Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Max doesn't have bad days, only better ones. That's one of his most endearing qualities. It doesn't matter to him if the computer is on the fritz, if the mortgage gets paid, or if bill collectors ring with incessant frequency. Max awakens each day with eager anticipation of the day ahead. Given his track record to date, there's no reason that he should expect anything differently.

In fact, news of an economic meltdown has not trickled down to his level. We may have had to cut back on some of his more exotic tastes, like the all-meat chicken jerky strips he's so fond of. For the most part, Max's life has a predictable rhythm that he lives for.

Each day starts and ends the same, with lots of routine rituals he can count on. He lays in wait every morning as I walk by his bed on the way to the bathroom, and flops over on his back for his wake-up belly-rub. He can't get the day started without it. On rare occasions, I may be rushing to get out to a morning meeting and forget to do my duty. He doesn't mind letting me know what my priorities are. He falls out on the sisal rug, pounding his tail on the floor until I get the message. "Lady, I know you're not planning to leave me hanging. You know what I need." Of course, I oblige.

Max did grow out of one of his routines... his weekly visit to doggie daycare. For years, every since Max was a pup and I learned that doggie daycare could wear him out, Max had a standing Friday play date with his buddies. He had become quite the celebrity at Barking Hound Village (http://www.barkinghoundvillage.com/home-banner-01.html), where all the staff had come to know and love him. We'd walk in and everybody would start cooing. "Max Minor is here. Oh, Max, you're such a good boy!" And he would eat it up. Wiggling up to the ladies, grinnin' and skinnin' with the guys. Max was so well-behaved, he was the model dog at daycare. He could hang outside of the holding cage between outdoor runs because he was so well-mannered. He loved showboating and flirting with the girl dogs, giving them just enough attention to fall for him before breaking their hearts and walking away. He knew instinctively when it was Friday and he would beat me getting out the door. It was a welcome retreat for both of us because I got to take care of personal business while he was maxing and relaxing.

All that changed a couple of years ago. Max just lost his desire to go to daycare. When I would pick him up, the staff would report on his unusual behavior. Instead of playing with the other dogs, Max would just lay around all day, snoozing. Well, everybody knew that wasn't like Max. At first, I thought he might not be feeling well, but the minute he got home, he was instantly energized. I couldn't get him to sit still. It finally occurred to me, after one final solemn visit, that he just wasn't into daycare anymore. Perhaps more to the point, he decided he would rather stay home with me.

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