My fear of dogs became less intense as time went on. (And yes, I eventually went back outside to play). Dad did not want us to be afraid of dogs, or anything else for that matter. He had a dog named Buster when he was young and would tell us stories about how much fun he had with him and how one day he wanted to get us a dog of our own. That day came one spring morning when I was 20 years old. I was a college student at Marshall University but was at home recooperating from appendicitis. Since I didn’t go to class this particular day, Dad let me in on the surprise: He had decided to get us a dog. In addition, I get to help pick out the dog.
That day, Dad and I drove for what seemed like forever, but in reality was only a few hours, to a farm in Ohio. The owner was a breeder of Irish Setters. The first thing I noticed when we arrived was a dog on a chain leash that was tied to a tree. He barked and barked and barked. My old familiar fear of dogs suddenly kicked in. The owner must have sensed it because she immediately told me “Don’t worry, he does not bite, he just gets excited when company arrives and he likes to jump on you.” Little did I know that statement would be repeated hundreds of times at the McCallister household over the next ten years. I asked the owner, “Is that dog the father of the puppies?” She said, “As a matter of fact he is!” I guess its true what they say, “like father, like son,” even for dogs.
The owner showed us into the house and took us to the big box in the corner of the front room. There they were. Little puppies. Little bright red haired puppies. I instantly fell in love! I’m not really sure, but I think Dad took me with him to the farm that day because I was never completely sold on the idea of having a pet. The way I saw it, a pet was a living, breathing, pooping thing that peed on the carpet and made me sneeze. Not my idea of fun. I forgot all about that when I saw those red little balls of fur. How would we ever decide which one to pick!? There were four or five puppies in there and they were all boys except for one. I told Dad what I was thinking and he replied, “Your PaPa said to get the most aggressive one.” PaPa is my Dad’s Dad and has had several pets over the years. Sounded like a good plan. Besides, how else would we decide?
Dad leaned over the box and started whistling. What happened next is almost too funny for words, at least to me. It may be one of those “you had to be there” kind of things, but still makes me laugh every time I think of it. The moment Dad started whistling, one of the puppies began knocking down the other puppies and pushing past them to get to Dad. The decision was made. We had our dog. We sat down at the kitchen table while the owner got the paperwork. (Yes, dogs apparently come with paperwork.) Dad and I began discussing names. We thought that Mac would be a good name for him because that’s what everyone called my siblings and me at school, we were Amy Mac, Davey Mac, and Tara Mac. I can’t remember exactly if it was Dad or Davey that later suggested that we add an “S” at the end of that and call him Macs (pronounced like “max”), the idea being that he is named after all of us. While we were discussing names, I was startled by a dog that came into the kitchen. She was a beautiful full-grown Irish Setter. She was Macs’ mother. She came right over to where I was sitting and put her paw in my lap. It was so sweet. I patted her head. She then proceeded over to Dad and put her paw in his lap. After petting her we said goodbye and took Macs home with us.
I will never forget what Davey said when he came home from school that day and saw Macs for the first time. He looked at Dad and said “This is the best day of my life!” You see, not only was that the day he got the pet he always wanted, that was also when he began dating his future wife. (Though of course he did not know she was his future wife at the time
The first Saturday that we had Macs, Tara and I were woken up at 6:00am to the sound of Davey saying, “Sit….Sit…..Sit….. Sit! Sit! Siiiiiiiiiit!” I mean really, when else would you teach your new dog to sit other than 6am on a Saturday?
Macs’ puppy days were very happy yet challenging days. We took turns cleaning up the accidents on the floor, feeding him and taking him outside. Dad was in charge of trying to get him housebroken and he did really well. By the time Christmas rolled around Macs was housebroken and seldom had any accidents with the exception of when he got really excited. I will never forget that first Christmas with Macs. By that time he no longer looked like a puppy. He looked like a full-grown dog. We put a Christmas sweater on him that said “My 1st Christmas”, which he hated and wiggled out of. We got him some plastic toys that were destroyed in record time. That was the first and last time Macs got plastic toys for Christmas. Dad always went all out for us on Christmas and every year got us a ridiculous amount of presents, even after we became adults!! After we were done opening presents there was wrapping paper everywhere. Macs felt it was his job to destroy the wrapping paper. After he had done all the damage he could do he would climb up in Dad’s lap. You see, Macs was rather spoiled. From the time he was a puppy his favorite place to be was in Dad’s lap. This never changed. What did change was Macs’ size. He got so big, so fast! It was so funny to see this huge dog climb up into my Dad’s lap and sit there like he only weighed 5 pounds. A few years later, Tara brought her new boyfriend over to meet our family. The first thing Macs did when the new boyfriend sat down on our couch was he climbed up in his lap and peed on him. Tara’s face turned 10 different shades of red! Macs was just really excited and couldn’t have known at the time that he was peeing on Tara’s future husband.
Macs on Christmas Day 2007
Max was always so full of energy. I think he had Red Bull running through his veins instead of blood. He was very attached to my Dad and many times didn’t want anything to do with anyone else EXCEPT Dad! Dad took a 2 week vacation one summer and I stayed home with Macs. I had church camp on one of those weeks so I did not get to go on the family vacation, but instead spent some quality time with Macs before it was time to leave for church camp. Macs did not like Dad being gone AT ALL. At first he refused to eat. Then he didn’t want to play. He moped around like he had lost his best friend. I tried to take him outside to do his business and he just plopped down on the ground, so defeated. One evening I stayed outside with him for about 30 minutes or so trying to get him to poo. He never did poo, so I figured he had not eaten enough to make him go. I brought him back inside then he went straight up to the bathroom. He waited for me to get to the top of the stairs to make sure I could see him. He just stared and glared at me while he proceeded to have a big poo right in the middle of the floor. He did it for spite! As if to say, “I want my Daddy and I want him NOW. So because you won’t get him for me, I am going to take a big poo in the floor to get your attention.”
In the summer of 2005 Macs made a new friend. My Dad’s new girlfriend Rose. I won’t go into my Dad and Rose’s story (because its not my story to tell), but I will tell my perspective. Rose is the best thing that has ever happened to my Dad. She came into our lives and won our hearts, Macs’ heart was no exception. When Dad and Rose got married, Rose and her son Raleigh moved in, and Macs was so excited about our new blended family. He was Rose’s constant companion. He followed her all over the house and always had to know what was going on and what she was doing!
I went through a very trying time in my life that started in January 2006. My grandpa Joe passed away the day after his 75th birthday. I was living in Virginia then, and it was hard being away from my family at such a difficult time. I also happened to be dating a not-nice-at-all boyfriend, but had such low self-esteem that I was convinced if we broke up that I would just be alone for the rest of my life. In 2007 I moved back to West Virginia, for good. I had to get to the point that I would rather be by myself than be with a guy and be miserable. So I was finally away from the not-nice-at-all boyfriend, which was very good, but I would still get down every now and then. It was at these down times that I would go over to Dad’s and just visit with Rose and Macs. Visiting with Rose and Macs was better than any therapy I’ve ever went to. Macs would be all excited when I first got there, then he would settle down and just put his head down in my lap. It was great.
When Macs was around 9 years old, Dad and Rose noticed that he didn’t have as much energy as he usually did. At first they just thought he was becoming an “old man.” After all, he was no longer a spring chicken. Then it got worse, he was very weak and was not eating well. My Dad took him to the vet and got terrible news. Macs had big tumors all in his chest, he was not going to make it. Our doggie was suffering so bad. My Dad was with him at the vet when he slipped into doggie heaven.
We were all so sad when Macs left us. Macs was a member of our family and will never be forgotten. I can’t begin to tell you how strange that first Christmas was without him here. I still think of him often and sometimes still expect him to be greeting me at the door when I go over to my Dad’s house.
As I write this, I am 8 months pregnant with my little boy, Aidan Cameron. It is my hope that Aidan will have at least one special pet in his life. My husband, JR, has had many pets he has loved over the years. (His little dog Daisy lived to be 15 years old!) JR says that Aidan MUST have his own dog. I just wish that Aidan could have known Macs!
So to Macs, I want to say I love you buddy, and miss you. I hope there are lots of treats and raw hide chews for you up there in doggie heaven!!