I sat down today to write about my wonderful weekend at Photo Pro Network Summer School in Owensboro. I’m finding it hard to write that post at the moment. Right now, my heart is breaking. The health of my 13-year-old Poodle Max, aka UROC URX2 U-Ag1 U-CDX Scherzer Lastline Of Defense CDX RAE OAP AJP CL1-R CL1-F, is rapidly deteriorating. So, today’s post is going to be a living tribute to the greatest dog I’ve ever owned. His registered name is long and his titles are many. We showed together in conformation (until he went over-size), obedience, agility and rally. He was my first agility dog to get to the Excellent level and likely the last since I don’t do agility any more. I don’t really like agility but, in Max’s eyes, “run and jump” was the greatest sport in the world. I ran agility with him because he did every other sport with me that I wanted to do. Once David helped him overcome his fear of the teeter, it became his favorite obstacle. One of my favorite agility memories is from a trial at Queen City Dog Training Club in Cincinnati. It was a Jumpers course and somehow I ended up going one way and Max another. We both stopped and looked at each other. The expression on both of our faces was “What in the world are YOU doing over THERE?” When I watched the video later, I had flicked out a pinky finger toward my left as I turned right. Max took that cue and went left and was more than a bit ticked off at me that I had mis-cued him!
In obedience, he once took the high jump during the figure eight exercise in Open B (the Open level class for dogs with the CDX title). We had been doing a lot of agility without much obedience practice at the time. When I watched the video of that day in the ring, I had to laugh at my boy who was having a blast. In rally, he was always a willing partner. Well, almost always. He sometimes saw ‘dead people’ in the corners of the rings where we trialed. Heck, he still sees ‘dead people’ – demons only he can see. When his demons show up, he just can’t work through them. But that’s okay, because he has always been the dog that will give me everything he has at any given moment. Even when the demons cause him to panic, he turns to me with trust and tries his hardest for me.
From the moment that I met Max, he was destined to be mine and to rule the household. When I met his litter, there were two boys. I really wanted his brother. His brother wouldn’t give me the time of day, but Max kept coming up and crawling into my lap. After several visits with the same reactions from the two boys, I finally relented and Max came home with me. I have never regretted that decision. I had only had him a couple of days when I called my mom, his breeder. I told her that Max was quickly wrapping me around his paw and I knew it, and I didn’t care. Max’s favorite snack was, and still is, french fries from the fast food seafood restaurant, Moby Dick. He learned to beg while waiting for me to share my Moby Dick french fries. Nowadays he usually begs first from my husband, David. However, if there are Moby Dick french fries, he comes to me first.
Max will never steal food. We can leave a plate of cheese on the sofa arm and leave the room. When we come back, Max will still be waiting for his cheese. His latest way to ask for something is to reach out with his right forepaw and tap David on the arm….very gently…..as if to say “Excuse me, sir”. Once he has David’s attention, he will stare intently into David’s eyes and then at the plate of food, then back into the eyes. It’s almost comical to watch, because Max has it down to a science after all these years.
As I said earlier, Max has his demons. He is deathly afraid of small children and anything that rolls. I know exactly when and how that fear developed. It was one of those freakish things that happens during a critical fear period. He was never able to overcome the experience despite years of counter-conditioning. We’ve worked through it the best we can over the years. At this point, it is what it is. And it’s part of who Max is.
Max is the only dog allowed to sleep in our bed. It started at motels when we’d stay overnight for dog shows. Max (with David’s voice) would ask, “Mom? Can I sleep in bed tonight?” The answer was always yes. Slowly, over the years, sleeping in bed started happening at home as well. He usually sleeps at the foot of the bed, between David’s feet. Some nights he’s my dog and sleeps curled up against the back of my legs. Usually it’s very comforting to have Max sleeping against me. Lately, though, his breathing has gotten more labored and I wake up to hear him coughing or wheezing.
At the start of this post, I said that Max had lots of titles. He does. But … that is not who he is. Who is Max? Max is the ‘plain brown dog’ who stole my heart. He is a lover of all things made of (or flavored like) cheese (“Cal-sum” in Max-words.) He is a lover of pop-pop (popcorn), Moby Dick french fries, apples (which he will eat right off the core once you take the peel off for him) and sleeping in bed. He is the best whole-dog cuddler ever. He is the dog who stole my heart and who trusts me implicitly. He is also the dog who defied the odds and survived a splenic hematoma and surgery to have the spleen removed four years ago this August. He has made me laugh and cry.
And now, while I still can……I’m going to get off this computer and go take more photos of one of my best friends.