Tuesday, April 14, 2009

There is nothing ordinary about it. From the first day we met, I sensed this relationship could be a life-changer. Here we are, eight years in, and it just thrills me more and more each day.

I have to admit it never occurred to me that anyone else might be interested in our escapades. As the years fly by, I've come to realize I need to capture these days for posterity. And so I'm making our experience available for others to share if they so choose. I can only say you're in for quite an adventure.

His name is Max. Not short for Maximilian or Maxwell. I struggled with the name for a while. At first he was Tyson, then the non-committal Baby Boy just for lack of any defining moniker. Finally, it occurred to me that he did everything to the extreme. He never strolls, he trots. He doesn't run, he races. He doesn't just sniff trees and bushes and flowers and shrubs, he savors the smells. From the very beginning, he's always lived life the way I long to.... to the max. He is the maximum dog, always intensely engaged in his life. I love that about him. That's why he's Max.

Every since Max walked into my life (I'll tell you that story later), we share a daily ritual. Of course, it isn't merely a walk around the block. That wouldn't be enough for Max. He needs a serious work-out. We power through the paths, parks and pavement of Midtown Atlanta for at least an hour every day. I call it my morning meditation. It's a time for me to connect with nature and with Max in a very intimate and profound way. I swear that I've come to experience our walks through Max's senses. We've bonded totally and completely, and each day brings some great revelation, either about life or about nature or about me. It's a real life classroom. And no matter the weather, no matter what else is going on in the world, it's always a treat.

Everyone thinks their dog is special. I get that. I agree they're all precious creatures whose sole purpose in life is to please their master. Max is exceptional. Dog owners will understand this. Some dogs are just, well, dogs. They're always in the moment, with no sense of awareness beyond that. But there are dogs who are wise beyond their species. Their eyes hold the key to their souls. When you look into their eyes, you sense that they've been here before. There's a wisdom of the ages behind them. Max is an old soul. He's really smart, learns things very quickly. He understands abstract concepts and acts on them. He has an innate intelligence that exceeds anything I could ever teach him.

For example, Max walks around puddles. I kid you not. Whenever he encounters a big puddle of water or mud, he veers left or right, whichever is most expedient, and then falls right back in line. Mind you, he never misses a beat in his stride. At home, he tip-toes around my nick-knacks. He wouldn't dare attempt to retrieve his favorite toy from the sofa, or from behind an accessory on the floor. He comes to get me to do it. Sometimes I like to escape the day's madness in a hot bath. He'll come sit by the tub, but turn his back in deference to my privacy. He's even learned to recognize himself in the mirror.

On today's walk, we met a dog that could have been his brother. We had stopped at one of his favorite neighborhood parks, when a lady came along with a dog that could have been Max, a couple of years ago. As it turns out, her dog Gordon was a Dachshund/terrier mix, much like Max, who is Dachshund/Jack Russell. They're short and long and kind of stocky, with the cutest face you'll ever see. They both had those expressive eyes. She was from Germany, and told me Gordon learned all his commands there. It was hilarious hearing her talk to him in German. He and Max got along famously, in that meet-a-new-dog kind of way. I got the feeling Max was a little spooked by looking at another dog that was his mirror image.

I've got great Max stories to tell. He's a fountain of material. His Max-apades have earned him celebrity status among my friends and neighbors. As one of my girlfriends refers to him, he's The Notorious M-A-X.

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