. Those years were a bonanza for creating Max shows, to the extent that the poor fellow became quite puzzled during the long bouts in the music room when the work was being done. He simply couldn’t figure out why he heard his name so much during all those recording sessions!
In spite of the problems in our lives, we still managed to fit in a lot of gigs in 1997. Most were short local bookings, but we also were part of the VGOP Festival at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts and we made another run to the Sunshine Coast in December to perform Christmas shows. Max loved to see us packing up to do a show and he would always watch to make sure he didn’t get left behind. The moment he sensed we were ready to load the trailer, he headed for basement, sat by the puppet box and stared at his leash.
Max may have felt chuffed to be a puppet dog, but he’d lost none of his wild-dog instincts. His daily walks with Brandy were still the joy of his life, and special outings were even more of a treat. We took him along when Katie took ski lessons on Grouse Mountain with her friends. I walked Max while Hugh registered the girls, but what a time I had keeping him at my side. He caught the scent of the wild and wanted to head straight up the mountain. During this period, we also found a wonderful new area for weekend walks. This was out at Pitt Polder where Max spent many happy hours roaring back and forth along the dykes. Given his temperament, the open dykes were perfect for us too, because we could see a long way and had lots of opportunity to rein him in if we saw trouble ahead.
It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good, and Max was the one that actually received the odd benefit from the family troubles. As my parents’ health problems increased, we made far more visits to their home. In the summer, we organized occasional weeding parties with the girls and their friends to keep Dad’s garden in order. Max thought these expeditions were great fun. Max was also the only family member who enjoyed himself during our long, agonizing days in court, for Edna, who had been a wonderful source of support throughout our difficult years, acted as dog sitter and he got to spend the whole day with Brandy. In typical Max fashion, the first thing he would do when dropped at his doggy daycare was to march through the door and head straight for Brandy’s toys. Yes, the rest of us might have been in total chaos, but Max was steady on course. He never missed a trick.