dogs, life, Pets

One Year Later

One year ago yesterday, a three-year-old tri-color Australian Shepherd, named Max, came into our home smiling, ears perked and friendly. Already well-trained by his previous family, he fell right into the routine of our household, except for one thing … the look in his eyes. Something about them seemed serious, guarded.

To anyone else he appearedΒ  perfectly normal, happy and carefree. I knew different. I lived with him throughout the days and nights. His rigid mannerisms showed nary a smile, and only a rare wag of the infamous Aussie stub-tail. His wary glances said, don’t get too close. I don’t trust you.

I’m no dog whisperer, but something didn’t feel right about Max’s demeanor. Everyone else didn’t notice and thought him to be the perfect dog. How could I argue? In many ways, he was the perfect dog. He was house-broken. I didn’t have to train him to do anything. We could leave him in the house for hours and he never got into anything … not even food left out on a table! He knew all the commands and followed them without a hitch. He walked right beside us on the leash, no pulling, no stopping to sniff, only a steady pace following our lead.

So, I questioned myself. Maybe everyone else was right. Maybe I was just used to my dog Piezon, who died in ’09. He and I were not only attached at the hip, but by our hearts as well. My heart shattered when he died, so maybe I just wanted him to be like Piezon?

No, that couldn’t be it. I waited almost two years to be sure I was ready for a dog. My heart was completely open to this new experience. Something was definitely questionable about Max’s mannerisms. His ears were upright all the time, ready for anything. And again, his eyes … they spoke to me of … I don’t know what it was … they seemed blank, cold, pensive. They’d lock onto mine and wouldn’t give, as if challenging me, with no emotion behind them.

Piezon never stared me in the eye, and his ears, though perked when alerted, usually stayed back. He had wise eyes that trusted me, and he submitted.

Piezon (Paesano in Italian)

Though Max played with the happiness of a puppy, even then he seemed to be speaking a language to me. “I’ll play with you, but only because I need to play, not because I want to give you any joy.

I wondered, could Max miss his other family? Is he still waiting for them to come back and take him home? My heart ached at the thought of him feeling left behind.

Then one day, the darkness behind his eyes manifested into behavior, and my husband witnessed it. During our daily walk, he lunged viciously toward a dog passing us by. From that point forward, it continued to happen when we’d run into other dogs on the walk.

Eventually, it showed up at home too. If a neighbor dare walk out to their own driveway, or some unknown person strolled by our house, Max nearly rammed through the front window. He didn’t show aggression to any human once he got to sniff them, it was only if they were outside his window. Forget it if the doorbell rang, Max’s wild barking got out of control. Of course, we wanted him to protect his territory, but this was something beyond protection.

In those early weeks and months, I do think Max was waiting for his first family to come back and get him. Though my heart breaks for him when I think of it, I must not ever dwell on it too long. A family dog we pity, is a dog who gets disoriented, because they only know how to live in the present. His change of environment issues may turn into big problems, if we don’t live in the moment.

My point is, for anyone adopting a rescue dog, don’t give up. Today, one year later, Max knows he is home. Little by little we are falling in sync. I can tell you with confidence, that wary look has vanished. His cola-brown eyes sparkle with love, devotion and trust.

I didn’t back down when he stared at me. I attached him with a leash to my belt for long periods of time. I practice the real dog whisperer’s techniques around the house and on walks. We have three steps forward and one step back, but that forward advancement is still there. He is learning, and so are we, how to forge onward into creating our new and blessed relationship.Β 

When Max first came here and I noticed his hesitance, I told him, “Don’t worry Max, we’re gonna be alright.” Once in a while, when we have a step backward, I remind us bothΒ  … we’re gonna be all right.

I call him my Macho Max. He’s a tough guy for sure, stocky and strong. Who can forget his day at the farm with that big German Shepherd who didn’t want to share.

His back-legs seem too big for his body, and he hops around on them when he plays. I call them kangaroo-legs. He’s an expert snuggler, and presses right up against you when you give him a hug. We love our Max, and Max loves us. We (husband and I) are so blessed to have found this loving bond twice in our lives.

The photos below were taken by my husband while I threw the tennis ball for Max. The lighting is off, but these action shots are still pretty cool. They are in order of his chase and snatching of the ball. Thanks for indulging me on this one year anniversary of our second son’s arrival.

There are those kangaroo back-legs

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24 thoughts on “One Year Later”

  1. What a nice story about something so special to you. Thanks for taking the time to stop my blog today and click on the Like button. I hope to hear from you again soon. Cheers!

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    1. Thank you for reading about it and commenting. I enjoyed your blog post about tolerance. I can’t imagine living anywhere else in the world, let alone China. I find differences fascinating, educational and inclusive. It gives us something to talk about. πŸ™‚

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        1. Heh, I barely made it moving to another state (home sickness), let alone another country. But, I’d love to visit other countries. I do enjoy learning about other cultures.

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  2. Lovely story about Max. There are so many of us who have loved and lost a part of ourselves when our pets die and leave us behind to grieve.
    Max is so very lucky to have found you.

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  3. This was a beautiful post, Lori, and it awakened a pang of emotion in me. I really love dogs, and when I came to college, leaving behind our beloved Bugsy (a one-eyed Boston Terrier) was one of the hardest things for me to get used to. Even now, I love coming home just because she is there. She’s getting up in age, though, and I do get sad when I think of the time when she will no longer be there, but we have had a good run together. We got her the day before I started fourth grade, so I’ve grown up with her, but she is my parents’ dog now, and I feel more prepared for the day that phone call arrives.

    I’d really love to have more dogs in the future once my life settles down a bit. Thank you for sharing Max with us. Your personal connection with him is something that I think only other dog-lovers can understand, but it was really touching, and I wish the best for you and Max in the future. Give him a pet for me. πŸ™‚

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    1. Hi Ed. My first dog, Piezon, opened my eyes to the bright and wonderful world of dogs. I didn’t know that I was missing such a lovely world before he came around. I feel like Piezon taught me, instead of me teaching him, and it helped to prepare the way to Max and two other dogs that I trained and fostered.

      Wow, you really did grow up with your Bugsy. What a wondereful relationship to be around as a child learning your way. You’re always welcome to talk about Bugsy with me.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments about Max and me. πŸ™‚

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  4. I’m sure Max is forever grateful that you gave him a chance when others may have given up on him. And maybe that was the source of his distrust. He’d been left behind once before. Maybe you’d leave him behind too. He just needed time to learn that you wouldn’t abandon him. Max is so lucky to have found you, and you him!

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    1. Terri, I wondered those same things you shared here. Thankfully, he trusts us now, which means the behavior issues will fall into place more and more. Thanks so much for your kind comments. We are definitely grateful for having found him. Sometimes I wonder if a higher force had something to do with it. πŸ˜‰

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  5. Hi Lori,
    I really understand your loss and like you, in my case it was my cat, I waited for four years.
    But, one of the two,that made home with me, a year on still has issues and like Max I feel sure it will dissapate.

    Max is a handsome boy by the way.

    Talia.

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  6. Such a beautiful tribute, Lori. It can sometimes take awhile to fall into sync. But it is worth it! How blessed Max is to have a family willing to both understand and have the patience and peristence to give him what he needs. And you were right when you told him at the beginning “we’re gonna be alright” – you are and you will, all three of you. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you Shannon. I have to remind all of us when I say that on challenging days. I know it took a while for you and Tres, so your input means a lot. Hope you and the new little one are well. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  7. Bless you, my friend, Dear Lori, your hubby, and wonderful son Max ~ We have travelled this road together for three years now. Lovely words from a lovely lady. So happy for all of you. Blessings and Prayers, Robin =)

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    1. I’m clapping in delight to see my PL friend Robin here. Yes, we have traveled this road together. You saw me at my worst, and I can still take a spill once in a while when thinking of Piezon. We are pleased with Max, and I thank you so much for stopping by to read and comment. Blessings & hugs to you.

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  8. Great story. I love it! πŸ˜› About half way through I was hooked. Awesome, beautiful written!

    Thanks for sharing the story and the pictures.

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    1. Oh, thank you so much Mirjam. I didn’t even think of myself as writing a story when it came off my fingers and onto the keys. I just wanted to share a narrative honoring this new guy while he’s with us. Their time here is so short, but so very magical. Thanks again.

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  9. What a lovely story about a lovely dog .. and a very happy dog – his eyes are smilling! Fantastic story and I’m sure he knows very well where he belongs. Thanks for sharing. Really like the photo’s.

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  10. I’m crying. Oh sweet Max. I miss my Harper. It was so hard to lose him. His back legs got arthritic, and he could hardly sit. But he loved to walk. He loved to see me and jumped up and down when he saw me EACH time. I miss him so. Thank you for sharing your story. I would NEVER give up on a dog. NEVER. If he bit me, i would not give up. Dogs feel pain and grieve as well. What a lovely story. I’m so glad i had time to read this. πŸ™‚ xo melissa

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    1. Melissa, I don’t know if you are aware of the website … but if you ever need a shoulder to listen to you about Harper, try my link to petloss on my blogroll. I’ve been going there for 33 months, since my boy, Piezon, died. They helped me through so much grief. There are lots of sad stories there though, so be prepared if you decide to venture over there. My heart is with you on the loss of Harper; I understand. Thank you for reading about our new boy, and for commenting.

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