Max – The ‘Healing’ Dog

Max and Molly are beautiful brother and sister Bassets that ABC rescued. The original owners neglected them and left them outdoors unsupervised. Thankfully, they were relinquished to ABC when they were about two years old. They then went into the excellent foster care of Kevin Kraft. Laura Johnson, ABC volunteer who helps with behavior problem cases, fosters for ABC, and coordinates dog boarding in Rochester, adopted Molly (McButter J). She also transported Max to what was intended to be his forever home. The following events that unfolded make for a truly amazing tale. Max’ story shows why every rescue dog deserves a 2nd, and even 3rd chance. We are very grateful to Laura, Bruce, Lucille and their neighbors for sharing this wonderful story with us. Thank you ABC for believing and helping Max – twice! And we are grateful to Max too for making it all happen!

Max’ newly adopted humans returned him to ABC six short months after his adoption. The reasons they cited were that their other dog bullied him and that Max did not live up to their expectations. They had also medicated him with anti-depressants for being vicious, an indication that perhaps more was going on with Max than being ’bullied’.

Thankfully, ABC will always take back their rescued hounds. This commitment provides a safety net of support for each dog. Laura stepped up right away to provide Max with a foster home, even though she was already fostering another dog, Fenway. Whether it was some special wisdom on Laura’s part or Max’ own foresight – probably both – this proved very fortuitous for the folks that were soon to meet Max.

A nice couple, Bruce and Lucille visited Laura’s home to interview for Fenway’s adoption. Bruce suffers from pain severe enough to be on pain medications. The couple had lost their Basset, Charlie, about 3 months earlier. Charlie had helped Bruce cope with pain and avoid taking the pain medication, so they were looking to adopt another Basset.

Now Fenway had been a stray and was still learning how a dog should behave around humans. Laura says, “He would literally ‘smile’, and jump in your face like he was trying to bite you. If you didn’t know him it looked like he was being aggressive.” (As a side note here, our first Basset puppy, Apollo, used to do this exact thing. Our trainer and vet said this needed to be dealt with as it showed a prelude to aggression. My gut feeling was it was not aggression and just puppy antics. When our trainer wanted to use shock therapy we trusted my gut and fired the trainer. We could have been wrong, but Apollo turned out to be one of the sweetest, most gentle hounds I’ve ever met. He loves all people and animals and would not hurt a fly. It is as important to not mislabel behavior as aggressive that may not be, as it is to deal with it.)

However, Bruce and Lucille, even though experienced dog folk, had been attacked by a greyhound that they had adopted. This occurred just a few days before their interview with Laura. Lucille had staples in her head from the attack! As a result, Fenway’s behavior put them off adopting him. They felt badly about it but said they would not feel comfortable with him. Makes you wonder if maybe everything does happen for a reason.

As Laura returned Fenway to the yard in came Max. Thankfully, ABC had believed in him enough to have him evaluated by their behaviorist who found him to be well adjusted for a good home. He was taken off of the ill-advised anti-depressants. ABC also treated Max for ear infections and broken nails, signs that his former home had been less than ideal in caring for him. So Max was back to his happy, healthy self when he met Bruce and Lucille. As Laura told the couple his story Max sat next to them and affectionately put his nose in Bruce’s lap. Laura describes Max as a natural empathic soul. That is how Max was adopted into the forever home he was obviously destined to be part of.

Shortly after Bruce and Lucille took Max home, Laura received a call from the happy couple – Bruce had not needed any pain medication in days! They both said they felt lucky to have met and adopted Max.   Laura thought the case happily closed, and, as she says, “It doesn’t get better than that!!” But it does!

Bruce visited Laura recently to relay the following amazing story of Max turned ‘healer’. Max’s new family has neighbors with a seven year old boy who suffers from brain cancer. The boy used to play with the couple’s other Basset, Charlie. Now he came over to play with Max. The boy told his oncologist that he couldn’t wait to go home from the hospital to play with ‘Max’. His doctor thought Max was another little boy. When the doctor found out that Max was a dog he called Bruce and reported that, because of Max, this little boy was eating, exercising and sleeping well, all things that are very difficult for cancer patients. The fatigue, pain and nausea caused by anti-cancer treatments often overwhelm the treatment plan. The doctor said the boy was experiencing almost no side effects from the chemotherapy and radiation he was undergoing. As any oncologist will tell you, this is awfully important for the treatments to be successful. (As one who has been there, while undergoing chemo my 3 Bassets not only forced me to exercise every day, but also gave me a sense of security, comfort and the confidence that I could overcome the side effects, just as important as exercise.)

The oncologist suggested Bruce and Lucille get Max certified as a therapy dog. They did that and Max now spends three days a week with their neighbor’s son, and also visits other children with cancer at Strong Hospital Children’s Cancer Ward. Maybe someday Max’s friend can write his story so that other children with cancer can also be inspired by his example. We will keep you updated, as we are sure there will be many more inspiring stories of Max’ progress.

“Max is a healing dog!”

It is more amazing still that Max was relinquished twice by families who obviously did not know the angel they had in their homes. This is why rescuers work so hard at what they do and as you will often hear from ABC volunteers, “Stories like this make all the extra work worth it.”

Congratulations to Max, his family, his friends and to the doctor who recognized the value of one Basset Hound in easing the suffering of a little boy. We wish Bruce and Max’s new friends healing and many happy, healthy years to enjoy.

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