The Story of Max


Thursday, November 18th. 


 I receive a text from Darrin as he is waiting at the airport in Boston to return home. One of the men in his Tuesday night Bible study has a girlfriend who needs to find a home for her dog. The texts fly back and forth between us.  He calls Claudia, the owner, and she tells him about her dog. Darrin texts back. “His name is Max.”


Darrin is in the air. I decide to call Claudia myself to get more of the background about the dog. She sends us this head shot of Max and a You Tube clip. I learn that he came from a rescue shelter in L.A. He was six months old when he was rescued.  He’s housebroken, turns three December 18th, has never bitten anyone, needs a big yard. Somewhere along the line the family went through a long, drawn out divorce, foreclosure, then Max ended up living in an apartment with Claudia, her teenage daughter and their golden retriever, Sunshine. Apparently the apartment complex is brimming over with small dogs who like to go after Max. A year ago Max barked at one of those little dogs and got written up with a warning. The apartment association has a policy about barking. Last week, the same thing happened and Claudia received a notice that if she didn’t get rid of the dog, they would be evicted from their apartment. They had until Friday the 19th.


I tell the kids that I have something important we need to discuss. I show the You Tube clip that Claudia’s teenage daughter made of Max and explain his situation. Julia cannot contain her excitement. She looks like she’s about to float off her chair at the possibility of having a dog. Jonathan has his head down on the table in his arms, “I don’t want anymore responsibility.” He is in the throes of the crazy, insane junior year of high school. Michael is beaming from ear to ear.

Backdrop to the story:

Three weeks ago Darrin and I were out-of-town for a wedding. As we were driving around and talking, out of  the blue he asks me, “You ever think about us getting a dog?”

 “Oh, I’d love to get a dog. What kind of dog would you want if we could have one?”

“I like German shepherds. What about you?”

“I’d want a lab.”

We talked about how we’d probably want to get a dog from a shelter and not a pet store. And then our conversation turned to other things.

From what we can tell, Max is a mix of shepherd and lab. And the name, Max. Well, it just so happens that it was Michael’s favorite name growing up. He named everything Max. His screen name on all his computer games was Max. He even asked me when he was about five, “Why didn’t you name me Max?” So when all these things started coming together, we wondered, “Hmmmm, Lord, this is all falling into place and falling into our lap. Should we go for it?”


Darrin is driving home from LAX and we talk about Max. I call Claudia at 10:30pm. We decide to take him for a trial week to see how he takes to our family.

 Friday, November 19th.


Max arrives with Sunshine, Claudia, her daughter and all his stuff. We decide to have Sunshine stay with Max overnight to help ease the transition. Max and Sunshine go crazy running around in the backyard. He instantly takes to Julia. Darrin arrives home and Max plays with him in the yard. I look at Claudia’s daughter and ask her how she’s doing with having to give Max away. She says she’s okay. I know she’s not. I ask her, “Do you believe in God?” She nods and I explain the backdrop of the story.

Max is cautious around me. He slowly moves from the yard to the patio. We decided to let Max be an inside/outside dog. Darrin grew up with dogs who were only allowed outside. Julia has been a dog lover since birth. She had a pink stuffed poodle beanie baby toy that she named, “Stay Outside.”  So we have decided to let Max be a downstairs dog. Not allowed upstairs or in the master bedroom on the first floor.

Claudia and her daughter cried driving home. They love Max, but they find comfort in knowing that Max has a big back yard now and a family that will love him. I invited Claudia’s daughter to come over and study here when she misses Max. Claudia has offered to come over and watch Max when we need to go out-of-town for conferences. This is a huge answer to one of our biggest concerns.

The house is quiet now. Max is lying at my feet as I type. Tomorrow we are hosting Thanksgiving dinner here. Twenty-six guests this year. We’ll see how Max does. He is nervous around new people, but readily plays with kids. I love how all of this has transpired. We weren’t looking and the dog came to us. Left to ourselves we wouldn’t go out and research and figure out everything. But this is so like our family. We are kind of unpredictable and comfortable with the unexpected.

Claudia shared with me that when she called the shelters they were all full. She was so thankful that she didn’t have to put Max down right before Thanksgiving. She’s thankful, we are thankful, and I think Max is pretty pleased with his last few days with us.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Unless something major happens between now and Friday, it looks like we will be dog owners. We look forward to having you meet Max.

Vivian Mabuni