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For The Love Of Max by Olga Maughan

Article by Olga Maughan ©.
Posted in the Magazine (Tell Your Own Story: , ).
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I was clearing out the shed after ordering a large skip that stood in the drive. I picked up the broken chair wondering how we had held onto it for so long, it was about twenty years old now, if not more. We had promised to have it fixed but never got around to it, even brought it with us when we moved to a new house. It brought back happy memories, also sad ones too. I thought of my daughter, Hilary, how I had told her off that day the chair ended up in this state.

Hilary was twelve, it was1989. She stood, hands on hips, school bag over her shoulder, insisting she wanted a dog for Christmas. I held my breath, counted to ten.

Halloween was only gone, and Hilary and her siblings were getting ready to go back to school after the holiday. She made a dash for the door when her father called out to her. He was standing by the car looking at his watch. He was driving the children to school and was already late. They were all out the door now, I breathed a sigh of relief.
I decided I would think about it for the day, I would have the story straight in my head when she came home from school, as to why it was not such a good idea to get a pet for Christmas. I would tell her how everyone said not to buy a pet for Christmas because most of them would end up in the dog pound by January. Of course, that would never happen in our house, we loved animals too much. I came up with “we shouldn’t get one for Christmas because we hadn’t talked about it as a family”.

I knew she would have worked on her father on the journey to school, he was a softie, I wouldn’t stand a chance of saying no.

I thought of my own dog, and the memory of my mother screaming, as to “why I had not brushed his coat? there are dog hairs everywhere, he will have to go” and go he did. I had no say in the matter. He was ‘given to a friend who had a large house in the country’ I loved that dog, I had called him Teddy, because that’s just what he was like, a big old teddy bear. An old English sheep dog, I thought perhaps Hilary would love one like him. There it was, I had already given in to her request, she hadn’t been gone out the door an hour since, why could she not ask for something like her sister who wanted a CD player, a few CDs, but Hilary wasn’t interested in music, she just wanted a dog.

That evening the talk at the dinner table was only about dogs. It was me against the family now. I told them about Teddy, I asked Hilary if perhaps she might get one just like him? “No” was the answer.

“He wouldn’t be my dog, he would be all yours, I want to pick out my own dog, I want one that I like” end of conversation. I could only hope that she would pick a dog that wasn’t angry or cross, or perhaps not get on with other dogs, or a dog that wanted to eat cats, we had two. Time went on, she didn’t let us forget that she was getting a dog for Christmas while her siblings were happy with something electronic, or even just clothes.

It was the end of November and I suggested she choose her dog now; it would be well settled in by Christmas. I didn’t want to be moping up after a pup on Christmas morning which I was sure I would be doing even though Hilary promised to walk, clean and feed this mysterious animal. I had told them of a great place that were looking for homes for dogs. A friend recommended this place and she said they were usually thoroughbreds but without papers, “beats having a mongrel in the house” she had said. What a snob, I thought, but I gave Hilary and her dad the address anyhow.

The day came to pick up the dog. It was wet and miserable all that day. It was seven on the button when I heard the car pull up. The rain, still coming down in torrents.

I didn’t want to have my husband, daughter and new companion getting wetter than they had to, so, I ran to open the door towel in hand, thinking of the poor wet dog. They stepped into the hall.

My daughter, dog under her arm, I stood there taking in what I saw. One very orange dog, a tooth on the right side sticking out, making his lip curl like Elvis, his very large tail, too big for the size of him, banging against the front door at the sight of me, and splashing rainwater everywhere. “His name is Max” my daughter said, her eyes; wide with delight. They hadn’t gone to the place I suggested.

They couldn’t find it they said. they ended up in the Cats and Dogs home on Grand Canal Quay. This dog was a mongrel and no mistake. Max would have won the ugliest dog competition, but he was overjoyed entering our home that evening, it was as if he knew he was onto a winner, as if he knew he had been rescued from certain death.
Very soon, in the matter of a few minutes in fact, he had stolen everyone’s heart in our house.

Max ended up on my bed, after spending the first few hours crying for company, I couldn’t stand the pain he was going through, so, I opened my bedroom door and that’s where he slept for the next seventeen years. He became my dog, just what Hilary didn’t want, even though she was the one to take him for walks when she came home from school and he sat with her on the sofa when she watched television. But I was one who fed him and kept him company all day when the family were out.

The day we went shopping leaving him in the kitchen, we couldn’t bear to leave him outside, we came back to this very chair, eaten away and broken, and I blamed my daughter. The day we were expecting a cheque from the proceeds of a will which Max got to before we could stop him, he tore it to shreds. The postman said if we find fingers in the hallway; we should keep them on ice, he would pick them up on his way back. Yes, Max was my dog. Years later my daughter left home, she planned to travel the world, Max was left with us, our wonderful companion.
Gone now, I cried so hard the day he died late in the year of 2004, and cried a good while after that too, even today I’m lonely without him. Was it time for another? Should I take myself to the dog Pound? where my daughter, thankfully, insisted on going that day with her dad because it was closer. What used to be the dogs and cats home on Grand Canal Quay has now moved to Mount Venus Rathfarnham and known as DSPCA where the staff carry our wonderful work with animals looking for their forever homes. You won’t perhaps find a pedigree or a designer dog, unless they have been rescued from bad places; but what I do know is this; you will find a dog that is so willing to be your friend for life. Like Max, by my side all those years, faithful, loving, protective. He gave us so much pleasure, so much laughter in our home. To day you will hear people say adopt don’t shop and I agree; why would you buy when you can find a wonderful companion like we did in the dogs and cats home.

People said Hilary saved Max’s life that day. The truth is, I feel we were the ones saved, we were the one’s rescued.

(c) Olga Maughan

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I was born in London and raised In Dublin and spent a lot of time in Kildare and Carlow when I was growing up. I worked for 3Com Ireland for as many years as they were in Dublin and loved every minute of it. With two members of the staff there, I walked across the Sahara Desert for charity, for seven long hot days, great experience. My husband and I moved to Cavan in 2004 where I worked for an Educational and Rehabilitation Centre, retiring last year at the age of 66, but I still volunteer with them in my spare time. Since I retired I have a lot more time to sit at my laptop to write and have had short stories published in Woman's Way Magazine. My interests are reading, writing and swimming, although I don't swim as much as I should.