Max came to us as a six year old champion that needed a change of scenery. He was the perfect age, right between our two year old Whippet and our sixteen year old Italian Greyhound. The two year old had recently lost his fifteen year old Whippet playmate and all of us needed a “pack” addition. We knew Max was special from the start and as he came out of his shell and got to know us we realized what a calming presence he was.
When my father went into memory care, right before hospice, Max visited him with me every week. Not only would Max lay by Dad and stretch his body to touch Dad along his entire side as Dad lay and listened to the rest of us visit and read, but before and after the visit with Dad, Max would entertain the rest of the staff and residents in the twelve unit wing where Dad was staying. One resident, Lisa, loved dogs, but could not care for her own anymore. She would take Max by the collar and lead him around the wing. Every once in a while he would look back at me, wondering if I needed him, but would continue with Lisa until I went to get him or until she let go of his leash. Lisa also had a buddy in the unit, Rob, that used to raise “police” dogs, in his words. He was relatively new to the facility as a resident and would often become agitated at how difficult it seemed to be for him to leave the place (he wasn’t able to leave as he was a resident and simply couldn’t remember it). The staff really liked to see Max come because no matter how difficult things were with Rob, when Max showed up he forgot all his frustrations and could not say enough about how well trained Max was as he praised his calm manner around people.
Both of Max’s pack-leader parents go to work in a dental office all day. Trish is a five year old patient. The last time that she was at the dentist she had two baby teeth extracted. While it was done relatively pain free and simply, she associated those missing teeth with going to the dentist and was not particularly interested in another visit, no matter who promised fun flavors and simple procedures. She came in nervous and clinging to her parent. When Dr. Amble asked if she liked dogs she simply gave a single nod of her head, so he suggested that she might like to meet one of the office mascots. When Max came down the stairs he quietly came up to Trish. His head was basically at the same height as hers, so with his head bent down he gave her just a little peek out of the corner of his left eye. When all she did was look back at him he kept twisting his head until he was lying flat on his right side in front of her with his chest and tummy pointed toward her. It was really sweet and Trish finally reached out to greet him. He totally turned it around for her and before we knew it she was smiling as she ran down the hallway to her appointment which, by the way, went fine.
Just because you are an adult doesn’t mean that a dental appointment doesn’t give you the butterflies, either. Max is never adverse to saying “Hi”, offering a reassuring head to pet, or even in some cases, spending a few minutes giving an all-out body hug.
Max has calmed many a patient prior to their visit, some during their visit, and even a few more after their visit. He and the rest of his dog pack spend the majority of their working days on the second floor snoozing, scoring treats and chasing tennis balls around the business manager’s office and the break room.