The story of Max, my worst dog ever, picks up some time after the death of Conan, my best dog ever. (Catch up on Conan’s Pet Tale here.)
I am not one of those who must get another dog immediately after losing the best dog ever, although I’ve witnessed a great many people who are. But I just don’t get it.
That’s why after Conan died I waited two years before I thought of getting another dog. I was positive I would never find a dog who was smarter or more well-behaved.
But despite that when the opportunity arose to obtain another pure-bred Australian Shepherd I took a chance and placed my order.
This was through a co-worker who knew the breeder in Texas who had a recent litter of pups that would be old enough to be adopted just about the time she would be visiting the Lone Star State.
She offered to pick up the dog for me and transport it back to California, so I accepted her offer.
She showed up at my door with a very small ball of black fuzz, who was just about as cute as a pup can get.
It all went downhill from there.
Max, the Barely Trainable
I named the ball of fuzz Max and it didn’t take long to discover that not only did he have the sharpest teeth I’ve ever felt or seen in my life, but he had more energy than six small frenetic dogs put together.
After enduring multiple scratches up and down my arms and legs, including my face, I immediately bought him toys to chew on, which helped a little, but not much.
I received an abundance of advice on how to handle this from my co-workers, and not one idea worked. What I needed was somebody like Cesar Milan and his crew 24/7.
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As Max grew, things got a little harder to deal with. I tried to socialize him, but it was impossible. Every time he saw another dog, all he wanted to do was fight.
I knew walks were important, but Max refused to let me put a leash on him. We had numerous incidents of wrestling until I got the leash attached, and his response was frightening. He’d go insane, throwing himself against the wall and anything else that was close by.
When we had visitors, he could not calm down. He bothered them relentlessly, invariably drawing blood due to his incredibly sharp teeth.
The only way to avoid this was to put him outside, or lock him in the bathroom.
Taking Max in the car with me anywhere was a nightmare. I’d put him in the front seat, where he’d stay for maybe two minutes before he decided he’d rather be in the back seat, which resulted in him interrupting my shifting process with his 50-pound bulk to achieve this.
After two more minutes, he would decide he wanted to be in the front seat again, and it became a very dangerous adventure as he jumped back over the front seat. I tried again and again but eventually had to banish him from the car. It was no fun at all.
For the first two years, I had many arguments with myself about giving him away. But who would take a dog so difficult to deal with? I finally concluded he was my responsibility, and that I would somehow stick it out, hoping he might change or improve. But he never did. He was a constant handful.
Ruff Love to the Max
After four years or so, though, we became friends, believe it or not, even though his general demeanor never changed. Maybe mine changed to be more like his. Ruff!
Max may have been my worst dog ever, but he wasn’t completely without redeeming qualities.
The best thing he ever did? Let me tell you about the reading glasses incident.
One day I misplaced my reading glasses. I looked everywhere with no luck. I happened to mention to Max what happened and asked him for help. Half an hour later I was in the kitchen making lunch when he sauntered in and calmly laid something at my feet. I was stunned to see my glasses. And outside of a little dog drool they were none the worse for wear. Truly impressive.
Max made it to 9 years old before he became very ill and wouldn’t eat. After taking him to the vet and running numerous tests he was diagnosed as having been poisoned. He died almost a week later. I suspected my next-door neighbor was responsible, but there was no way I could prove it. Bad mojo in the neighborhood.
What did I learn from my experience with an ill-behaved dog? I don’t truly know, but to this day I miss the obstinate creature, even if he was my worst dog ever. Go figure.
Tom Brown worked as a professional musician (drums), starting in 1962 and had a regional hit with “Jezebel” by The Illusions, a surf version of Frankie Laine’s 1951 hit (available on numerous surf music compilations). Brown continued to record and play in bands until 2001, when he began work on his first book, “Summer of Love, My Ass!” Prior to this he worked as the customer service manager for almost 20 years at Rhino Entertainment. His second book, “Confessions of a Zappa Fanatic,” was published in February 2013. Due to some ill fortune Brown is currently homeless and continues to look for work.