Submitted by Patricia Bubash, M.Ed, LPC
“Do you remember when Max was chasing a cat and ran right off the deck and broke his leg?”
This remembrance of the infamous Max was usually what began a litany of Max stories. Family gatherings invariably lead to each daughter sharing her story of our long-gone family pet. He’s been gone for years, but his legend lives on.
Max was not a wonder dog; instead, he was a common variety Standard Dachshund. At one time, his russet red coat was equal to show dog quality. Our “wiener dog” came endowed with lots of attitude. I had always heard that Dachshunds were stubborn. Prior to Max, I thought that dogs were dogs and stubbornness existed in mules. As his “quasi” master, (Max answered to no one – he was his own person or, rather, dog), I was the one feeding him, chasing him down, and taking him to the vet. There was no appreciation for my efforts from my charge.
We inherited Max because my colleague Janice took it upon herself to become a dog rescuer. We were sixth grade teachers in the same building, and we had become fast friends when one of my daughters was her student. The friendship continued when another daughter entered her classroom the following year. Janice came from a small town several miles out of St. Louis. My daughters and I became her in-town family, and as a result of her family status, she was perfectly comfortable speaking for us. At the time, we were already pet owners; we had one very well-behaved mutt and a large no-problem cat. The principal of the building where Janice and I taught was Max’s current owner. So when Mr. Hunter called me into his office to discuss my “new” pet, I was a wee bit taken back. I hadn’t agreed to take on another dog, but he assured me that it was all okay because “Ms. Hilfker said that Pat would love to have another dog for her girls.” In the blink of an eye, we become a two dog and one cat family.
Although Mr. Hunter said he was parting with the 18 month old purebred Dachshund because his wife was upset that Max had chased the birds out of their yard, the deed that really got him relocated was when he urinated on the white cotton batting draped around the bottom of their Christmas tree. Mrs. Hunter had kept this batting year after year, carefully folding it and putting it away for the next Christmas. Urinating on it was the last straw – he was ousted.
When I came to pick him up one chilly December night, he had no problem coming with me and jumped right into the car. Maybe he knew he needed to move on. His now former owner, Mr. Hunter, carried out his dog bed, his dog food, his dog bowl, and his “postman shaped” dog treats. I noted the tears in Mr. Hunter’s eyes, but I later surmised these were not tears of sadness but of happiness at so quickly and efficiently finding a new home for the stubborn Max.
Max and I drove home. He settled in the car seat as if he had been there many times. When we arrived, I opened the front door, and Max wasted no time running down the stairs to the family room, lifting his chunky, short Dachshund leg, and urinating on my gift – the only gift for me under our Christmas tree. I think I knew then that our adventures were only beginning.
We had Max for eight years. Neighbors loved Max and other dogs gave him a run for his money, literally. On two occasions, large dogs decided he was a wiener treat. I spent more money taking Max to the vet than I did taking my children to the doctor. Money was very tight for a single mom with three kids, two dogs, and a cat, but, not one of us would say Max wasn’t worth it. He made us laugh with his antics: chasing birds, trying to corral the not-to-be corralled cat, and, the most obnoxious, passing gas when people visited. He would hold his head up in the air as if to say, “I don’t know who did that, but it wasn’t me!”
Max became the number one pooch of the household, or so he thought, after the demise of our Peppy. Although he loved us all, the youngest daughter, Karen, was his favorite. She was known for having a very messy room, a perfect place for Max to hide food. Stale moldy biscuits and gnarled bones were stashed under Karen’s bed only to be found months later. At nighttime, Max headed to Karen’s basement room, curling up to sleep at the bottom of her bed. In the mornings, when I would come to get her moving for school, he would be lying on his back, all four sausage legs in the air. He would turn his pointy nose, and growl at me. If he had been endowed with a voice, he would have said, “Can’t you see we’re sleeping here?”
Max loved to wander the neighborhood. No one seemed to mind Max wandering into their yard unless they had just laid new concrete sidewalks. At one point, our neighbor had just had new sidewalks poured, and Max left his paw prints in the wet concrete. This was not just the sidewalk of any neighbor, but the sidewalk of my boss! My boss was not a fan of Max, and his own two children were not allowed pets. Fortunately, though, my boss forgave us, and once again, another story about Max was created. This time, the neighborhood shared the tale of Max, the wet concrete, and the paw prints.
During his wanderings, he was involved in two vicious attacks with neighborhood dogs which had gotten loose from their backyards. Max was a lover and not a fighter. In each situation, we did not think he would make it through and neither did the vet. But, what he lacked in fight, he had in determination. Each time he pulled through, though his beautiful russet coat looked like that of prizefighter; he was scarred all over.
Max did not have the longevity of our mutt, Peppy. Peppy lived almost fourteen years while Max lived only ten, but during his ten years, he lived his doggy life to the fullest. He graced us with many good stories. A neighbor who was a fan of Max’s made a ceramic statue of him as a keepsake. The TSA workers were intrigued and stupefied by this object in my carry-on at the airport. I took the ceramic version of Max to live with Karen, his true love. While the ceramic Max resides with his beloved Karen in California, the legacy of Max, the (not so) wonder dog, remains firm in our family history.
* Read about the 2014 Wiener Dog Day
* Visit Patricia’s website