A Life Well-Lived: Cashiers Highlands Humane Society
Sweet Max shared his gentle heart with everyone he encountered. Our Plateau lost a bit of its joy with his departure.
This is the hardest topic I have ever had to write about. Because it’s the most difficult thing a pet owner ever has to endure – saying goodbye.
I said goodbye to Max this past February. After 11 glorious years of love and companionship, 10 of those years working together as a pet therapy team.
I rescued Max in a puppy mill raid south of Orlando in 2010. He was a three-year-old breeding male and was kept in horrific conditions. From being confined in a small crate for weeks on end, he suffered burns on the underside of his body so severe that once he was rescued, he had to wear a cone around his neck for an entire month.
Max and I started the pet therapy program at the Gulf Coast Humane Society in Fort Myers and when we moved to the mountains of North Carolina in 2012, we started the pet therapy program here at CHHS as well.
Max was a natural. I often joked that I was simply his “chauffeur,” as he did all the work.
But it wasn’t work for Max – it was a labor of love.
Max made a positive difference in the lives of so many. Like “Sam from the Bronx,” a senior assisted-living resident in Fort Myers who famously never spoke to any staff or fellow residents. But every month he would talk to Max like they were lifelong friends.
And Stephen at Chestnut Hill who mentioned one day to me that he wished he could still take a dog for a walk. Max made that wish come true. With his leash attached to Stephen’s walker, they slowly traversed a long hallway step-by-step in unison together to the amazement of everyone. There wasn’t a dry eye to be found.
When Stephen passed in 2015, Max and I were asked to attend his memorial service together, and of course we did.
And there were no dry eyes that day, either.
Last summer, Max and I traveled to Atlanta for a re-evaluation test with Pet Partners.
It was shortly after his 13th birthday. We are one of approximately 10,000 Pet Partners therapy teams nationwide. I stumbled on a couple of parts in the test but Max, as always, aced every single thing he was asked to do.
The only question the evaluator asked was, “Are you sure you want to get re-certified as a team? I mean, Max is 13 years old and you know…”
I understood the sentiment behind the question.
But I was quick to answer: “Yes. It will mean the world to me. And it will mean the world to Max.”
All cancer is horrible, but canine hemangiosarcoma of the spleen is especially insidious. It’s hard to detect, it arrives quickly and even more quickly spreads. We found Max’s cancer on a Tuesday. Max and I immediately began a “bucket list” of things to do together, including one last visit to our friends at Chestnut Hill that Thursday.
At 2:00 in the afternoon on Friday, Max was gone.
I could write an entire book about the lives Max has touched, the days he has brightened, and the spirits he has lifted. Perhaps someday I will.
But in this space so graciously given by The Laurel, I will just say this: Max spent a life well-lived. And I was honored and blessed to be his dad, his working partner and his best friend.
In addition to being a beloved member of my family, Max was the canine ambassador for our pet therapy program at the Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society.
If you would like to make a donation in memory of Max and his legacy of a life well-lived, I would be forever grateful. Please send your charitable gift to: CHHS, P.O. Box 638, Cashiers, NC 28717 or you may donate online at our website, chhumanesociety.org.
I imagine no one in heaven is ever hurting or feels lonely, sad or depressed. But if anyone ever does, I know Max will be right there making their day a brighter one.
Established in 1987, Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit animal welfare organization located at 200 Gable Drive in Sapphire, one-and-a-half miles east of the Cashiers Ingles in between Cedar Creek Club and Lonesome Valley on Highway 64 East.
Our no-kill shelter is open Tuesday-Saturday 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. by appointment. For more information, call (828) 743-5752.