None of us can remember when we opted to nickname Max, our shelter rescue black lab mix, Zoid. But the name has stuck, and it's about the only name he responds to anymore.
Maximus Otto Servidio, or Max, as we named him originally, is the best dog I have ever owned, by far. I have never met a dog, more grateful to be alive. From the time we brought him home, when he was about seven or eight weeks old, from the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter, we always remarked about how happy he was. Goofy, even. That was my nickname for him in the beginning - Goofy.
I mean, what kind of a dog will look back at you with a grin on his face, while he is walking forward, and slam into the wall in front of him,, shake it off, and continue on his way? What kind of a dog digs up blueberry bushes and leaves them right by my back door, as "love notes"? What kind of a dog will weave in and out of your legs, like a cat, and say, "Owwwww" when he wants to go out? (I used to think he was raised by cats, and that he was meowing, when we first got him.) What dog gets so totally freaked out about having his feet touched, that when I used to play the game, "Mommy's gonna touch your feeties!", he would actually try to mouth me, and to this day, still gets that same crazy look in his eye when I touch his paws, many years later? What kind of dog looks at you with a glare when you put pasta in his bowl as a "treat" with his regular dog food? I found this almost hilarious, wihch is why I called him "Goofy" in the very beginning.
Before Max, we had another black lab mix, and she was getting old. I was worried that my daughter would never be able to handle the loss of Cubby when she died, so I wanted to get a second dog, to liven Cubby up (she was now 8), but to also give Bree a puppy that she could call her own. My husband balked at the idea at first, but decided that in the long run, it would be a great idea.
We went to to the Town of Oyster Bay Shelter first. I fell in love with a yellow lab puppy who was a purebreed. When I inquired about him, the officer at the desk informed me that there was a waiting list for him, and I would have to put my name on the list. In the event that the couple who were first on the list opted out, I would be contacted and I could adopt him. I felt a little discouraged, but I put my name on the list anyway.
A few days later, my husband gave me a call from work and asked if I had seen the paper, because there was a black lab puppy in the classifieds that he wanted me to see. Since it was my day off from work, I told him I would go down to the Town of Hempstead Shelter and check him out first, before we all went down there. If he was vicious, it was apparent that I was not bringing him home for my four year old daughter to cuddle with, and I also did not want to waste her time, nor did I want to get her hopes up. The strangest thing was that the newspaper picture of him looked exactly like Cubby when she was a puppy; he could have been her son.
When I got to the shelter and was let in for viewing, I was a little overwhelmed; some of the dogs were huge and some were barking viciously. I began to wonder what I was getting myself into, when I came to cage #116, and there he was.
I took one look at Max, and he looked at me, and I swear, there was an instantaneous connection. His tail was wagging so furiously that I thought it was going to fall off. I went up to the cage and looked in his big, brown, soulful eyes, and I could see something in him that was special. I decided that I no longer wanted the yellow lab puppy; I wanted this black lab mix with the pointy ears that made him look like a German Shepherd, and the curly tail and purple tongue of a Chow. But I had to clear it with my husband and daughter first; we all needed to agree, before we brought another family member into the house.
I went out to the officer at the desk and inquired about the black puppy in cage #116. I asked if there was a waiting list, and that I would like to put my name on it, because I was very interested in adopting him. The officer told me that I shouldn't wait too long to adopt him. I immediately told her, "Ma'am, I cannot be forced into an adoption. I have two other people in my home that need to be sure that they will approve of him, before I make any decisions."
The woman's face looked incredibly serious, and she said to me in a low voice, "Ma'am, you don't understand. That puppy is slated to be destroyed in the morning."
You could have knocked me over with a feather.
I got on the phone right away with my husband, and told him to bring Bree up to the shelter to take a look at the puppy. He did not want to come down; the town was spraying Anvil, and we had just found out, earlier in the week, that Anvil is made from a derivative of chrysanthemums, which Brianna is highly allergic to. He did not want her exposed, even though they had not begun spraying, and they would not begin spraying for another few hours.
I explained, quickly, that time was of the essence, and that if we wanted this dog, we had to act fast, because they were going to put him down, first thing in the morning. "I'll be right there," was his response, and within fifteen minutes, my husband and daughter came into the shelter, stating that they wanted to take the puppy in cage #116 out to evaluate him.
The officer told us that he had been living on the streets for some time, and that they had no idea where he even came from. They took us into the parking lot, put Max on a leash, and we stood around him, to see how he would interact with Brianna, as well as with the rest of us.
It was love at first sight for Brianna. She wanted him, and she hugged him, right in the parking lot and pleaded, "Please, Daddy, please, Mommy, can I have him?" The dog seemed to agree; he had licked Brianna's cheeks and she was giggling. I looked at my husband, who returned my look and said simply, "Let's do it."
We needed a name for the record, and there was a cardboard plaque on one of the dusty tables in the waiting room. One of the plastic dog tags had the name "Max" on it, and that was it; he was named. When we got home, Brianna said that his real name was Maximus Otto Servidio, because she loved the show, "Rocket Power", and Otto was her favorite character. We registered him with that exact name.
As we were driving him home, I had said that I would hold him on my lap. I had on a new coat. Don't you know, we were about a mile and a half from the house, and he proceeded to vomit all over the new leather and wool? Brianna was in the back seat, and from her car seat I heard her say, "PU, it stinks in here, what just happened?" My husband, ever the comedian, said, "Maxie just puked all over Mommy." Brianna giggled the whole way home.
He was a very sick boy when we brought him home. He was suffering from tapeworm, kennel cough, some sort of cold, and he had a fever. I had no idea that I would be using my nursing skills to care for this animal, but nursed him I did, and within a few weeks, he was lively and silly, jumping all over Cubby, who merely grunted and walked out of the room to distance herself from him. But he loved her, and when she passed away, just before her 10th birthday, he was despondent for months. It hurt to see him looking so sad; everyone used to comment on how happy he was, and now he wouldn't even play fetch. For every picture, he had a broad grin, and his tongue hung out of his mouth goofily to complete the incredible look of silliness. And here he was, moping about the house as though he lost his best friend, but she actually disliked him a great deal. She tolerated him, but he clearly loved her more than she loved him.
The "Pretty Boy Zoid" came from the way he always lies down. I have never seen a dog cross their front paws in my life, and it was the funniest thing. He assumed a spot in the kitchen, which became "Maxie's spot", and every time he lays down, he crosses his paws. Well, that, and the look I get whenever I put pasta in his bowl; it's a kind of "Are you kidding me?" type of facial expression. We always look for it now, whenever we put pasta in his bowl, and we laugh about it now. It's basically the only thing he turns his nose up at. But my husband had said that he looked like a "pretty boy" with his paws crossed, and I was in the habit of singing, "Beautiful Boy" to him, so he became "Pretty Boy Zoid," the dog of one hundred nicknames.
He's going to be 13 this year. His vision is going, and so is his hearing. Or so we thought. I can call him, from two feet away, and he looks around like I am on the other side of the house. I can call him, when he is lying outside in the pachysandra, and he doesn't respond as quickly as he used to. However, if I peel a clementine, or if my husband peels a banana, he comes running. We have decided that he has "selective hearing" now, which is actually another comical trait of this wonderful dog. And does he ever love his sweets! Jelly beans are his absolute favorite; his eyes literally bug out of his head when he gets to eat them. We limit the amount of people food he gets, but candy is one of his all time favorites.
Pretty Boy Zoid is by far the best dog we have ever owned. We adopted (or rather, paid through the nose for) a female golden retriever for him when he was three. It was the best thing we ever did; he no longer moped about the house. He was now frolicking with Candy Cane (Bree named her, since we got her, two days before Christmas) in the yard, in the house, tugging toys, and having a blast. They are now best buds; they lie on the same bed, though each of them has their own. They will stand over each other, and if one has gone outside and the other has not gotten to the door yet, they wait for each other. It is the sweetest thing I have ever seen.
There are so many dogs that turn up in animal shelters all over this country. (Cats and other small animals as well.) Reasons for this can range from dogs that areaAbandoned by owners, to owners who become too elderly or ill to care for their dogs, or are placed into nursing homes and have to give up their dogs. Some are Christmas rejects, which is an incredible tragedy. People think that they are doing a wonderful thing for their children by bringing home a "Christmas Puppy", but after the dog becomes older, and is no longer a puppy, or now begins to chew due to teething, and requires training, the newness wears off, and the dog gets taken to the shelter because nobody is willing to care for the animal. This is tragic. And it angers me that people have dogs for such a short amount of time, and then they bring them to a kill shelter. North Shore Animal League suffers from overcrowding as well; they are a non-kill shelter, but everybody wants puppies, so for the most part, the older dogs sit and suffer in silence. If I had a large piece of property, or a farm, I would by all means adopt at least five more dogs, because they give such unconditional love, not to mention releasing them from cramped cages filled with excrement, so that they could be free to run around and be a part of a family. Dogs have such love to give, and they expect nothing in return. And they really do make the best listeners.
So, if I post a picture of a dog who needs to be adopted, because he or she is on Death Row, please know that I am an advocate for the voiceless. Sure, you could go to a pet store and adopt a cute pure breed for over $1,000. Or, you could go down to your local shelter and save a life. It doesn't have to be a puppy; the older dogs are just as sweet and gentle. I know a lot of people who have taken older dogs into their homes; housebreaking is not usually an issue, and the dog has mellowed out from his or her digging/chewing days, for the most part. I am not going to say that all shelter rescues are perfect; you could very easily find a few who might require more training, or being the only pet, or could have some illness that you might have to manage. But wouldn't that be worth being greeted at the door every night that you come home, with a wag and a smile? I know it's made a world of difference to me.
I read a sign once, in a shelter. It said, "A dog is a lifetime commitment. You have to be willing to commit at least 15 years to this relationship. It is not easy, but it is definitely worth it." Let me tell you, Pretty Boy Zoid is worth his weight in gold, and more. I have said it once, and I will say it again; I have never been sorry for taking him home that day, and I never will be. Long live Maximus! (Who also goes by the name of "Toasted Meatball", "Cookie Crumbs", Maxieboy and Zoidyboy lol) Consider bringing a shelter rescue into your home; don't have any expectations, and you might find that you are most pleasantly surprised with the outcome!