We first met Max, a big-hearted dog from South Africa, a few years ago. He heard, through the grapevine, that hiking in Colorado was lots of fun. So, we invited him join us on a pack hike in the Rocky Mountains. It was a long flight for Max but he thought that it was worth it. Below, I'm flanked by our dog S (yellow lab). Max, and K. We were all rejoicing being together in the high mountains. For Max, it was the first time ever!
A couple of years later, we remembered Max's impeccable manners and morals when we had a high-spirited black lab puppy, R, join our pack. We thought that Max would be the perfect mentor, by teaching R to use his sparkle of high voltage energy for good rather than mayhem. After all, Max has a huge heart and loves a good joke - just like R.
Soon after R, the itsy-bitsy and wild puppy arrived, we tried to capture a photo of our three labs. But, R wouldn't stay still for us! So, we e-mailed Max for advice. But, despite detailed instructions from the sage Golden Retriever, we still couldn't keep R from breaking into unruly playing whenever we tried to take a photo. Our yellow lab, S, would flee the room during these photo opportunities because R became so wild!
So, we invited Max to visit us and to teach R how to behave. Just after Max arrived, we captured this photo! Max's good influence was almost instantaneous. (Notice that Max was actually lying on R's legs to hold him in place...).
Look at the intensity in R's face. He tried so hard to live up to Max's expectations and succeeded!
Later during Max's mentoring visit, we wanted to have the whole pack sit together for a group portrait. Max whispered jokes into R's ear (notice how R's ear is cocked toward Max to hear his whispers) to keep him entertained for long enough for this photo!
Later in Max's visit, he worked with R on good kitchen behavior. He taught R to curl up next to our AGA stove, always a warm spot, when in the kitchen. This spot still ranks as one of R's favorites in the house, thanks to Max's influence. It's hard to tell from this photo but Max is also blocking R from stealing steak from the counter!
A few months ago, we invited Max back to see for himself how well he'd taught young R (he used frequent flyer miles - from his previous travels - for this visit). Although R is still rambunctious, R learned to sit in a dignified way for a camera and act like a gentleman from Max.
Most of all, R gained a heart as big as Max's by emulating Max. He showers everyone, human and dog alike, with love. I think that's the most Max-like characteristic R learned from his wonderful mentor.
As you can tell, most of this story is a fantasy of what life might have been like if Max had actually bounded onto an airplane to come visit my pack. The true part is Max's loving, happy, and big heart.
Now, I'm very sad that Max is sick. This tribute to him is one of many in the dog blog world today. Please keep thinking of Max and his wonderful family as they lovingly celebrate each day together.