Mad Max the Wonder Dog

by Morgan Alber 5 months ago in adoption

The Overwhelming Desire for a Dog in my Life Led me to Max.....

Mad Max the Wonder Dog

When our dog, Cole died in 2014, my husband and I were devastated. He was such a great dog. He was a black mutt, part border collie, part lab, maybe some chow chow or some cocker spaniel, who knows? My husband and his youngest daughter found him in a box of other puppies in a Safeway parking lot with a sign that said, “Free Puppies”.

Cole after a haircut

“Please, Daddy, please let me have a puppy, I will never ask you for another present as long as I live, please Daddy….”

So, Cole had a new home. He lived with my husband for three years before we met and married and then Cole became my dog, too. He joined a houseful. There were already two dogs, a flock of chickens and several cats at my house when Cole and my husband joined me. Cole accepted everything and everyone with a happy bark and a wagging tail. Everyone he met was his new best friend forever. He was a wonderful dog.

After fourteen years of Cole’s happy outlook on life, he got sick and we had to make the heart wrenching decision to let him go.

“No more dogs,” my husband declared through his tears.

“No more dogs,” I agreed, with a sob.


After three years of no dogs in my life, my heart began to ache with a new feeling. I still grieved for Cole, as well as for all the dogs that went before him, but…..

“No more dogs” no longer felt like such a good idea.

“Well….I guess we could consider a dog if one of us retires. I don’t want another dog that has to stay home by itself while we are at work all day. It was too hard on Cole. He was alone too much,” said my always practical husband.

“Okay,” I reluctantly agreed…..

It was half way through the year of 2017 when my husband announced he could not continue to work as a criminal investigator. He just didn’t want to deal with the constant stress, lack of support from co workers and the emotional roller coaster of dealing with the worst of the worst people in the community over and over again.

“This is my last year,” he said.

“My first question was, you guessed it, “Can I get a dog?”

For months I perused the websites at the local shelters. “How about a dachshund?”

“No…..not a dachshund.”

“A beagle?”


“Look at this moppy dog, he’s cute and he is house trained.”

“He needs a home now, I’m still working….”

“Definitely no chihuahuas…or miniature poodles, they are yappy.”


“I like my Dad’s yorkie….”

“No, it pees on the floor and barks all the time.”


“I miss Cole, let’s look for a border collie mix.”

“Okay,” I said. “But they can be really high energy. We don’t have a fenced yard. We will have to walk it constantly. And we will still miss Cole.”

The day of my husband’s retirement was coming closer and I was spending more and more time looking at dogs. Then one day my stepmom said, “I’m thinking of getting another dog, I think our little one is lonely. Want to go by the shelter?”

Did I ever!

And there was Max.

Max was wagging his tail madly, barking and jumping around, really manic. But his eyes were deep brown and his face looked so much like Cole; my heart did a flip flop.

I called my husband. “There’s a dog at the shelter that looks like Cole. You should go look.”

“I’m at work.”

“Well, he looks like Cole and he is super sweet, but he’s kind of big, and he is super high energy……you should go look.”


I went back to the shelter and had a meet and greet. Max let me pet him and he jumped around. He was crazy excited about another dog walking by and couldn’t focus. But he looked like Cole and then he came over and leaned against me and sighed when I scratched his chin. And my heart did a flip flop again and I called my husband.

“Please go look at Max and at the dog next to him.”

“I’ll meet you there.”

On my husband’s last day of work, we went to the shelter during his lunch break and had a visit with Max.

We filled out paperwork and handed over a check and both of us went back to work. After work, my husband picked Max up and headed home. I still had a couple hours to go and by the time I got to the house, my husband was already regretting getting a dog.

Max was so excited he had knocked my husband down, pulled him around the yard and tangled him in his leash. He couldn’t stop barking and was making a complete nuisance of himself. Oh my gosh, what are we in for…..

That night Max decided he should sleep in bed with us, but he was too excited to sleep and just jumped all over us. He weighed 46 pounds so this was not comfortable. By the early hours of the morning we were both pretty certain we had made a giant mistake and wondered if we should take him back.

I called my son for advice. “There is a dog kennel in the basement at Grandma’s house,” he said. “Go get it, it will calm Max down.”

It turns out, Max’s only training was kennel training and he went right in and laid down. We all slept that night. Maybe we can keep him…….

It was his only training. He didn’t know how to ask to go outside so he peed on the carpet. Why do dogs and cats always pee on the carpets? He didn’t know how to walk on a leash or to come, or to sit or to do…anything….

He really, really liked the cat but he wanted to wrestle and she was having none of that.

He was way too skinny and his ears were matted up, but he couldn’t hold still long enough for me to trim them. You could feel every rib even through his long, thick, curly coat. Had anyone fed him?

He got very excited about food and treats. Actually, he got very excited about everything all the time.

The shelter gave us a voucher for a free vet visit so off we went. Max went crazy in the car. Max shook and drooled and threw up. When we got to the vet, he pulled us into the office, tried to play with the other patients, barked and was completely out of control. It was a bit embarrassing.

The vet looked at Max’s paperwork from the shelter and looked at Max. “This says he’s a two-year-old lab mix. You have a border collie and he will drive you crazy. There is probably some lab or retriever, but he is mostly border collie and he is going to be a handful for a very long time.”

“But he is super sweet,” I answered.

“They always are,” he replied. “But they need to work and to run and they are too smart for their own good.”

“I know, but he is really sweet and he looks like Cole.”

We tried to put him up on the examination table, but that was cause for Max to have a complete breakdown. Dog hysteria is not a pretty sight.

The vet was finally able to do an examination with Max on the floor and the vet sitting beside him. He was in good shape; except he was too thin.

“He will fatten up some, but he is done growing. He won’t get any bigger.”

We headed home, still wondering if we should keep him……..

To calm him down, we gave Max capsules of valerian and passion flower. We fed him Dramamine before car rides and squirted him with Bach flower remedies. I don’t know if it really helped or just made us feel like we were doing something.

The kennel saved his life. That and the Gentle Leader harness which helps control him when we go for a walk. He has knocked me down so many times that I have lost count of the bruises. And he resists most training. Max has no sense of space and barrels right over and through groups of people. But then he turns around and is so sweet. He is sure that every person and dog he meets is his “new best friend forever.” He is so desperate to play, though, that he often terrifies the very people and dogs that he wants to play with, sending them running in panic from the crazy dog barking and lunging at the end of his leash.

We tried taking him to the dog park to run off some energy. It worked great for a while. Then three times in a row an aggressive dog was at the park and Max began to imitate the bad behavior. He was also impossible to control when he became over excited by the other dogs, so we quit going.

We tried taking him everywhere with us to see if we could calm down his extreme separation anxiety, but it actually seemed to make it worse. Instead we began to keep him home, going for long walks around the neighborhood and putting him out in the yard on a long cable so he could chase sticks and balls.

Gradually he has learned some commands. He can now sit, come, shake, roll over, show his belly and lay down. He no longer needs his kennel. He sleeps on the couch and lets us sleep all night in our bed. He has made a lot of progress.

Max still suffers from intense separation anxiety. If one of us is gone, he won’t eat until everyone is back in their place. He is manipulative. He will refuse to eat until he throws up if the food is not to his liking. He will do anything for peanut butter.

He loves hugs and cuddles and pretty much lives for belly rubs.


Remember how the vet said he wouldn’t grow anymore? Well, he has grown at least 7 inches taller, he has gained close to ten pounds and he shows no sign of slowing down. He now takes over almost the whole couch and when he jumps up to hug me, he looks me straight in the eye. He is a big dog! Way bigger than our Cole ever was.

Every now and then he knocks me over in his enthusiasm and I wonder if he should move to another home. Then he looks at me with those big brown eyes, so much like Cole’s, snuggles up in my lap (yes, all fifty-six pounds of him) and I know he will be staying a while. He’s become our dog.

This is our Max. Our impulsive adoption on the last day my husband went to work has been both blessing and curse. After two years, he has taken over our household and I still wonder what we have gotten ourselves into. But he is here and he is our dog for better or worse.

Beware of that overwhelming desire for a dog….it might lead you to your own Mad Max. You might end up with the blessings and curses of an overactive, super excitable but very, very sweet dog. One that never stops growing, is too smart for his own good and drives you crazy. One that looks like the dog your heart longs for, but has his own crazy outlook on life. One that dares you to fall in love with those big brown eyes all over again.

You can find more of my stories in Vocal and at my blog about Early Childhood Education: Books, Bubbles and Blocks.

Morgan Alber
Morgan Alber
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