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In Loving Memory

Over the years, we have helped many animals find their forever-loving homes. Max, a Staffordshire bull terrier adopted by Jane 12 years ago, was just one lovely dog adopted from our branch many years ago. While his passing is sad to hear, Jane has kindly shared her story of her 'buddy' and companion and their wonderful life.

12 years of Max

They say that dogs choose their guardians. They also say that when you rescue a dog, it's actually the dog that rescues you.


I can still remember to this day how Max watched me walk away from him the day that we met in September 2012. I visited the Warrington RSPCA centre to take him for a trail walk and see how I felt with him, which was a little unnerving given I had never had a dog before. As a person well-traveled, used to being alone and responsible for only myself, this was going to be a big change in my life. I wanted to be sure that I was ready for that change. After our short walk of 10 minutes, I still felt uncertain about adopting, I didn't feel an immediate bond between us or a sense of belonging to one another. After handing him back to one of the centre workers, my brother said to me, "It's such a shame that not many Staffordshire bull terriers like Max get adopted". At this comment I suddenly felt the magnitude of my decision to adopt or not adopt him, I felt he needed me, and when I looked back towards him, I could see clearly that he was watching me with such a certain, and confident look on his face, and in his stance, it was as if he knew that I also needed him. 


Max's first 18 months were filled with horror, and unimaginable suffering after being abandoned in a flat and left to die. He was found weighing just 9 kilos, and the vets that looked at him were certain he wouldn't survive his ordeal due to organ damage and being emaciated. He was nursed back to health showing such immense determination and courageous spirit that he held throughout his life. 


In October 2012 Max came home with me to Edinburgh, and from then right through to the end of his life we were inseparable. In the mornings we ran together, in the evenings we sat on the sofa together and played tug of war with rope toys. We took holidays together and often met my parents in Aviemore, we climbed mountains together and did gardening together - well I planted plants, whilst he buried bones and balls. 


In 2016 we moved to Italy together to start a new life. I still remember the day that we flew. The ground staff at Edinburgh airport were fantastic as I was able to stay with Max right up to boarding the plane. We boarded the plane at the same time, the ground crew carried him to the luggage hold as I was walking to the steps to complete the boarding as the last customer. Max was barking incessantly for me and I was telling him "It's OK Maxyboy, I am right here with you buddy" The pilot of the plane opened his little window and asked down to me, "So it's your dog flying with us today?", "Yes it's my dog flying with you today, so make sure you fly steady and straight so he doesn't get scared down there in the dark without me,"  I said.


Max was almost human, he certainly liked his chicken and chips dinners, and ice cream on the cone! He preferred the sofa with his head laid on my lap for ear scratches to sleeping in his bed, and he simply adored being with people. If he went to say hello to someone in the street, he would always look back at me as if to say, "See, everyone loves me". I observed him and learned what he liked, and what he didn't like, and constantly tailored our routines to enable him to be happy and for him to flourish. In return he respected me, if I said no, he stopped, if I said let's go, he ran with all his might. We lived in a split-level apartment with wooden stairs suspended in a spiral. He was frightened to go up and down them as he had slipped a few times, I tried carpet to improve the grip but he still fell. At night I blocked the stairs with a large box so he wouldn't try to come upstairs to sleep in my bedroom, but all he did was pace, cry and scratch the box to come upstairs. So of course we moved to a flat all on one level so Max and I could sleep in the same room together. It's what you do for your best buddy, right?


His happiness was very important to me, from feeding him the best food to having the best dog walker, the best vet, the most comfortable bed, and the largest range of treats imaginable. We had some walks with other dogs and doggy friend sleepovers, and it was clear Max was enjoying the company so in 2020 I rescued a female Podenco who was found abandoned in the streets to become his full-time doggy companion and sister. Welcome Jara. F1 races around the garden became the regular pre-dinner game, usually at the expense of at least one poor plant trampled to death. 


2019, 2020, and most of 2021 had been difficult years for me. Despite the mood swings and frequent floods of tears I had, Max would always come to me and sit next to me, leaning all his 26 kilos of weight onto me. Somehow I knew what he was trying to tell me, that he was there for me, always, no matter what happened. It's a loyalty I know I will remember and treasure for my whole life.


Max had a few falls and accidents in his life, a bitten ear, multiple bee stings on the nose, eating the contents of the bin including avocado, a broken tooth on tree branches, knee ligament snapped, broken nails, fatty lump removals, finding and eating rat poison from the neighbours garden - luckily still in plastic which it exited in! In 2018 Max needed major surgery to fit a prosthetic knee connector to enable him to walk and run again after falling while chasing deer. After the surgery, I took some time from work to nurse him better, and in just one month he was walking like new again and trying to run. He was running again within three months and even more playful than ever. However, in 2023 he fell badly into a hole while chasing Jara and caused damage to his hips. He started to struggle to walk long distances and rarely ran. He started to develop dementia and lost interest in walking for more than 15 minutes before turning around and asking to go home. I tried painkillers, hydrotherapy, joint supplements, and aided walking halters, but Max continued to deteriorate. I felt so frustrated and angry, I wanted to find the magic formula that would give him back his energy and strength to walk and run again. One day I lay on the floor in front of him as I often did, I looked into his eyes and I could see that he was tired, he was almost 13 years old. But I just didn't want to let him go, he was my best friend, travel buddy, fellow runner, and mountain climber. We had no secrets, and we took care of each other through thick and thin. He started to bark a lot more at me than he had ever done before, he needed a lot of help and he wasn't happy with that. I would ask him, "What do you want buddy, what do you need". When I looked at him, I could see what he was asking me. He was asking me to let him go. He needed to know that I would be OK without him, that I was ready to let him go. I decided to take time off work, cancel all my appointments and commitments and just stay with him. I wanted to show him I was ready, and that I would dedicate some time for us to celebrate our bond. I wanted his ending to be everything his start wasn't, never alone, always together, cared for, and eating lots and lots of cooked chicken. We walked at the lakes, wading into the water, meandered in the park and the woods, along the river, ate snacks, and sunbathed in the garden. I told him "It's OK you can go, I will be fine, go and run again, but please know I'll never forget you. Max passed away a week later on 1st February 2024 in his bed, whilst I was sitting with him. Our life together was a fantastic adventure that has given me so much, that I am almost certainly a much better person because of it.  I sometimes think I can hear him bark, and feel him brush past me, he has left a huge hole in my life, but as Lord Tennyson is quoted to have said, "It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all".

Author: Jane


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