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Max The Wonder Dog


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Sorry for the length of this, but when I wrote it I was in "need" of capturing my thoughts as I agonized over putting our beloved friend down.




Some catchy Real Estate Ads will refer to a yard as a “park like setting.” The backyard where we live is no where near so exotic. Oh it has a vegetable garden and a healthy bed of perennials, pine trees for shade, a few lilac bushes and a rustic barbed wire fence along its furthest boundary. The grass gets baked too dry in the summer, allowing legions of crabgrass and clover to flourish and in winter is flat and desolate after the perennial beds fold down upon themselves in frigid submission. Yet the yard is unique. It is as fertile and wondrous a place as can be found, for it is the place where Max ruled – not just the yard, but our hearts as well.


Max is a black and white wonder. He’s a rough-coated blend of grace and power. A force to be reckoned with when he wants to be, yet he can lie motionless and unnoticed in the shade for hours. He’s much like the old pair of worn out shoes in the closet that you just get used to being there; they both just “belong.” If either were missing, things would just be different somehow, just not right. The old shoes could go tomorrow and not be missed too terribly. Max is going tomorrow.


Tomorrow Max is going to go to sleep one more time, his last time. Cancer has robbed him of what made him Max. His zest, his energy, his total selflessness and dedication is waning rapidly. He is not so much in pain, as he seems to be in shame. Border Collies live to serve. Whether it is herding sheep, nipping at the heels of an obstinate steer, or fetching a Frisbee in the backyard, they HAVE to serve. It is their life. It is their destiny, the sole purpose of their heritage. Max can no longer gather the strength to “perform” to what he believes are our standards for him. He seemed guilty last evening that I had to lay down with him in the cool evening grass and hold an ice cube for him to suckle from like a helpless puppy. He doesn’t want us to have to serve him. That is not his role as a proud Border collie and he knows it. All the soothing strokes and soft words in the world will not change it. He is being stoic like an ancient Eskimo who knows he has become non-productive in life and therefore needs to set out on his own to die quietly on the ice, no longer a burden to his family. Had he the strength and the guile any longer, Max may well do the same thing, not for himself, but as always for us. Selfish is not a trait of the Border Collie.


Saudi Arabia did it for me. Having “given up’ our share of dogs over my Air Force career, I took a hard line on owning another dog as long as I was on Active Duty. The prospect of losing another friend due to the frequent moves and upheavals of military life was too much of a challenge. I kept promising the family that when we were retired and settled in a dog could once again grace our carpet and yard. Doggone it if they didn’t wear me down. We were newly arrived at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington State when they began their quest. I kept up a tough stance on the issue, but when I was presented the case that “the kids didn’t know anybody and you’re going away to Saudi Arabia for the summer and it will be sooooo good for the kids..” I melted. I cursed myself for it, but I melted. Looking back upon it I now praise that day.


In typical fashion, I took lead on deciding what kind of puppy would be best for the kids. I scanned the Spokane paper and was fascinated with the ad for Border Collie Puppies, stating that both working parents were on the premises. This was in 1995, years before the Movie “Babe” endeared the world to Border Collies and in my own mind I had a visual picture of the perfect puppy. When the kids asked me what a Border Collie looked like, I expertly replied, “Oh, they’re really cool. They usually have these really funky different colored eyes. Here I had my heart on an Australian Shepherd and I was about to be schmoozed by a brood of Border Collies!


Every Border Collie should come from such a place as Max did. A working cattle farm, set on a hillside in a fertile valley, rich with lush grass and dotted with rustic outbuildings. Even the settlement’s name “Chatteroy” screams of cattle and sheep and working dogs. To say that our mind was made up before I set the car in park would not do justice to the expression, “love at first sight.” For me, the love was not for any one particular puppy rather for the Border Collie itself.


I was immediately enthralled at the parents. Mom was a gentle and a doting mom. She immediately trusted us and allowed us to get up close and personal with her pups. Then there was Dad. Max favors his father greatly. Long and angular with strong broad shoulders, yet graceful and stealthy in the way in which he carries himself. The one outstanding trait I remember about Dad which he passed on to Max is proudness and a supreme air of confidence. Something that is not taught or trained, but inherent in the genes. As far as picking out “the right” pup, I’m not even sure if I played a very large role in that. I simply remember the kindness of that farm family in allowing us to take him home with us on the promise of a post-dated check as we really “couldn’t afford him” til payday. Talk about lineage, even his owners stood out in their character and kindness.


Never has a dog captured a family as Max did us. The training was easy, the companionship immediate, the intelligence apparent and the thousand percent dedication from him to us startling, refreshing and absolutely unique from any previous dog we had owned. Max didn’t live with us, he was of us.


Rather than go on with a litany of all of the great tricks and moments we shared over the last nine years, suffice to say that one word probably is most relevant and that word is impact. My life, my wife’s life and the two children Max helped raise have been impacted by his presence more than we’ll ever fully comprehend. How could any of us ever allow our special memories to be divulged, without losing the precious luster that their intimacy holds for us. A friend like Max provides so much solace beyond the visible moments such as going WAY airborne for the Frisbee or laying on your feet on a cold December morning. Each of us have our own quiet, personal moments and this is as it should be. I’m sure there was more than one moment where he was hugged til he ached by a crying teen or was at the receiving end of long, whispered conversations in the darkness of a bedroom.


The yard where Max ruled will be quiet tomorrow, very quiet. As a family, some of us will hug one another. Some of us will retreat to our own place and reflect. Sometime later this summer or fall a new Border Collie pup will enter the yard. This pup will be allowed to rule to whatever extent it chooses to. It will be accepted for whoever he or she turns out to be. For that is the right thing to do. The only thing to do. The one thing all are committed to is to never let us compare the new dog to Max. He set a standard so high as to be virtually unattainable.


I am sure that as that new pup streaks along the grass, feet appearing to float above the ground and then hurtling gracefully skyward for their Frisbee, that just maybe Max will be looking on proudly and confidently, knowing that someone new has come to serve our family. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

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I am so sorry to hear about Max. Your tribute to him has me in tears and the love that you have for him shines through. Run free Max..



Where To Bury A Dog

There are various places within which a dog may be buried. We are thinking now of a setter, whose coat was flame in the sunshine, and who, so far as we are aware, never entertained a mean or an unworthy thought. This setter is buried beneath a cherry tree, under four feet of garden loam, and at its proper season the cherry strews petals on the green lawn of his grave. Beneath a cherry tree, or an apple, or any flowering shrub of the garden, is an excellent place to bury a good dog. Beneath such trees, such shrubs, he slept in the drowsy summer, or gnawed at a flavorous bone, or lifted head to challenge some strange intruder. These are good places, in life or in death. Yet it is a small matter, and it touches sentiment more than anything else.

For if the dog be well remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams actual as in life, eyes kindling, questing, asking, laughing, begging, it matters not at all where that dog sleeps at long and at last. On a hill where the wind is unrebuked and the trees are roaring, or beside a stream he knew in puppyhood, or somewhere in the flatness of a pasture land, where most exhilarating cattle graze. It is all one to the dog, and all one to you, and nothing is gained, and nothing lost -- if memory lives. But there is one best place to bury a dog. One place that is best of all.

If you bury him in this spot, the secret of which you must already have, he will come to you when you call -- come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death, and down the well-remembered path, and to your side again. And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel they should not growl at him, nor resent his coming, for he is yours and he belongs there.

People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no whimper pitched too fine for mere audition, people who may never really have had a dog. Smile at them then, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing.

The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.

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What a beautiful, eloquent memorial to an obviously treasured member of the family.


Many here have known the grief of losing such a friend. We call them our "heart dogs"; the ones that leave such an imprint on our hearts that no other dog will ever quite take their place.


As you each grieve in your own way, may you find peace in knowing you did the right thing, at the right time for your special guy. I'm so sorry for your loss.

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You all had the blessings of sharing a terrific lifetime (for Max) together. How much better can it be? The only downside is that their time here with us is so short.


Your eulogy is beautiful, and so was your time together.

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I usually avoid this section. It just makes me cry. But... I once owned a "Molly, the Wonder Dog".



It doesn't matter how long a special dog like this graces our lives. It's still too short. My deepest sympathies for your loss of Max; may all your fond memories of him live long.

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Thanks to all who have commented back re; Max The Wonder Dog.


I am so happy to have found this forum and community.


We will be looking for a working stock pup in the Spring, so if anyone knows of any good prospects within a couple hundred miles of Spokane WA - please let us know!


Again our thanks.

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There are quite a few folks from the PNW on this forum. If you post in the general section asking about working breeders in your neck of the woods, you'll probably get plenty of recommendations. You might want to start talking to folks and getting on puppy lists now if you want a pup in the spring.



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To many people - a dog is just a dog. I feel so bad for those people, they miss out on so much. What an amazing dog Max was... I am so sorry for your loss but hope that your memories bring you smiles as time goes by. Also, thank you to you and your family for your service to this country. The sacrifice is great.

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You're in my prayers.


What a lovely tribute. It was the death of my "Girlfriend the Wonderdog" that brought me to these boards four years ago, and I'll never forget how the members here were so welcoming and comforting. Hope you'll stay with us through your healing and life with your new pup. Of course, no "new" dog ever replaces a beloved friend lost, but becomes beloved on his or her own merits. And there are darn few border collies without those merits.


Here's to Max and all the other Wonderdogs who are waiting for us at the Bridge.

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