Author: Shirley Wong
“When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out.”
– Ho Chi Min
Mike checked his watch. 4 o’clock. Time to go home and feed Max. Wherever Mike was, whether it was hanging out at Metrotown, shooting hoops at Hastings Community Centre, or hitting tennis balls with his buddies – it was always the same.
When that hand hit the four on his watch, little Mike predictably waved goodbye to his friends. You could draw a dotted line from wherever he was to his journey home to East Van. This pattern occurred for several years to the point that it was mentioned in Mike’s grade 12 yearbook, “Sorry guys, gotta feed my dog.”
Mike describes Max as the smartest dog he’s ever known. Unfortunately, Max was purchased as a sort of guard dog for their home. The family had a few break-ins and, as is often the case, getting a big German Shepherd mix to scare off robbers just seemed to be a logical (if not unsentimental) solution.
As a result, the plan was that Max would stay in the garage most days while Mike was at school and his parents were at work. But Max had other ideas. She ended up coolly escaping the garage on more occasions than Mike broke curfew. How? By casually observing how the family pressed the button to open the garage door, of course.
It would have been very difficult for her to press that button, Mike recalls. There was a cover on that button that she would have to flip, and then hit the button exactly right. But Max figured it out pretty quick, and just as quickly, was as free as a con on the run. Imagine the look on Mike’s face when he rounded the corner to his house and saw the garage door wide open.
Did I mention Mike competed in tennis tournaments when he was younger? His routine was to come home, feed Max, walk her and play with her. Then he’d go on his way to his tennis match to soundly school his opponent in East Van Represent style. But those unfortunate days (or fortunate days, if you’re on Team Max) that Max disappeared, often coincided with days that Mike was scheduled to play in a local match.
She was long gone. Investigating nearby alleys, smelling garbage and chasing cats. Mike found himself frantically yelling, “MAX” and checking streets – Franklin, Slocan, Kaslo, Kamloops – cursing under his breath that he was going to be late to his match.
When he finally saw her, he made a grab for her, but she swiftly slipped out of his grip and broke out in full sprint away from him. Occasionally she would glance back in amusement. Fun! Eventually Mike gave up the chase and turned back home. She would follow behind a few yards and go home too. Heck, she was ready for dinner now.
Then Mike was running or biking to his next match. He’d arrive at the courts to see his opponent waiting impatiently. He grabbed the racket from his bag, and took his position at the baseline. He nodded and said, “Let’s go.” He was already warmed up.
Note: This post is dedicated to my husband, who still talks about his beloved dog Max to this day. And yes, I’ve always been on Team Max.