There was uneasy silence last evening as we spent the first night alone without our friend and protector. Maxwell passed away on Saturday morning, one week short of his 15th birthday.
Max was born in the fall of 1991 and soon demonstrated that Weimeraners are exactly as advertised - headstrong, manipulative, intensely loyal and protective. He spent a great deal of his early days in a crate and, many hours in obedience school learning to control his Weimie exuberance. When his original family had a child, Max needed to find a new home - and he found Jan.
It wasn't long before Jan learned Max didn't like the crate, and he demonstrated his amazing powers of escape over it. He destroyed two proving his persistence made the crate a moot point. A fenced dog run was next- it only slightly slowed him down. Max 3, Jan 0. The electric fence was a nifty compromise. Max could go wherever he wanted in the expansive yard and he developed a healthy respect of the collar in literally minutes. For ten years, he never tried going over the fence and to our knowledge was shocked only once. Jan 1, Max 3.
I have to say that above all, Max was polite. He never whined; never begged at the dinner table. He never barked to go out or made himself a nuisance about the things he wanted. BUT, he had "The Stare." At 5 pm every day, Max would plant himself directly in your field of view and stare at you. As if to say, "you know what time it is, now get up and feed me."
If he needed to go out, he would sit and stare at the front door. If he needed something else (less obvious) he would sit in front of the TV and stare at you - blocking just enough of the screen to make his presence known.
Weimies were bred to be versatile hunting dogs as well as companions, so he craved being with his humans. The 9pm stare meant, "I'm tired, let's go to bed." He so routinely stared at the box of dog cookies that we devised an experiment. Was it the box of cookies or the concept of the cookie box? We tried moving the box to another corner of the kitchen to see. Sure enough, Max stated at the same old place, cookie box or not. We surmised he knew the box had moved, but to make things clear to his stupid humans, it was simply easier for him to just point to the same old place.
Early on, Max employed "The Stare" at the side of the bed. Sure, he had his own comfy plaid bed complete with a cushy sleeping bag, but "The Stare" meant he wanted more and Jan was no match. Soon, he was occupying whatever space he wanted in the bed - where he stayed until just recently when getting into the bed became impossible for him.
|Max demonstrates "The Stare." It must be close to dinner time.
I have to admit it was love at first sight for Max and me. Perhaps he was most comfortable with two humans - something left over from his early upbringing - but for whatever reason, I was immediately accepted into Maxwell's world.
My past history with dogs never prepared me for Max. He had his own way of doing things, and I was just another end to his doggie means. Another human to follow around, another human to take him for walks and, another human to play with - and manipulate. I was a willing participant.
Max wouldn't chase a thrown ball or play tug of war - he had his own games. Take his pool game, for example. Weimies are supposed to love the water, but Max didn't like getting wet - and wouldn't jump in the pool after a ball. But that didn't stop him from inventing his own game. When people were in the pool, he would run nervously around the edge until someone threw the ball OUT of the water. He would dutifully retrieve it, walk to the deep end and gently drop the ball INTO the water, then wait for the game to start again.
Max knew several words: cookie, walk, car ride - and (don't say this one out loud) GOPHER! We live in the country and the groundhog population (prior to Max' arrival) was substantial. After his arrival, we would regularly see whole gopher families packing their belongings and moving out. He was a relentless gopher hunter.
He also had several encounters with the cows, who would often escape their pasture and wander into Maxwell's realm - the yard. Most of the time his barking was just an early warning signal that the cows had escaped. We'd round them up and herd them back into the barnyard. One spring day however, a cow found herself face to face with Max. Most of the time they ignored his frantic barking, but this cow, with calf in tow, was having nothing to do with it. She put her head down, snorted and made an aggressive move toward Max. His reaction - roll over on his back and play dead. I didn't think surrender was in his breeding.
The last few years, Max mellowed out. The gophers had gone, the cows stayed in the pasture - all that was left was the occasional jogger or dog-walker passing the house.
|This is my favorite shot of Max; it captures his true personality. Jan's son, was home from school because of an illness. I'd like to think Max was being vigilant over his sick friend. Truth is, he didn't often share his couch - apparently he made an exception just this once.
Max and his two dog buddies developed an early warning system. Woody, the Jack Russell next door would announce the presence of something to bark at, which would alert Max (asleep in his chair on the front porch), who would in turn alert Porkchop, the dog one house down. For dog-walkers especially, it was highly organized territorial gauntlet of about 100 yards.
I'll miss him demanding attention by putting his head in my lap and nuzzling my hand for a pat. I'll miss him staring at the cookie box. I'll miss him warming my feet on a cold night. Most of all, I'll miss him following just a step behind - always interested in what I'm doing, always willing to give comfort, never failing to please.
Update: Monday, 7am. I spotted a groundhog in the back yard today. I think I saw him signaling the "all clear."