Happy Birthday, Maximus

Max, age five

Oh, my dearest doggy, you are FIVE years old today. That’s middle-aged for a breed like yours, a breed we think is pointer/boxer, but could be most anything, really.

How well I remember that windy day in February, 2009 when we met your then-tiny little self. You were ten weeks old, and I kept telling Fuzzy we didn’t want a puppy, but he thought your black and white fur looked like your sister Cleo’s, and we knew Zorro didn’t have much more time with us.

I remember how Fuzzy snapped your picture through the bars of your crate at PetCo, and said, “Come see this puppy,” and I remember how the first time I picked you up you gnawed on my neck until you finally fell asleep in my arms.

I remember when you were so small you slept in a cat bed, and so tiny you couldn’t climb the stairs. You used to pick up Cleo’s leash and make her follow you around the house. You weren’t quite certain of what to do with Zorro, but he left us a week after you came. I think he waited to be sure you were right for us.

We didn’t always get along, my Maxi-taxi. You were my first big dog, and I had to learn a whole new language with you. It wasn’t until you were three months old that I knew we’d be alright. You’d escaped from your crate, and even though Fuzzy’s side of the bed was closer, you came right to me, and put your cold wet nose in my hand. I knew, then, that you were MY dog, just like Zorro and Cleo had been. Perry had joined us by then, but he’s never as obvious about who his people are as you always have been.

In the first year of your life, you ate rocks and razor blades, water bottles, entire pairs of Keds, and more paper towels than I care to count. Once, I even found you chewing on the side of the house! I was convinced something you’d swallowed would lacerate your esophagus or perforate your intestine, but except for allergies, you’re remarkably healthy.

And now you’re five years old, and the quiet gentleman of the house, except when you do your post-dinner show, roo-ing and galloping up and down the hall.

I love that you wake up half an hour before you really need to go outside, just so you can come into the bed with me and snuggle while Fuzzy showers. I love your raspy-tongued kisses, and the way you can eviscerate a squeaky toy in five minutes, then carry the empty fleece carcass around for months.

I love that every night when I go to bed to read, you come and curl up with me. I love that you’re patient with your adopted brother Tedasaurus Rex, even though he had the nerve to grow taller than you, and that you make the foster brothers and sisters who rotate through your life feel like part of the pack.

I love the way you, my 80-pound darling, can manage to get lost in our postage stamp of a back yard, and I love that you still think an empty paper towel roll is the best toy ever.

I love the way you’ll chase a ball til it stops, then turn around and give me that look that means, “If you’d wanted it back you should have adopted a retriever,” and I love that even though you’re a gentle giant of a dog, you have a basso profundo bark that makes me feel safe when I’m alone.

I love that you’re as happy to sit on the deck and just WATCH the birds and squirrels as you are to chase them, and I love that the last thing I hear at night is your deep, restful, doggy breathing.

So, happy fifth birthday, my Max.

You can’t really be called a Monster Pup any more, but in my heart you’ll always be my puppy.

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