Max

written by Connie Versagi

We know what clowns our beloved breed can be, especially when they are pups.  Into everything, keeping us both amused and exasperated, all at once.  Max is only 10 months old and he has done more than his fair share of this already.  Max was one of a litter of 10 pups ATRA took in and placed in 2006.  The only boy in the litter.

During one of the most brutal winter storms, when hay was being airlifted to stranded cattle in fields out west, Max decided to play escape artist.  Being the Airedale that he is, he found a way to accomplish what seemed like a good idea to him, getting out of a fenced yard and off to see what the world held for him to get into.  Then came the worrying.  Max disappeared for three days.  Calls were made, people were out looking and the weather was awful.  Everyone was fearing the worst by the third day.  It was then that sweet little Max somehow found the courage to drag his wounded body, wracked with pain, home to collapse in his own front yard.  Recognizing the smells perhaps, in a foot of snow?  He’d never really spent time in the front yard.  Somehow he knew it was where he needed to get to in order to find help.  Max came home and collapsed in the snow, waiting to be found.

He was rushed to a vet and it quickly became obvious to all that while loose Max had been hit by a car or truck.  His back left leg was not just broken, but completely shattered.  The worst break ever seen by the vet.  Surgery was performed, plates, pins, rods implanted.  This was going to take a miracle.  Most importantly, it was going to take quiet time to heal.  A tall order for an Airedale pup.  So now, confused, and in pain, Max spent weeks at the vet’s office in a kennel, waiting to see if the shattered bones would mend.  During all this time the staff commented on what a sweet, gently boy he was.  Always happy to see anyone who stopped by his kennel to offer attention.

When Max finally was allowed to try to begin to use his leg, it was immediately apparent that something was very wrong.  Though the x-rays may show that anatomically he should be able to begin to bear weight with it, Max refused to do so.  Right from the start Max ignored the leg as if not part of him anymore.  He began to get around more and more, but drug the leg behind him like a dead piece of wood.  A horrible reminder of what happened, slowing him down from doing all the puppy things he wanted to do. 

Dragging his leg caused the top of the back foot to scuff along on the ground.  It didn’t take long for this to become a major problem.  Soon there was a new worry.  Infection that could happen from the bloody open sore that his foot quickly turned into.  The family who had adopted him made the tough decision to let ATRA have him back, so that we could do what we do so well – get this boy the very best care to have a shot at a normal life, and then to find a home for him as a special needs guy. 

Max is now living with an ATRA coordinator, and as you can see by the photos, he is  wearing  a protective boot on his foot to try to minimize the damage done by it being dragged.  The x-rays have been rechecked.  Max continues to disassociate himself from the leg.  Maybe just mentally a coping mechanism he fell into when he needed to drag himself home and it hurt so badly. He acts as if it is just not there anymore.  No one is sure why.  He is going to be taking a five hour drive to a see a specialist, to learn if we can get Max back to using his atrophied leg before it is too late.  If that does not turn out to be an option, Max will be facing having the leg amputated.  I will keep you posted on what the specialist feels is the best course.

Max has shown an incredible determination to survive, injured and battling the elements.  An amazing feat for a pup.  He is a happy boy these days, though slowed down by the leg.  Playing with his foster brother and sister, giving an occasional play growl at the family cat, laying at the feet of his foster mom, happy to be out of the vet’s kennel and just accepting of his current situation.  We know that this is no way for him to live the rest of his life.  We are holding our breath that a solution will be found that makes him more able to ambulate. 

As I said, this is going to take a miracle.  When I heard Max’s story my first response was I just happen to know where I can find a miracle.  ATRA.  Time and time again we let our ATRA community know that we have a dog that needs help, and every time you make the miracle happen.  So, here I am again.  Max needs a miracle.  If you can donate to help with Max’s expenses, I will once again be saying I can’t believe this amazing group of folks with huge hearts and the simple name – ATRA.

Update on Max

After being evaluated by specialists, it was determined that an amputation at the hip of Max’s back leg was the best course of action.  There had been sciatic nerve damage done in the accident that Max was not going to be able to overcome. 

Max came through the surgery with the determination of a young Airedale.  Unbelievably, ready to go home a day after the surgery.  His foster family was tasked with keeping him quiet for a couple weeks, no chewing on the stitches.  They have likened Max to a wounded soldier.  No complaining or whimpering.  Enduring his painful healing process with incredible bravery.  Already going out for short exercise walks. 

There have been emotional moments as Max heals.  He has several times slipped and fallen.  Working hard at finding his new center of balance and learning coping mechanisms that will serve him the rest of his life.  He picks himself up every time, continues on.  He has been seen trying to scratch himself with a leg that is not there.  This has not been an easy time for Max or his foster family who are on this emotional ride with him.  Even his short exercise walks have been fraught with fear as cars whisk past, a reminder of his horrible original accident. 

Returning Max’s strength will not be accomplished over night.  Time spent in the kennel healing after his  original surgery to set his leg has left him weak.  It has been months now since Max was able to run and play.  Every day does find Max stronger now though.  Both in body and spirit.  His foster family has hopes of Max having a future as a therapy dog, visiting humans with amputations and disabilities, convincing them that healing does happen.   

Donations made for Max will be put directly toward paying for the surgery that has put him on this long road to recovery.

Max Is Home 

I’m happy to report that not only is Max learning to get around well with his disability, but has landed in a new forever home.  It took a very long transport to get him there. 

He now has an older Airedale brother who has already taught him how to use the newly modified dog door and how to catch birds.  The important things in life a big brother should teach.  He also has a new human brother, who he can’t stop wagging his tail for.  Oh, and a mom to love him up – Yours Truly.  I guess sometimes you just need to finish a story yourself.  Max is home with me and thanks to all who helped make that happen. 

I’ll keep you informed as Max teaches me how to live with a dog with a disability.  My plan is for him to become a certified therapy dog. 

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