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Monday, May 20, 2024

Mighty Max competed right until the end.

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When I stop and think about it, I am really a lucky man. For a guy who was at best, a marginal athlete in his younger days, I have lived the dream through my work in sports television production as well as writing about sports. I ‘ve attended just about every major sporting event this country has to offer.

From the NBA Finals, to the Super Bowl, the Indy 500 to the World Series, The Masters to the Final Four, I have been privileged to see it all up close and personal. Along the way, I have met many of the finest athletes in the world.

The list of big time names is indeed impressive. Ali, Jordan, Unitas, Andretti.

As you might imagine all of them are fierce competitors, and it is that drive to succeed and out perform their opponent that makes them so different and indeed special. But this past year and a half there has been an even more superb athlete in my life and recently he lost his brave battle to a neurological disease.That’s right, I am talking about the one and only Max, the most lovable, yet cantankerous Dachshund in the history of the American Kennel Club.

You are probably wondering how this dog relates or even compares to the aforementioned stars. Well without knowing Max, you really cannot begin to imagine just how appropriate it is to place him in the same category.

(More on that in a minute) I will never forget the first time the 23 pound monstrosity strolled in to the room and introduced himself to me. He quickly looked up with those sad eyes that said “Aren’t you going to overlook my bad breath and rub my ears?” I mean how can you refuse an offer like that? His stomach virtually drug the ground from a trait that he and I both shared; overeating, and to complete his outrageous appearance there was a wart clearly visible on top of his head. Like myself, Max never was never a serious contender to bring home the gold in a beauty contest.

But Max did have some redeeming qualities such as his ability to run the one hundred yard dash in under ten seconds flat to get to his food bowl. He also was an Olympic champion in blanket tossing and established a world record for the most minutes outside on a cold winter night without relieving himself, only to do such immediately after returning inside. That’s my man Max.

So when he began to slow down recently, It made me think of a champion in the twilight of their career. Unlike many athletes who hang on too long and embarrass themselves in the process and tarnish their legacy, Max was a big time star right until the end. He carried himself with class and dignity. all the while giving unconditional love to all those around him. Forget and forgive the fact in his better days that he would turn over a trash can and scatter the contents, as this was a talented canine, one that actually could unwrap his Christmas gift without any assistance, all the while with his tail going 103 wpm (Wags per minute)

But unlike a lot of stars today who are difficult with the media, Max was always willing to wake you to start his press conference in the early morning hours with that annoyingly loud flapping of his ears, and to let you know he was ready to answer any and all questions pertaining to when he was going outside and why his breakfast was not in his bowl. He needed no publicist or an agent as he was a master communicator and negotiator, one who dealt with the media as just another party that he could melt like butter with that pitiful look on his face that portrayed something between a solicitation for sympathy and a demand for one of those little biscuit treats he loved so well.

When it came time to say goodbye to him, I had a good cry, rubbed his belly one last time and said my goodbyes to arguably the most tenacious, persistent, and certainly driven competitor I have ever met. He was indeed relentless, whether it was securing ham under the table at the holidays or ferociously sounding off to another dog passing by the front door he stood guard by regularly. Simply put, if you could bottle his spirit and determination, those who drank it would be champions at life, and not just sports.

So as I tear up one more time and reflect on this master of mischief, I hope I too will be able to carry myself as Max did in his final weeks. He was an All Star, an MVP, and even toward the end, the comeback player of the year as he soldiered on and tried to live in a manner that suited himself and pleased those around him. There are those who say all dogs and cats go to heaven and live freely in a place that is wonderful. I can just see Max up there standing on his hind legs in an attempt to open the pantry door that houses the treats before he gets caught in his effort to hog them all without anyone knowing. If you could bet on it in Vegas, I would put my all my money on Max to pull it off. So long Max, as I am certainly among the throngs that will miss you.

Danny Bridges, who found out early in life that even the most irritating canines are still far better company than most people, and as a result, feels every person should own a dog, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or at Bridgeshd@aol.com

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