July 24th, 2019 ~ Vol. 89 No. 29
Looking Back - John Kinnear
Life with Max – Part I
Looking Back
John Kinnear photo
Max with great grand children Alex and Christie
For the first ten years that I lived in Fernie (1981 -1991) my life was blessed with the friendship of a special canine companion who was always at my side. A fiercely protective yet mellow type, he devoted his entire time with me to me, unswervingly and the pain of his loss still lingers with me some twenty eight years later. How he came into my life is an amusing story that reads more like a wildlife adventure and I thought I might reshare it with you the readers.

In the spring of 1981 my wife, Lorraine, decided we should own a "Ragdoll" cat and set about finding a breeder. Ragdoll's are a special breed of feline with fur like a soft rabbit, markings like a Siamese and an incredibly even temperament. A breeder by the name of Bob Yokety was located and we were invited to come and view an eight week old litter of these sweet fur balls. Their location was at a place called Langdon just outside of Calgary and we were informed that the gate to his acreage would be left unlocked for us when we got there. We were also told that he was a breeder of other exotic animals and that we shouldn't be surprised by what we found there. Well, we weren't really surprised when we got there, we were dumfounded.
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Once through the eight foot chain link fence gateway and part way down a 300 foot driveway we were greeted by a very loud and annoyed African lion named Livingstone. Livingstone was securely penned of course but his size and menacing roar completely unnerved the both of us. "Livy" as his owner called him was the last remnant of a large cat collection that had been seized from a local vet by the government and somehow Livy had come to live with Bob. We felt it prudent to move on quickly by him and as we hurried past this bellowing, spraying cat I felt my knees buckle and I dropped abruptly to a seated position. There appeared before my eyes then a very large, powerful looking pair of dogs who did not bark but merely stood in front of me and wagged their tails. They were the owners Bullmastiff's, Josephine and Max, an awesome twosome who judiciously guarded his exotic collection but who thankfully recognized us as approved visitors.

Bullmastiffs are a manmade breed, a deliberate cross between an English Mastiff (200 lbs.) and a Bulldog (60 lbs.) that English Lords used to use to guard their property from us poaching Scottish lowlanders. The breeding gives a 140 pound dog with some of the massiveness of the mastiff's size and the powerful front end and some of the aggressiveness of the Bulldog. They are sometimes referred to as "night dogs" as they can appear suddenly and silently in front of you. They also know a neat little trick where they shoulder you at the back of the knee, kind of like your high school buddies used to do, causing your unprepared leg to buckle. It is designed to bring you abruptly to their level. Such was my fate that day.
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This mass of Mastiff's joyfully escorted us the rest of the way to the owner's double wide trailer. Another unnerving sight beheld us on the way to his house then, that being a wheelbarrow with a dead calf in it. This we were informed later was to be Livingstone's dinner, the calf having passed away prematurely and donated to Yokety by a nearby farmer.

As we approached the front step "lop eared" rabbits scattered in one direction and guinea fowl strutted away nervously in the other. The guinea fowl he later claimed were sold to fancy Calgary restaurants where they were served clandestinely as "pheasant under glass". The lop eared rabbits? Well let’s just say I didn't have the nerve to ask!

As we stood on the front step waiting for the owner we were treated to a roof top display by a beautiful blue peacock who was perched there proudly for all to see. His spectacular "fanfare" was, we were told later, not for our benefit but for a gopher behind us in the yard that the peacock was quite enamoured with. Every time that Richardson's ground squirrel would sit up on his mound that frustrated peacock would display his finery in the most inviting way he knew how.

On entering the front door of this mini-zoo we were confronted by a three month old black panther cub named "Slinky" who had managed to reach the size of a medium sized dog with the help of two of the owner's other pets. When Slinky was born his captive parents immediately rejected him, an act quite typical of a lot of wild animals bred in captivity. Slinky was raised for the first few weeks by the female ragdoll cat who was of course nursing her own litter at the time. When he outgrew the ragdoll clan he was transferred to the bullmastiff female, Josephine, who was also nursing a litter of pups. Thus Slinky was elevated to the weaning stage by the amazingly uncontested cooperation of a cat and a dog.
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Slinky's growling cry and lanky nature were quite comical to watch as he prowled about the house looking for some action. As he wandered off I noticed a plastic dog kennel in the living room with its door set facing up against the wall. On inquiring Mr. Yokety informed me that it contained an albino skunk named "Pete" who was being punished for systematically dismantling the living room drapes. A peek inside revealed a pure white, de-scented skunk with beady red eyes and an expression that had trouble written all over it.

Next to Pete's kennel there was a floor heating duct that was taped closed and on glancing around I noticed that many other vents in the house were also sealed off.

Considering what we had seen so far I knew that there was some significance to this act and so I wasn't all that surprised by Yokety's explanation. His 6 foot boa constrictor, a pet he referred to as his "main squeeze", had escaped into the house's heating system and all of the vents but one had been taped off for some time. The rational was simple really. There was only one way out and when that boa got hungry enough he would eventually show up at the only open register. Needless to say my wife politely refused to take a seat.
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As we stood in the doublewide's small kitchen I casually asked where Slinky's parents were kept. Bob pointed to a small kitchen window that had chain link against it's outside and informed me they were out back. As I stepped closer to that window he called to them in a demanding voice by name. "Simba, Sheba"! As I peered through the chain link my heart was in my throat as I found myself face to face with a fully grown black panther who had lithely leapt up that chain link to my eyelevel. I don't think I'll ever forget looking into those sinister black pools set on that large whiskered face. I also remember thinking how wrong it was to have these beautiful wild cats penned up halfway around the world from their home.

For some time we observed the ragdoll kittens and eventually made our selection. Bob then offered to show us Josephine's litter of bull mastiff pups which were outside next to the pen of an Eastern Cougar. I wasn't prepared emotionally or financially for what happened next but suffice to say one of them done stole my heart.

Life with Max - Part II
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July 24th, 2019 ~ Vol. 89 No. 29
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