Pet Tips 'n' Tales

"Charm"- ing To the "Max"

Photo by Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe"
Karen cuddles Charm as Max surveys the yard. Karen and columnist Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe" reconnect after a half-century to find that their original bond and mutual love for animals is as strong as ever. In fact, their recent reunion provided a humorous pet story.

Fifty-five years ago when my family lived on Vancouver Island,  Karen and I became "best" friends. We spent hours playing with her black Lab dog, Bonzo, and my white cat. Two years later, though, her family moved to Quebec which devastated us both. Then, two years after that, our family moved to Vancouver, BC, leading me to believe that the odds of ever reconnecting with Karen were slim.

Fast forward four more years to one particular Thursday when, Karen came to mind. I could not stop thinking about her that entire day, or even into the next day. Then, at 4:00 p.m., the phone rang and the voice that replied to my "Hello?" was unmistakably Karen's! Karen's family was also in Vancouver due to her father's job transfer and on a "whim" she checked the phone book and saw my family listed. She was so surprised and delighted that she immediately phoned.

Until our recent reunion, we had not seen each other since those high school years; we live in different countries. Thanks to the internet, however, we recently reconnected. Regarding Karen and I, two things that have remained constant is that pet-wise, she has always owned dogs, and I have always owned cats. 

Karen has two dogs: Max, a retriever mix, and Charm, a German Shepherd she acquired a year ago to keep Max company.

"Charm and Max have played well together from the beginning even though he outweighed her by 64 pounds at the time," said Karen. "Now, he only outweighs her by 39 pounds. But still, when Max plays too roughly for her taste, Charm tells tells him off. She obviously doesn't hold the "roughness" against Max, though, because right after 'barking him a piece of her mind', she licks his face.

Max keeps Charm in line. She ran away from me once when I attempted to clip her nails, so Max herded her towards me and told her to behave, which she did. It was funny because Max isn't compliant when his nails need clipping.

Our family thinks that Max is an 'odd duck' because he likes having his 'me time' in the bathroom-alone. When he deems us to be too noisy at family gatherings, or he gets tired of Charm, or the TV is too loud, he goes into the bathroom, turns around, and shuts the door behind him! He stays in there, all by himself, until he's ready to come out. Then he calls to Charm to come to his rescue by pushing the door open. She's recently realized that when Max is in the bathroom, there are, 'More treats for me!', so she ignores his pleas to be 'rescued'. We are encouraging her to let him out immediately, though, so that one of us doesn't have to stop what we're doing at the time to let him out.
Max is bossy; he cries and complains if people stay up after what he considers to be their bedtimes. To remedy this situation, the dogs decided of their own accord to take turns being 'on duty' until the last family member returns home for the night. Max, who once performed this 'job' full time, has become 'lazy', giving Charm more and more shifts to cover. He doesn't consider this so much his duty anymore now that Charm is bigger and able to cover for him more often. After everyone is home and accounted for, the dogs consider their jobs done for the night, and head off to bed.

Our dogs eat mostly 'people food' and everyone comments on 'how beautiful their coats are'. Store-bought dog food is the last food they want to eat. With all the pet food recalls, at least we know that if our food doesn't kill us, it won't kill them, either.

Charm's moral compass doesn't point true north as she has very little conscience regarding the stealing of dog biscuits. Max watches as she steals biscuits from a box that has been accidentally left out, then he turns to us and gives us the 'do something about her' look.

We have had 9-year-old Max since he was a puppy, so we understand his 'vocalizations' and facial expressions quite well. It is a good thing that Charm, on the other hand is lucky she's pretty enough to charm us with her looks, despite her blank, expressionless stare. When we're petting Charm and Max feels it is his turn to be petted, he vocally demands his attention by giving us a 'piece of his mind'.

People who leave their pets outdoors all of the time and don't interact with them much, really miss out on all of the potential communication and teaching/learning opportunities that pets provide. Max follows me everywhere which I love! I used to think this was because of his pure love and devotion towards me until one day when I realized that he only considers me to be an 'inept human who needs constant monitoring'.

We have a swimming pool, and even though Max is part Retriever he doesn't like to swim. He does, though, love to drop his ball into the pool for one of us to retrieve. Max has a kiddie pool available to keep him cool in the summer, but he actually spends time in his pool all year long. Charm stays away from all water.

We also have pet rabbits and were surprised to learn that they like to swim. They become very relaxed in the pool, like they're in a trance, while they float around. One of us is always beside them while they're floating/swimming to make sure they keep their chins up to prevent them from swallowing water.

One of our rabbits was named Thumper. Max and Thumper loved each other and loved to play together. We monitored their interactions because of Max's size compared with Thumper's. Thumper would hop over, wagging his tail, to greet Max. Max would then lick Thumper and eat Thumper's food. Thumper lived to be 8-1/2 years old and died just before Easter one year. Somehow, that seems appropriate."


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