Monday, March 14, 2005

I’ve written about my golden retriever a few times before. If I had kids, I probably wouldn’t talk about ‘em as much, ‘cause I doubt they’d be as cute or loyal. All this week, it’s...

Chapter 1: You Ain’t Seen Nuthin’ Yet

He just wanted to play. With everyone and anyone... and anything.

I don’t think Max even planned to hurt a cat when he chased it into the bushes. No, he simply wanted to romp and frolic, even if that scaredy-cat had its claws sharp and ready to shred him to ribbons, even if I was yelling no, even if the big goofball was choking himself on one end of the leash, yanking my arm off on the other.

He did the same thing when I spotted on someone’s lawn: “Look, Max, a garden snake -- whoa!” Had to hold the schmo back as he lunged at the thing which was slithering away, undoubtedly in terror of the drooling furry Frankenstein.

Max once looked up at me with those puppy dog eyes -- why didn’t the carpenter ants on the porch want to play with him? Uh, ‘cause you just squished your new pals with your big ol’ paws, schmuck.

Once in a while he did get to cavort with other dogs, but that usually ended in disaster. My uncle brought over his old mutt one brisk autumn day. Max wasn’t even a year old yet; she was old enough to be his grandmother, but hardly provided any kind of mature guidance.

We left the dogs in the backyard and in no time, she gave Max a crash-course on how to dig. He hadn’t done that before, but by the end of the day, the two of ‘em turned our backyard into Swiss cheese. Holes everywhere. From then on, the lawn was a field of detonated landmines.

And Max taught the old dog new tricks. He showed her that it’s fun to swim in our pool anytime of the year. A couple of fluffy beasts looking like drowned rats. And as they shook themselves off, I got a double dose of drenched doggie dowsing.

Following that afternoon, we headed into a rainy fall, and I felt like I spent the entire season drying Max off before he came into the house. Big tough hunting dog was scared chickenshit of the noisy hairdryer, so I had use up three towels on all that fur. That didn’t do the trick; he’d still roll around on the carpet, trying to get a smell back into his perpetually wet nose.

I’d just gone through this ritual a couple of times one stormy night, and then the crazy dog wanted to go back out again. Hell if I was gonna take him for a walk in that downpour; he could have run of the backyard, but he’d better enjoy it for a while.

Ten minutes later, I heard some barking. Too bad, Poochie, you’re not getting in so soon. But I started feeling guilty, poor dog stuck in that deluge. His barks almost sounded different, maybe because the wind was howling louder than him and the rain was battering the living room window.

I looked outside and saw a four-legged figure standing outside. In the gloomy storm, it wasn’t entirely clear, but... that wasn’t Max. Similar, but with dark brown fur. Maybe the wind blew down a section of the fence and one of the neighbor’s dogs got in the yard. I didn’t know there was a chocolate Labrador retriever in the neighborhood. Now I knew why Max was so anxious to go outside -- he made a new friend.

“Hey, buddy, where’d you come from?” I shouted at the window.


Wait a minute. That was Max. Covered in mud. The doofus had been digging in the yard again. In the rain, the dirt was probably loose enough for him to make it to China. They could have him.

He looked at me with his doggie smile, so pleased with himself in blackface. “Glad you’re havin’ fun, Al Jolson,” I said, walking away.

Minstrel Max didn’t need any animal friends. He could stay outside and keep himself entertained.


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