In previous posts, you learned about Dawn and Duke. And how they taught me certain life lessons. Max taught me a lesson I didn’t appreciate until I was an adult, and I realized my father was right all along.
About a year after Duke “ran away,” my father bought another springer spaniel. This time we got to raise Max from a puppy. And I got the chance to train him to basic commands. My father was supposed to train him for field work. (Well, that was the plan, but Dad never got around to do the field training; he was too busy working to feed a family of six.) Anyway, I did my part and trained Max both for verbal and silent commands. I even managed to train him to quarter a field and to field left and to field right. And the all-important hold command in which he would be on point and wouldn’t flush the bird until given the flush command.
Max was the family dog. Because I spent so much training time with him, I became quite possessive of my Maxi Boy. He wasn’t supposed to sleep on our beds, but on a dog pillow in the kitchen. But I would sneak him upstairs (which I’m sure my father knew all along. Especially during that early morning (5 am) feeding and milking time when my father and I would see each other and Max was right there beside me, waiting to go outside with me).
I was in seventh grade, and this was back in the old days when you didn’t get out of school until at least June 10 (or longer if you had to make up snow days). It was a Sunday. It was hot. I remember all of us neighborhood kids were in the pool. Dawn was tethered in “the woods” chewing away on the brush. I don’t remember why Max was tethered near her. Maybe his zip-line was broken or maybe because it was cooler in “the woods.”
We were playing “Marco Polo” when we heard Max snarling and Dawn bleating. I remembered I popped over the pool lip and landed running. Max had attacked Dawn. He had almost pulled one of her ears off and was going for her throat when I got to him.
When Dad saw, what Max had done he told my Mom to have him put down the next day. Of course, being all of 13, I saw this a travesty of justice. This incident should be classified as no different than two siblings fighting. My brother and I fought at least once a month; you wouldn’t put us down!
At the time of the incident, my father explained that Max had to be put down because he could no longer be trusted. That 30-pound dog tried to take down and 85-pound adult goat who had horns to defend herself. Jennifer and her friends were about 7-years old and nowhere near 80 pounds. What would prevent Max from going after one of the kids? This event happened just as “Springer Rage” became known. (Springer Rage is when a springer spaniel the most loveable dog in the world turns on its owner or someone else, without provocation, inflicting maximum harm.)
I remember calling the Humane Society from school (on a pay phone feeding it dimes) in tears, pleading for his life. The worker I talked to was a saint. She listened to a blubbering seventh grader defend her dog. I was the problem. I shouldn’t have tied him close to Dawn. I could train him better. It wasn’t his fault. But my father was the owner of the dog, and his wishes had to be obeyed.
I didn’t forgive my father for years. In fact, I didn’t forgive him until I was 31. (I’ve learned not to hold grudges since then.) That was when my newborn nephew was placed in my arms, and I knew I would do whatever I had to do to keep him safe. Even if that meant putting a beloved dog down if necessary. I finally understood. I still didn’t like it, and thankfully, I’ve never had a dog to make the decision my father did that day. But I got it, Dad.