I couldn’t bring him to work with me - he couldn’t play with the other dogs at daycare and would just incessantly bark in the office (a trait that I have never been able to break in the nine years that he’s called me his.
I had to be his personal body guard any time we left the house.
I lost my patience with his barking more times that I am willing to admit.
But what became very quickly apparent was that Maxie was my heart dog.
Where he came with excessive baggage from the four mystery years prior to our meeting, he came with even more endearing and amazing qualities that have.
As a young and new dog trainer who thought she knew everything, he was exceptionally patient and loyal as we navigated our way through how to communicate with other another. He waited years for me to finally give up all of the expectations I had had for him and just accept him, and his boundaries, for who he was.
He is the fastest and most eager learner I have witnessed, constantly looking to do what you are looking for, learning every parlor trick in the book, and being oh-so-close to doing his “Chewbacca Yawns” on cue.
When I lived alone, he was my courageous companion (even when I knew he was shaking in his boots) to make sure his Mom felt safe and secure.
He has amazing intuition and, even though he feared most men who entered his life, he unwaveringly accepted my Dad, my Step-Dad, and my boyfriend who is now my husband and Maxie’s best friend in the entire world.
He hates having his picture taken but will sit for minutes at a time while I try to get just the right shot of his perfectly imperfect face.
The first day I met him, he wildly did zoomies around my apartment before landing on the couch right next to me - forever claiming that spot as his own.
His greatest joys in his youth were to play fetch for hours at a time and to chase a melon-sized plastic ball around the play yard before all of the other daycare dogs arrived for the morning.
In his senior years, he still gets a tickle from carrying a tennis ball around with him - you’ll break his heart if you throw it - and I am certain if that plastic ball reappeared, he would burst out of his skin.
While he couldn’t play with 95% of the dogs who came to daycare, he always made odd friends, including all of his Pittie ladies and his main squeeze, Camer.
As he got older, I trusted him more and trusted my abilities to advocate for him more. He began to go more places and I will also think fondly of our Mommy-Maxie trip to go hiking in the Snowy Mountains and visit “Dad” for the weekend in Saratoga, Wyoming.
At 13-years-old, he can now run off-leash on our property and live his best, most peaceful life.
He has been a medical anomaly, questioned most of the people who have come into his life, still annoys me with his barking, and is a bed hog, but, long ago, I came to terms with the boundaries I would need to place around that gentle spirit and decided he would probably be the most difficult dog I had ever owned.
Boy was I wrong.
Four years later, enter a ten-week-old, ten-pound Dizzy who screamed and panicked her way through her very first puppy playgroup at the facility where I worked. Her foster mom and I quickly agreed she needed to come to daycare as often as possible in order to become social with other dogs and, slowly but surely, she would overcome her fear and even make some really good friends - particularly with anything that never grew past seven-inches tall or anything that was comprised of some kind of Doodle properties.
Dizzy soon found her way into our hearts and our home. She and Maxie were thick as thieves. She became more confident. She shared her love and excitement about the world with any man, woman, and child she came into contact with. I could take her everywhere - something I had never experienced with Max. She, I thought, would be the ambassador I had been hoping for. But then adolescence hit and her ability to ignore the dogs that she didn’t like became more and more impossible. I pulled her out of daycare and she was left to just play with her remaining good friends.
Shortly after that, though, we moved to Wyoming for my husband’s residency program and her only remaining friend was an aging Maxie.
I felt less confident bringing her places, even though she loved the people, because I could never trust other dog owners.
Her life of going to work with me every day transformed into being a “normal” dog sleeping on my bed from 9-5 as I took on the role of being the Director of Operations of an animal shelter.
And then she tore both of her ACL’s. Financial constraints, personal life-changing challenges, and limited confidence in the veterinary care available in our area, we elected to treat her conservatively with braces, rest, pain management, and physical therapy: a decision I would later regret.
About a year after tearing her ACL’s, Dizzy began showing aggression to her former BFF and cuddle partner, Maxie. Each of the four times she bit him, we would make behavior modification and management changes, I would call my old dog training friends to rebuild my confidence, and we would stick to a new routine. We would try to isolate what would have triggered her and try to minimize her stress - especially when we made the move back to Wisconsin three years later. We were able to go almost one year without any incidents and, actually, with some pretty amazing progress and play sessions. But when she had two incidents within a week, we knew that we were not making the right choices.
Our home had become more stressful than any of the four of us could bear (though the dogs were always much better about hiding it than we were).
We knew that we had to make a decision: Dizzy either had to go or we had to commit to keeping them separated for their rest of their lives.
Having worked in the thick of the animal welfare community, I knew the reality and the unfairness of surrendering her to a shelter. Even if I believed there was a slim chance she would make it out alive, I knew that, if we couldn’t keep Dizzy safe, no one could. Euthanasia was another fleeting option, but, although, each time I would think about the times I had to jump on top of her and pry her mouth off of Maxie I would become equally furious and heart-broken, I also knew I could never live with myself if we had made the decision to put her to sleep and I will forever be grateful to my husband for making it clear that he was not even 1% on board with that option. There was too much good inside of that psychotic little spirit.