maxIt’s hard to be part of a litter, you know. How do you make yourself different, special? Max did that from the beginning! Lola, my yellow Labrador retriever, was pregnant, and since it was my first and was my only litter, I was so totally paranoid with anything which could go wrong. As paranoid as I was when I was pregnant with my girls!

I was not supposed to welcome that litter alone. One of my good friends, Liz, had told me that she was going to be there to help…. But Liz died suddenly, and left me alone to deal with my pups! I don’t know how long it took me, after Liz’ passing, to stop grabbing my phone without thinking to call her.

Anyway, I knew the pups were coming after Lola started nesting one night, and drove me totally berserk. Hey girl, I had got you that beautiful whelping box. Could you stop roaming around like a lunatic? In the morning, my daughter and I took her to the vet, and after an ultra sound, we learned that we were going to welcome into this world five puppies. So, we were ready. Max was not.

When the first four were born within 3 hours, Max decided that he wanted to have a different birthday than his siblings. He made us wait over 3 hours after Sophie before deciding to grant us with his presence! He was lucky we were still up (kind of….) I remember napping with my daughters on the floor waiting for the 5th wonder to be born.

Max was the runt of the litter. Yes, yes, he was small but as perfect as the others. Like a Mom, I counted everything I could count on my five wonders. Perfect. Instantly we gave them nicknames: George, the first one, was “Big Mouth” because he started whining right away, then came Zoe who was “Blondie”. She was so blonde, always have been and Zoe is the one who still has so many blonde moments! Then came his Majesty Jackson, the biggest one, and he became “Boubou” (don’t ask why!) followed by my tomboy, Sophie, who immediately was nicknamed “Miss Piggy”. Gosh she went straight to the teats and could not let go…. So after all that commotion came our Max, and his nickname became “Baby.”

Keep in mind that I had bred Lola, at the request of several friends who wanted a puppy from her. My Lola is the perfect Lab: as comfortable in the water than on the ground, she would have been a perfect “search and rescue dog”, and I tried, but sorry guys, it was too far to go for training every weekend at dawn and not coming back until late at night. But I always thought she would have been amazing. But this blog is not about her, it’s about Max.

Max’s Dad is a Field Champion from Illinois, Honor. I fell in love with Honor without ever meeting him but what was not to love about this boy? Honor is black, and has the best sense of humor ever. You see, this is exactly why I love labs so much. They are the only dogs who have a sense of humor! Don’t start yelling at me. I love all dogs, mutts or no mutts, but labs….. There is something special about them, and I will spend the remaining of my life surrounded by them.

From the beginning, Max loved classical music. When I was letting them out of the whelping box, Max was always the one to go to take a nap by the radio tuned to the classical music channel. I tried to make him appreciate opera, but I am not sure he will ever be a fan of it. From his birth, Max – and his siblings – were raised with Vivaldi, Chopin, Brahms and the others…..

I forgot to mention that Max was black like his Dad, FC Honor. Funny thing, the three boys were black like their Dad, and the two girls are yellow like their Mom.

When they started growing up, and gosh it went so fast. One day you could have the five of them of your lap, the next month, you needed the help of the couch to contain them!

Max has always been the one who observes. He doesn’t say much sometime but you know he knows. For instance, when we moved from the whelping box to the playpen, they had time out to play before going to bed at night, and Max was always trying to grab that opportunity to sleep “outside the box”. When he knew it was time to go back to the playpen, every single time, he was jumping on the couch and faking sleep. Faking sleep? Yes, Max could not fool me, I mean, he did a few times. But after the others were tucked for the night, I was turning to him, and I can tell you that so many times, he was lightly opening an eye to see if he were going to be able to spend the night on the comfy couch or going back with his siblings! That’s my Max!

Life was not always perfect. There was the day where it was obvious that Max was not feeling well. It was a Saturday night of course when every vet was closed. That’s one thing, my pack never learned. They never read the memo saying “no emergency on weekends”. Jessica and I took him to the closest emergency. A young vet was there. She took X-rays, and came back with “the face” saying that Max had pneumonia and it might be wise to just let him go. Her words and I am not kidding: “He is so young, has so little chance to survive. Do you really want to spend so much money on him?”

Yes, bitch! I do. As a matter of fact, I had called another emergency, and took Max away from her care to run to the other facility. In reality, Max did not have any pneumonia, and he did not need any oxygen either (as the previous vet had told us). Max had a tummy ache, and after spending the night at the emergency and being monitored, we were able to pick him up the next morning. Thank God, because Lola was so upset not having her fifth kid that I thought she was going to destroy the house!

And my “mutts” (as I said as a nickname even though they are pure labs) grew up, it became obvious soon that the friends who had bugged me to get a pup from Lola went all MIA, and it was as obvious that they were not going anywhere. My brain was not programmed that way and I just could not let them go and never hear ever again from them. I could not risk them to be abused, sick, sad, and I just could not break the bond that existed between them. So, I got a pack. Yes, it’s the only time it will ever happen. They are all spayed, neutered, etc…. but this is also one of the coolest things I have ever witnessed.

Max, being the smallest one, has always been a bit bullied by his sister Sophie. From the beginning, when they were playing in the yard, Sophie loved to jump on Max and grab him by his neck. Sophie loved it, Max did not. Max decided he did not want to go out anymore if Sophie was around, which caused a few accidents in the house. I had to go with him, and stay next to him. He is the dog who pees on command! I say “pee” and he pees just because he doesn’t want to lose any time just in case Sophie could come!

Five years later, Sophie and Max have still a thing together, but Max is fast, and yes, he can come back totally dusty, but that’s one thing about Max. From the beginning, he loves the dust, not the mud. Hear me clear, here! Dust is his best friend. Mud is yuck!

The first two or three years of their lives, Max was having a tantrum each time I was leaving the house. When I was going to the garage, Max was screaming to go with me “Mom, don’t leave me with those monsters, Mommmmmm!” Of course, Sophie is always trying to help, so each time he had a tantrum, she was holding his tail to help, you know, and prevent him to go to the garage with me. Sophie is such a good helper!

There is one thing though where Max doesn’t accept, and I mean it, no exceptions there, to be bullied: his food! No one can even try to get next to his food, Sophie or Jackson probably tried once or twice (don’t worry, I would not have left that happen!) but Max is all teeth out if you try to eat his food. He has a special bowl in ceramics, and no, it’s his bowl, and he will not consider eating in a metal bowl! I have no clue how it started but it’s his bowl, end of the story.

They are now five years old, can you imagine? And there is one thing, I cannot imagine: Max getting old. I can’t. You see, he has always been the baby, and will stay the baby forever. Max getting white hair? This is just impossible; it’s the baby of the family!

Max was the easiest one to train. I don’t even have to say words. The two of us, we are really good with hand signs. I tell him to sit, to stay, and he doesn’t move. Max has a flaw, I know, I know, he believes he is the perfect little lab (60 lbs. against the 80s of his other siblings!), but he has one flaw: he doesn’t like other dogs, and growls, and Max’s growling is so cute even though he means business. You have to understand Max’ view of the world: he has been bullied by his sister mostly since he was born, so he just wants to let every unknown dog know that it won’t happen with anyone else! Sophie, it’s family, and no matter what, you have to get over it! It’s family! But others beware!

I am looking at my Max right now. Years ago, we all thought he looked a bit like “Andre”, you know the seal movie? And this is still true, but looking at the eyes of my boy, I melt. Baby you are, baby you will be for the rest of your life!


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