The tail that wagged too much is stilled forever.
Max – a tribute to our boy.
Monday 15th December 2008. forums.doggysnaps.com, the Dogs Trust Social networking photograph site. Someone called Sue from Lancashire posted that a collie cross was going to be put down the next day.
Tuesday 16th December 2008. The reason discovered for his imminent demise was that his tail wagged too much and his then owners said he was in danger of hurting a toddler. Sue would rescue him, but couldn’t keep him because she already had two dogs. We had two dogs as well – rescues from the Dogs Trust, and we take them on holiday, camping, and the site has a two dog per tent limit, so we couldn’t help. Neither could anyone else who read the story. Everyone thanked Sue for rescuing him, but sorry, couldn’t help.
Later I phoned my wife and told her about all this. She agreed we couldn’t have him for the same reason. We won’t go on holiday without the dogs. That seemed to be it for us, and we got back to work.
Not half an hour later there was another phone call. Wife had phoned the campsite (Wheal Rodney) and they said we could bring another dog because we’d been going there for so many years. A phone call to Lancashire, a conversation and we’d set a date when we could collect him.
The thing is neither Sue nor ourselves had seen this dog and knew nothing except that he was a collie cross.
Wednesday 17th December 2008. Sue had the dog. He’d been delivered and the previous owners had left. Photos appeared on the doggysnaps site and this was the first we’d seen of him. Sue reported that he wasn’t eating much (she’d had to tempt him) but was OK with her other dogs. I arranged to travel up to collect him on the Thursday evening, the Thursday before Christmas – Sue was going out on the Wednesday so we couldn’t do it on that day.
Thursday arrived, and the story has been told in Unwanted and Old.
Friday 19th December. Vet visit. Microchipping. Diagnosis of heart murmur and we were given things to look out for, in case it got worse. Visit to the pet shop for collar, lead and toys. And during the weekend, once he’d got used to the house, walks. We soon knew that if we let him off the lead he wasn’t going far – he knew that he was now ours. Off the lead and he ran – and came back when called. Well, some of the time.
So it was Christmas, and a couple of weeks at home saw him largely come out of his shell and start feeding well enough for us to be feeling less concerned. And Christmas – he showed us that he knew how to look pathetic enough while scrounging food so that we’d give in. He was still painfully thin, and we needed to work up his weight gradually. Eventually he was to weigh in at a perfect weight for a dog of his size, according to the Vet. He’d by then put on 6kg, which goes to show just how thin he was at that time. That process took more than a year.
Over Christmas we learned that he’d featured as the Dogs Trust Christmas Dog on their blog.
On the Boxing Day 2008 walk he proved that he was starting to be part of the pack, and the others were accepting him. And talking of the others, Sandy and Kerry, who are both Dogs Trust rescues from Kenilworth, in a very short time accepted that there was another dog around. It took until the summer of 2009 for them to become a real pack, but this start was much better than we could have hoped for. Back to work for us and he was happy being left with the others.
The monkey in him
Over the next six months or so he’d lost the little boy lost look and was a real dog. Tennis balls became the favourite toy, although he’d chase them a couple of times and then carry them round, unlike Sandy who’s up for Wimbledog at any time. He knew where the treats were kept. He knew to pad softly into the kitchen unobserved and we had to make sure that our food was sufficiently out of reach – can’t blame him – he’s a dog and dogs do that. Play was a little bit alien to him at first, but soon he’d learnt and was coming out as something of a puppy. He didn’t believe that he had a heart murmur, no way. He’d think nothing of an eight mile canalside walk, the attraction (for us) being the pub at the turn round point. And it was here we discovered he liked swimming, not far, just a few strokes across the canal and back.
And there was the inherent curiosity that’s a feature of all collies – excavating for the new swimming pool, bin dipping, playing tug with the tennis ball, being round at food preparation time so that the floor remained clean, that sort of thing. It was during this period that we discovered that his true name was Monkey Max. Once he had the confidence, he never lost this playfulness.
Max on holiday
We go on holiday with the dogs. The reason we could agree to have Max was that the campsite said yes. What happened on holiday is reliably reported by the Celtic Terrors.
And it was on this holiday that Max became a Champ. We’d always intended for years to go to the St Buyran Country Fair, but it seemed always to be in the middle of the July Monsoon season of Cornwall. However in 2009 the Saturday of the show was sunny, so it was off with the dogs. In there we found a dog show, (OK, so it’s a roped off area with straw bales as seats and a horsebox as the office) so entered them all in various classes. Loads of fun later and we were really pleased that Max came second in the veterans’ class, those aged 7 and over. His rosette decorates our notice board at home.
We were very glad that we had that day – the next day the monsoon took over and we were virtually confined to the tent for 36 hours.
We’d now had him a year. Is that five or seven years in dog terms? We now couldn’t imagine having done anything else than have him twelve months previously. Getting near the fire now meant stepping round the carpet of dogs. Getting round the house meant avoiding the stashes of tennis balls. Trying to get out of the door without being noticed was impossible.
When we’d had the first vet check she warned us that if he started coughing then to get him back sharpish, so we did. Antibiotics, but their scanning devices would not show up the detail that was required, so they arranged a visit to a more high tech practice.
Incidentally about the vet – in all of this they have been absolutely superb – caring, compassionate and we can’t recommend them highly enough. They don’t have a website – they’re under a business directory listing here. And it’s not just the vets who care, all the staff there are superb.
Anyway, back to Max’s scan. Leaving him there was the longest couple of hours. What came out was that he had a faulty heart valve which could go at any time. And there was nothing that could be done, other than to treat with a combination of drugs. This was a new treatment, mentioned in one of the Journals read by our vets, and yes, it was a bit experimental, it was going to cost, but we said yes. So six pills a day were on Max’s menu. The coughing was a reaction to the way a dog’s heart is constructed. Problems there get the cough reaction as it feels as if there’s an airway restriction.
Getting him to take the pills couldn’t have been easier. We’ve never known a dog like it All you had to do was hand him the pills and he’d eat them no problem. It was as if he knew, but putting human thoughts and emotions on a dog. Occasionally (usually when I was giving him his tablets) he’d hold out for a bit of a treat with them, usually winning that argument.
After a weekly then fortnightly visit he was on monthly vet checkups and finally three monthly. But the progress of his condition was relentless, as we had been told it would be. In January it was predicted that twelve months more for Max would be good. In the end we got another six months after the diagnosis.
Max is in our kennel on the doggysnaps site – without which we wouldn’t have known about him in the first place.
Spring into Summer
Life continued much as normal. At least as normal as it can be with three dogs around. As the days lengthened they all indulged in their favourite pastime of sunbathing in the garden. They ‘helped’ get the tent ready for camping, played with tennis balls, scared ducks on the canal, enjoyed barbecues, being out in the car, being with us.
The Rainbow Bridge
There is a story that ‘twixt earth and heaven there is the Rainbow Bridge, at the Earthward end of which there are green fields and woods where dogs wait for their owners in the sunshine. When reunited forever they can both pass across the bridge.
On Monday 12th July I got the phone call asking me to come home straight away. My son had come home from his shift and found Max in one of favourite sleeping positions, but gone to the Bridge. It looked like he’d died in his sleep. He’d been OK the previous night, been out as normal that morning, breakfasted, taken his tablets and told us that he didn’t approve of us going to work. He never did. We knew it was coming but facing the reality was quite a shock. Then it was take him to the vets, arrange cremation, collection and scattering of his ashes. We did that on his favourite walk at his favourite swimming place where the wind and the water can cherish him.
The tail never, ever, stopped wagging.
Run free forever, Max.
And if, whilst you’ve been reading this, a furry head with large eyes is looking at you waiting, then please reach out and stroke it. Or go and seek it out. Gentle the ears, place a blessing on its head because they feel about you just like Max felt about us, and we about him.