You’ve heard about Major already.  Quite a character.  But so was an English Springer we had whose name was Max (not the English Springer from the camping story–this is well after that incident).

We got Max somewhere around my Freshman/Sophomore years of high school.  My Dad and I drove down to South Carolina where a family friend had bred his English Springer and had a puppy for us to get.  I held him in my lap all the way back up to Michigan.  We grew quite attached on that drive back.  So how does such a cute, submissive little puppy grow into….Max?

The older Max got, the more stubborn he became.  We lived in the country (as you already know), so when he had to go outside, we just let him out the door and came back to let him in around 10 minutes later.  And that’s where his stubbornness really showed.  Especially in the winter!  I’d be standing there in my pajamas, holding the door open for him to come in, my extremities turning white from frostbite, and he’d just stand there looking at me, suddenly unable to comprehend the English language.  And if I started out the door after him, he’d just romp out into the yard a little further and turn around to see what I’m going to do about what he just did.  Since I could no longer feel my fingers or toes anyway, I would sometimes try to coax him in with a treat….or a stern voice….or sobbing….fact is, he came in when he was good and ready to and as far as he was concerned, I wasn’t about to change that.

I must say, though, that I thoroughly enjoyed a game he liked to play in the house with my younger brother.  We’d be wrestling (this got Max riled up sufficiently) which would inevitably end up with my brother pinned to the living room floor, arms defenseless at his sides, while I poked my finger through the gap between his neck and the carpet.  This got Max’s attention fast, which always resulted in a slobbery effort on Max’s part to get that wiggling finger, no matter how much tickling and barking he had to do at my brother’s neck, regardless of which direction my brother would turn his head.  It was a fun time!  Until my brother got to be big enough and tall enough that I couldn’t pin him to the living room floor anymore.  Ruined everything at that point…

But my fondest memory of Max is at the family cabin at Paradise Lake.  We were up with my Aunt & Uncle’s family, all of us (but Max) down by the beach.  The cabins on that stretch of the lake are up on a bluff that overlooks that beautiful place.  It requires a pretty long staircase for most of those cabins for a way to get down to the shoreline.  But what dog likes to take steps when he can launch himself down the hill with no barrier between him and the water?

So my brother goes up to the cabin for something and calls down to my Dad, asking if Max can come down.  We all turn around to watch as my Dad gives the ok, because we all know Max’s aversion to the staircase.  (Watching a dog barreling down a hillside, barely able to control his speed as he jets toward the water, is always worth watching.)  Well this time, there were more of us sprawled out along the beachfront than he was used to.  His normal line of trajectory was suddenly compromised, but it was too late to change it.  The point of impact of least resistance was going to be a 10-inch gap between my lawn chair and the one next to me that my Uncle was in.  The realization of all of this is flashing acrossed Max’s face as he nears the bottom of the hill at full speed.  As he realizes his predicament, his eyes get real big, and then they become mere slits as he readies and commits himself to that gap between our chairs (all this happening in a matter of seconds).  He was a white and brown streak as he flew right between our lawn chairs, the lake suddenly becoming his parachute as he hits the water in an explosion of spray.  He’s frolicking around in the water, grateful to still be alive, a huge smile on his face as he laps at the water.  Quite a few moments passed before anyone could say anything because it took that long to catch a breath from all of us laughing so hard.

Many years have come and gone since then, but we all still remember the day that Max went through the “eye of the needle” and lived to tell about it.