A 90-pound lab gets in the way, but he's not such a bad dog at all

PETS AT HOME

December 28, 1991|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

Extra dogs stay at my house so often that my permanent ones, Andy and Toni, hardly pay attention when a new one drops in. Toni gives her "not again" sigh and heads to the back room to sulk. Andy makes sure the food dishes and squeaky toys are protected, then heads outside to find cats to chase.

But our comfortable status quo was given a good shake recently, when canine "nephew" Max dropped in for a weekend stay while my brother and sister-in-law were busy with the birth of their first child.

Max is a yellow Labrador, 90-plus pounds at the far end of puppyhood. At first I thought it would be fun to have him over. But before an hour had passed, Max had me thinking.

He had me thinking that a weekend could be a very long time.

To put it simply, I maxed out on Max in a very short time. It's not his fault; he's sweet-natured and smart, anxious to please and reasonably well-behaved. But what he mostly is, is big.

The problems started the first night, when the dog my sister-in-law calls "little Maxy" plopped himself smack in the middle of the bed. He got the prime spot because he retires early, excusing himself just after 9 p.m. each night.

I tried to reclaim the bed later, only to discover that the word "share" isn't in Max's vocabulary. After a few minutes of pinching, kicking and otherwise trying to dislodge or awaken his snoring mass, I gave up and slept as best I could, curled up on the small part of the mattress Max wasn't covering.

Then there's his affection for water. Andy and Toni aren't water dogs, to put it mildly. When I turn on the shower, they run for the dog door on the chance the activity in the bathroom means it's time for their baths. But a Labrador retriever is an altogether different breed.

Max showed interest in the water as soon as I turned it on, but it never occurred to me to close the door securely. Midway through my shower, the curtain developed a peculiar lump, as Max tried to work his way closer to the water source. The tension rod gave way just as he made his leap, and suddenly the bathtub was a very crowded place.

There didn't seem to be much point in throwing him out at that point, so I grabbed the flea shampoo and gave the dog a bath.

Despite it all, by the time little Maxie went home he'd lumbered his way into our affections. I came to appreciate Max's oddball sense of humor and the respect his massive size and thundering bark commanded on our nightly walks.

In the end I was a little sorry to send him home, although I gave my brother and sister-in-law the tiniest bit of advice as I returned him:

Be less indulgent with little Katharine Anne, I suggested. It's frightening to think what that much spoiling could do to a child.

Ms. Spadafori is a newspaper reporter and an animal obedience trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o Saturday, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278

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