World’s Biggest Chew Toy?

Maximus, 2017


My dog, Max (Maximus) will be nine in December. This story may or may not have taken place exactly as described, about eight years ago.

World’s Biggest Chew Toy?

When my husband finally walked in the door three hours after his usual arrival time, I didn’t greet him with a smile and a kiss, but instead accused, “You’re late.”


“I said I’d be a bit late, when I called” he replied, with his usual Midwestern calm. “There was a problem and I lost track of things.”


“Three hours is not a bit,” I snarked. “Twenty minutes is a bit. Three hours is unacceptably late.”


“What’s really wrong?” He could always see right through my behavior.


“Everything I write is crap,” I said. “And my column is due tomorrow. I forgot to pay my cell phone bill and it cost seventy-five dollars to get it reinstated.  I ruined dinner and I’m too tired to cook anything new, and your dog ate my t-shirt.”  I was in tears by the time I finished my litany, but my husband was smirking. “Stop laughing! It’s NOT funny!”


“Not to you,” he said. Then after a beat he added, “Come here.”


“You were late.” I pointed out. “You come here.”


He crossed the room and pulled me into his arms. The tears started flowing again, but he just held me and let me cry out my frustration.  After a few minutes, I felt calmer, and I lifted my head from his chest.


“Better now?” he asked.


“A bit,” The faintest teasing note colored my tone.


He kissed me on the forehead, and then peppered my lips with tiny bunny kisses. I smiled in spite of myself, then began kissing him back. The mood was beginning to shift to something more passionate when there was a canine shriek from outside.


“Where’s the dog?” my husband asked, only just registering the lack of a canine presence.


“Out in the yard,” I said. “I was afraid I might do something horrible to him.”


“You wouldn’t have,” my husband said. “You love your dog, but we should go see what he’s up to.”


We walked hand-in-hand through the house and out to the yard. He pulled the door open, and I yelled, “Maxwell, come!”


There was no response.


“Max! C’mere Monster Dog!”


A scuffling noise , closely followed by a frustrated growl, came from the side of the house.


“Maximus, come!” My husband had to try.


“Looks like we go to him,” I said. I went back inside to grab a handful of treats and we went to investigate the latest doggy disaster.


Max, our big, spotted, mutt, was playing tug with the brick veneer at the corner of the house. The porch light highlighted the crumbled bits of mortar on the ground.


“Maximus, stop that!” I ordered, as my husband yelled for the dog to come now!.


Max trotted over, a chunk of dusty, red brick in his mouth, and a smug expression on his doggy face. He dropped the brick at my feet and sat, waiting expectantly for his treat.


I wanted to throttle him, but my husband sensed that, and said, “Good sit, Maxwell.”


I tossed a treat, and Maximus caught it effortlessly.


“C’mon, Max,” I said, and we went back inside.


“Crate him, and I’ll take you out for sushi,” my husband offered.


“Deal,” I said. I ordered Maxwell to bed, and accepted his slurpy kisses before locking the door and feeding him another treat.


Later that evening, over sushi and plum wine, I quipped, “You know, when the shelter people warned us that this dog would eat us out of house and home, I didn’t think they meant it literally.”


My husband merely laughed and poured more wine.






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.

With One Hand Tied Behind My Back

I woke up this morning with my right elbow throbbing with pain. It hurts to bend it, and if I try to lift anything heavier than my iPhone, tears spring to my eyes.

Icy Hot Balm, ibuprofen, and a single, leftover flexeril got me through the day, mainly because I logged off everything and spent the day doing laundry, reading, watching comfort television (currently Season 3 of Gilmore Girls) and napping. Max was so worried about me (possibly because he hit my sore elbow causing me to send a glass of cranberry juice flying across the kitchen) that licking my face clear of tears wasn’t enough; he curled up on Fuzzy’s side of the bed, under the covers, and let me rest my sore arm on his warm, soft back.

Dogs make everything better.

Even when you essentially have one hand tied behind your back.