Maximus Prime. Maxwell Smart. Max-A-Million. Mad Max. My little buddy, Max, for short, is God’s gift to the masses. Highly photogenic and the embodiment of charm and class, Max’s animal magnetism draws people to him as though he were the gnarliest Kardashian and, as expected, is a sought-after prize on countless cell phone cameras. Is he an international viral sensation? He may well be.
It’s stunning that he was a give-away in a Colorado Craigslist ad, then rehomed three times before I was asked if I wanted him. Are you kidding me? I’m honored that he wanted me. Thought to be four years old when we met in 2009, he’s grayed around the face and developed a bit of a paunch, but I’m not one to talk. Like any superhero, his past is murky. He prefers to keep it that way, as he knows that mystique is rare in this world and only increases his appeal. It’s rumored that his person went off to college and that this person’s parents simply dispensed with him. True, he was depressed when we met. He slept a lot and ate little. With time came trust, and now he sleeps a lot and wishes he could eat more.
I often remind Max that he is the perfect Pug, as he has 80 percent of the breed’s congenital challenges. Blind, he has a specific route around the ranch that he navigates as surely as any sighted traveler. Occasionally he wonders where I am, and he can often be seen on the ranch camera standing in the middle of the tack area, waiting for me to find him. I would like to be able to report that Max is quite the ranch dog, but I cannot. He has no horse-sense. He has no fear of larger creatures. He has no sense of danger. Max believes he is invulnerable and that I will find and rescue him from any imminent equine-related disaster. I do my best.
His legs aren’t as agile as they once were, either. Formerly known to many as “The World’s Fastest Pug,” he needs help getting up steps, onto the couch, or into bed with me at night. He makes that requirement clear with a discordant honking noise that I think is a bark. He also snores, snorts, and snuffles. Max’s vocalizations used to keep me up at night; now I can’t sleep without them. His defining feature is a tongue that doesn’t fit into his mouth. At all. Not even close. It’s long and lolling, and he prefers you not mention it. In fact, for the first few months we were together, he kept his head turned away from me, fearful that I would grab it.
Max is a gentleman, yet if he were to wear clothes, it would be a leopard-print Speedo. For some reason, it’s hard to imagine him in anything else. Especially a tuxedo. That’s just wrong.
We’ve traveled quite a bit together, living on ranches in Colorado, Washington, and now Montana. He loves a good road trip, prefers riding shotgun, and although he can’t see over the dashboard, Max’s rich inner life keeps him occupied during the long asphalt stretches between rest stops. His brachycephalic mug radiates deep serenity, and like the wisest Zen master, he’s laughing on the inside. He’s often in what I interpret as a deep meditative state. Or it could be that he’s asleep. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
He is the last acquired of my three current canines and my first “little dog.” Frankly, I didn’t consider a dog under 50 pounds a dog, and I don’t mind revealing and correcting my misassumption here and now. Max is all dog. His loyalty is boundless. His keen insight into my moods, flawless. His senses—save his eyesight—remain as keen as any ravenous lupine, with the ability to smell a potato chip at some distance. What sets him apart from many other dogs, I believe, is his sense of humor.
A seasoned comedian, Max knows how to bring it. If he could hold a mic, he’d drop it. Children squeal in glee as he spins before them in tight circles: his happy dance. Their parents dig cameras from pockets and purses and document the moment for posterity. And their grandparents release sly grins, sharing with Max the knowledge that age brings such wisdom, that stirring up joy is a noble raison d’etre. Also, like Max, that they can still rock ‘n’ roll.