Monday, July 19, 2010

And Then Came Maxie

Pepper, my first Papillon
While Fooh Fooh was cuddling with John at night, it became a passion of mine to find a little dog of my own to cuddle with for the rest of my days.  That's all I wanted. I wasn't sure which breed. My cousin, Lois, in Florida, who breeds and sells Papillons, offered to give me one, so I combined a week-long trip to visit my parents with a visit to Lois's farm to pick up my free Papillon.  I brought my sister-in-law, Audrey, with me.  But when we got there, the only puppy she had left was clearly not for me.  I felt nothing for that puppy.  I actually did fall in love with another puppy of hers, named Pepper, but her grandson had claimed it already.  So I came home empty-handed and unbelievably heavy-hearted.  It took me months to get over the hurt.  I still miss Pepper.  But I was convinced more than ever that Papillon was the breed I wanted.

It took me 2 more years to find a breeder, and that was by mere chance.  I was complaining to my neighbor, Laura, that I hadn't found my dog yet, and she happened to see an ad in the Baton Rouge classifieds about Papillons for sale in Ponchatoula.  I called the breeder, who said the pup was 6 months old, not conformation quality, and she would let it go to the right person for $800.  She was going to be in Gonzales the next weekend, at Lamar Dixon, at a conformation show and I could come meet her and see her show dogs in action.  I went.  We met.  I saw a lot of Papillons prancing around.  Now I really wanted a Pap.  She invited me to her home to view the puppy, whom she was calling Squirt!

Max at 6 months, our first meeting, December 2007.
He had no ear or tail feathers yet!
My Maximillon, being called Squirt!  I still can't get over that.  Turns out, Barb was sure Squirt would never reach conformation size (between 9-12").  His father Ace was only 8" tall, and Maxie was about 7.5" tall at 6 months, and not supposed to grow much taller.  I suspect the judges also wouldn't care for the assymetrical blaze on Maxie's face, either, but that's exactly what I loved about him.  Can't mistake him for any other pap.  Since I wasn't interested in breeding him anyway, I didn't mind that I'd have to have him neutered as a condition of the sale.

It was absolutely love at first sight, both ways.  Everywhere I went, inside or out, Maxie was at my feet, staring into my eyes, plopping down at my side. Not to mention, he had this way of prancing when he walked (still does), cocking his head sideways, gazing into my eyes, and flopping down on his side with a purpose as if to say "I'm shutting down, right here, right now."  There was also something pliant about him.  He didn't mind being handled.  He was self-sufficient and confident.  And while he was lively, he wasn't frantic. I really like his square shape and long legs, too.
It's hard to describe what I admired so much about him, and still do.

See those long legs and square body.
He didn't have much hair at 6 months, so it was
easy to see his perfectly proportioned body.
After 2 more visits to Barb's, one with Audrey, one with John, we signed the papers, forked over the money, and I took him home with me.  First ride in the car, he plopped down by my right thigh and put his head in my lap, and didn't budge the whole way home, and that's where he's been riding ever since.  That's his "in the car" spot.

I never cast about for a new name for him.  On the way home he just became "Ace Maximillion".  That's who he was, with unlimited potential and a drive to achieve whatever I asked him to do. He hasn't disappointed me!

I immediately determined to grow Max to conformation size, and began giving him 1 Tbsp of Smith Creamery unhomogonized whole cows milk every day.  Cows milk, I reasoned, has the growth hormones in it to grow a baby calf to 1200 lbs, so I figured they would grow Maxie too.  Within 6 more months, he attained a height of 10.25", where he is to this day at 3 years of age.  The vet said that contrary to popular belief, cows milk doesn't hurt dogs as long as it doesn't give them indigestion.  It didn't.  I quit feeding him milk at about 1 year of age, but he still laps it up at any opportunity.

I was in heaven, but got way more than I bargained for when I realized my 6 month old Maximillion, in addition to being a supreme cuddler with eyes-for-me-only, was also smart, agile and very eager to learn and show off. Within 3 tries, he caught on to every parlor trick I introduced, so we soon began entertaining visitors with roll-overs, turns, flips, jump thru my arms, dancing round and round, etc. We were limited only by what I knew to teach, so I began buying dog training books, watching Animal Planet, and before long, I saw an AKC Agility Competition on TV, Googled "dog agility" and found out Papillons excelled at it, then Googled "dog agility Baton Rouge", and up popped the local AKC dog club's website. We signed up for our first agility class with the Louisiana Capital City Obedience Club just 2 months after I got Max, with no idea how this would rearrange my time, redefine my social circle, and change my whole concept of "retirement".

Here is Max at age 2, with a lot more ear feathers, all dressed up for my niece's wedding in May 2009.  Isn't he darling?  This is the photo I carry around in my iPhone and wallet and show to everyone.  I also have it framed in 8x10 on my entry table.

I'll tell you more about Max in my next post.

No comments: