All About Max

Well, to be honest with you -- this week is kinda slow. Boss is out of town on a mission trip, I worked most of the day Sunday, so my workload isn't too heavy this week. That's a good thing & bad thing. But mostly bad because I hate being bored during the day -- it's not like I can just walk down the hall and have "water-cooler" talk with my co-workers or something.

It's just me & the dog. And he's not incredibly interactive. Thus the boredom that ensues. To make it worse, Matt left today for a last minute trip to Louisiana for work --- he's only gone one night ---but when you don't socialize all day & then your nights are filled with silence, well yuck!

Speaking of the dog, I don't think I've put a picture of Max on here, so here's a cute one!

This is pretty much his pose throughout the day. Being the king of the house, he is allowed on almost every piece of furniture in the house, save for one leather chair & ottoman in our library that we humans don't even sit on.

Max & I are tight buds now that I am home all day. Wherever I go, he goes. He just loves to be near people & in fact, is currently snoring loudly right next to my feet on the floor in the office. That's right, the floor. He is usually allowed on the bed but since I have been terrible about getting some paperwork organized, the bed is covered in "work stuff". So he has had to resign himself to the floor lately. He is so mistreated, huh?

Max, Mommy is going to try to finish up her "important" work (read: finish blog & update facebook), so she can clean it off for you to lay on, ok?

So how did we manage to get such an awesome dog? Here's Max's story:

We adopted him from a shelter in New Orleans just 6 days before Katrina hit. When we picked him out, we pretty much just shamefully went on his looks. We didn't care about his brain or intelligence. Or his personality. Or his sense of humor. We just cared that he was adorable, ha :)

He had this sweet Lab-like face with this thin, lithe body - really, he almost looked like a puppy, but he was fully-grown at 39lbs, well under the fighting weight of my parent's labs who easily weighed in at about 90-100lbs.

At the time, Matt & I lived in a condo/duplex arrangement just outside NOLA with just a tiny yard and no fence, so we really couldn't have a large dog. But we didn't want a little yippy thing either. (No offense to those owners of little Taco Bell-type dogs that you can throw in your purse - but I just don't get that! What's the point of a rat on a leash??) So, Maxie-size was perfect. And he was cute as a button. We filled out the appropriate paperwork, paid our nominal fee & trotted Max out of that hell-hole with his tattered rope-leash.

Like any good parents, we immediately headed for PetsMart to outfit our precious new baby. We got him a bright red leash & collar ensemble, plus all sorts of toys, bones, pillows, accessories. Matt made me stop short of getting him a little outfit - hey, I wanted the little guy to be comfortable! He was new to us, what if he was shy about being naked? ha.

It was at PetsMart when we first realized we had a little problem. See, when we picked him out, the shelter told us all about him & why a 2 year old seemingly healthy dog had been dropped off at such a place. The backstory supposedly was as simple as this: the family loved their dog but felt they couldn't give him the attention he deserved, so they wanted him to be with a loving family where he could be loved on.


We believed that one for about 2 seconds. Until we saw him literally shrink at the sight of people at PetsMart. The dog was scared to death. Now, one could argue that he was in new surroundings, overwhelmed by a car ride, and having attention obnoxiously lavished upon him from his thrilled "parents'. Could be. But then we saw another side of him. A vicious, ugly side.

He would just ferociously snap at people who came to close to him. And I mean, scary snap. Like break-the-skin snap.

Uh oh. What had we gotten ourselves into? For that first week, we pretty much kept to ourselves & tried to love on our dog. To his former owners' credit (or maybe because Maxie is just so darn smart), he was already housebroken. So at least we didn't have to worry about that.

What we did have to worry about was his behavior. I remember taking him to the vet that first week and even the vet was scared of him. He actually recommended a tranquilizer next time I dared to bring him in. And he didn't make a much better impression on the receptionist, especially when he decided to relieve himself (#2 style) right in the middle of the waiting room.

But the thing was, he was sooooo sweet to Matt and I. Mostly. But if we moved too quickly around him, he would either snap at us or immediately cower.

And then it became evident. Our dog was not just severely neglected. He was tremendously abused. And Matt & I were way out of our league.

Unfortunately, 6 days later, Katrina whammed the gulf coast & our little condo on Howze Beach Rd. With no home to return to & only an apartment in Baton Rouge that did not allow dogs over 15lbs, we were forced to leave Max with my parents for a good 7 months until we figured out the "next" in our lives.

I am sure they were thrilled. They already had 2 massive dogs who were a handful unto themselves, and then you throw in our dog - well, that's just seemingly a recipe for disaster. But they never complained. They just took in their new houseguest and made the best of the situation, just like everyone else was doing.

Now, at this point, my dad was retired so he pretty much was full-time dog caretaker, outside of his regular duties of being a "Real Househusband of Collin County". And man, did he love on those dogs... if Daddy had a hamburger, the dogs had a hamburger. If Daddy laid on the couch, the dogs laid on the couch, all 200 lbs. of them. They had their routine down to a science. No doubt that Max threw a wrench in all of that. My little 39lb terror would pick fights with the "big dogs" & cause them all to get thrown outside for the rest of the day. When Dad had a friend visit one day (and even though he had warned that friend!), Mr. Ed moved too quickly for Max's liking & was promptly bitten. Yikes.

I wish I could say that I was a concerned parent & called the "foster family" (ie: my parents) all the time to get Max updates. But the truth was, I was so wrapped up in recovering from that damn storm, I almost forgot we had a dog. It was just so bizarre - when we finally got back to TX that year for the holidays, "our" dog did not even really know us. Sad.

After a couple more trips back home and finally emerging from my post-storm coma, I started to see these HUGE changes in Max. He was becoming socialized. He wasn't snapping at people. He was lovable, even snuggling with Mom in her chair or at Dad's feet while he lay on the couch. He still would pick a fight with the big dogs, but instead of it being 100% aggression and aggravation, it was mostly for play.

By April of '06, we were ready to take back our dog - we finally had a new house in Houston with a yard that was just waiting for Mr. Max. So one long weekend, we went to pick him up from the 'rents and drove him back "home". And the dog that came back with us was all-together loving and well-behaved. So who was the instigator of this enormous change in my dog?

My dad. The guy who feared he would get attached to Max, so for the first couple of months wouldn't even let the dog on the couch with him. He didn't want to fall in love only to have to let him go one day. But fall in love he did. And he saw the good in Max & worked with him constantly to socialize him & break him of his nasty habit of biting his friends, amongst other things. He loved and loved and loved on that dog & Max is a legacy of that love.

I don't even think I realized how strong their bond was until we would bring him home for holidays and Max would see Dad and totally freak out, his little body shaking with excitement. When my parents came to visit us in our new digs, Dad would sit on the couch & Max would suddenly turn into a lap dog & plop himself firmly on top of my dad. Now, my dad was a man of few words at times, but he would just melt when he would talk to Max. Just start cooing in this sweet voice. I know. My dad "cooed". Hard to believe.

Now, whenever we have company, we no longer have to worry about Max attacking our guests. In fact, he just loves people & wants to be as close to the action as possible. We'll be in the middle of a deep bible study discussion and he'll just leap into the middle of the couch so he can be petted by almost perfect strangers. Most of the time our guests leave the house just loving Max & can't believe how great of a dog he is. And Matt and I just look at each other with a knowing smile, "man, you should have seen him 3 years ago...". He's also my great protector - I honestly sleep soundly when Matt is gone because of that dog. I pay $30 a month for alarm home monitoring when really all I need is one little black dog. (While he doesn't bite or snap anymore, he gets awfully excited when the doorbell rings and my usually mute dog lets loose on the barking, all while running full-tilt at the door - only to usually hit the tile floor and skid his way right into our front door. I have witnessed many a solicitor hear that sound & literally leap the 3' hedge in our yard to escape from the "beast" behind the door. Meanwhile I chuckle to myself & pet my little security system and then give him a treat. ha. I definitely encourage that behavior! )

And no credit is due to us. All credit to the foster parents who took him in. And a foster dad who showed us love can trump all and even conquer a past of abuse & neglect.


Deena said...

Awwwww. What a sweet story...
I'm a sucker for a happy ending.

Just wanted to de-lurk and say hello. I live in Rosenberg and love reading your spin on the surrounding area. I found your blog through MiMi...

Amy said...

Awww! Max! I've never heard the full story! What would we do without them??