Fishing Stories: All About Max

Since I keep talking about Max, I thought I would give a little information about him and some of his activities. Max was born on August 18th, 1997. His father is Willie, owned by Dennis at Pacific Flyway Kennels in Los Banos. His mother is Coco, owned by Mike and Julie Austin, who live in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Mike and Julie are very good friends who we knew long before we got Max from them. When they invited us for dinner in September of 1997, we knew they had a litter of small puppies. We were looking forward to seeing them, but we had no intention of getting one. At the time, we had had an English Springer Spaniel, named Misty, for a number of years. She was aging fast and we knew she could not live too much longer, but we were not planning on getting another dog. It was clear from the beginning, however, that Max knew he was supposed to be looking for a home. He followed me all evening. When I picked him up, he would curl up in my lap. He did everything he could to look appealing. (I have accused his owners of prepping him before we got there.) In any event, we came home having agreed to make Max a part of our menagerie (Jean and I, Misty, the cats--Mariah, Bandit and Sammy McGuire, and fish in our backyard pond).

We got Max on Oct 16th, 1997 when he was 8 weeks old. From the beginning, he went with me everywhere I went. At that time I was working on the houseboat on the Delta, and he went with me each day. He enjoyed the water from the beginning and loved to pick up duck feathers and bring them to me. The first time he walked down a boat ramp into the water, he would keep picking up his feet, trying to figure out why they disappeared in the water. That might have been his first great trauma, finding out that he couldn’t walk on water!

Max lived up to the folk tale that Labs don’t get a brain until they are two years old. I worked and worked to house break him and he would run around the house wetting the rug as he went. We had already planned on replacing the carpet and decided that we should wait until Max learned to go outside. I watched him constantly, jumping up and taking him outside everytime he started to go in the house. Finally, after any other dog would have been trained for months, Max suddenly seemed to understand that he should go outside instead of in the house. He never again went inside. Even today, I can’t even get him to go to the bathroom on the back deck of the houseboat; I have to find a place for him to get off the boat. In the swamps of Louisiana, that’s not always an easy task.

I think I have told the story of how Max jumped off the houseboat onto a large pad of water hyacinths because he evidently thought they were a large, solid lawn. What a surprise to him when he disappeared below the water! Well, he hasn’t really learned. Recently my brother and I left Max on the houseboat while we went to bait some hooks. Most of the time we were in sight of the houseboat, but for a short time we were around a bend behind some trees. Once we finished, we headed back to the boat. As we approached, I realized I couldn’t see Max. I called. No Max. As we came alongside the boat, I called again. Across the back of the houseboat I saw this big black head pop up, stay there for a few seconds, and drop out of sight. Then it would pop up again and go back down. I jumped from the little boat to the houseboat, crossed over to the side Max was on and reached down and grabbed his collar. With a slight pull, Max popped up on the deck and was he glad to be back with us. Evidently he had decided that he could jump from the boat and could follow us as we went out of sight. Maybe this will be the one that finally teaches him that he really can’t walk on water.

One more story about Max’s latest adventure. A Coast Guard Officer who lives at the marina has a six-month old Golden Retriever named Sassie. She acts exactly as Max acted when he was that age, pestering him and wanting to play all the time. Max now is more like a teenager, wanting to be in charge and pretending that he doesn’t want to play. However, when he gets up in the morning, he is ready to go out to see Sassie. Often she is waiting beside the boat for Max to come out. They are good company for each other. Although her name is Sassie, Max and I call her "Jolie Blond".

Two years ago I got a furry little (20 pound) puppy. Today Max weighs 115 pounds and not an ounce of fat. He was happy from the first night we brought him home. If he woke in the night and cried a bowl of water would put him back to sleep. He is bigger that most labs, but has a most gentle disposition. Occasionally we will meet a dog that wants to fight. Max just runs up to them and starts to play but he never actually fights. But his size and exuberance always carry the day. The other dog will finally start running away and Max will run along with him, all the time his tail wagging like mad.

You will probably hear more about Max from time to time but I thought you might want to get acquainted with him in "capsule form".