Sunday, January 16, 2011

Diamond in the Rough

(by guest blogger Heather Peden from Three Dogs and a Couch
Whenever Max was gone a little longer than usual on his wanders, I used to stand at the bedroom window in the top floor of our house and try to see past a crowd of tree trunks to the dirt road three stories below. I would crane my neck, bobbing my head this way and that as I tried to find a good angle around the pillars of papery white birch and silver-gray poplar, through the bristling needles of balsam branches.
Depending on the time of day or whether the sun shone through the clouds or from a clear sky, Max's bold German Shepherd colours were either glowing a warm coppery caramel or camouflaged against the varied brown hues of the surrounding forest. As I looked for a hint of movement I would catch a glimpse of light pinging off silver and then I could relax. Sometimes the easiest way to spot Max through the tangle of the woods was to look for the shine of his wheelchair.
When Max came to live with us, he could still walk but the hair on the knuckles of his back feet was worn away from years of dragging his toes. His spine was crooked, all bent and stiff like a gnarled, petrified tree branch, his tail hung limply as though it had once been broken, the muscles of his back legs were withered and wiry.
My husband and I found out when we adopted him that he was slowly losing feeling in his back end due to degenerative myelopathy, a genetic disease common in German Shepherds.
While his back half was frail and slowly becoming useless, from the front Max looked like the majestic dog I imagined he was in his prime. He reminded me of a lion with his wide front feet of pale toffee and the thick dark mane that defined his broad chest and shoulders.
His kind face and gentle nature shone through the dirt and grime that tarnished his coat after living for years outdoors with little protection against the elements. When I looked into his dark brown eyes, misting over with cataracts, I knew our paths had been destined to cross.
Max was with us for a year and a half before his back legs would no longer support his weight and we finally got him a wheelchair. The first evening we strapped on his harnesses and clipped him to the shiny new contraption he barely looked back, taking off at a run down our road as though it was the most natural thing to do.

In the months that followed it became a familiar sight in our little neighbourhood to see Max trundling along in his wheelchair, just being a dog. I loved walking with him. The wheels of his chair creaked and squeaked with each step, gravel crunched under his tires, and those sounds above anything else became my favourite sounds in the world.


  1. Max had an amazing spirit and zest for life. It did my heart good to see how happy he was to have his mobility back, and to see what can be done for a dog with this condition. Very sweet story, thanks so much for sharing it:)

  2. So sad and sweet! Beautiful!!!!

  3. Awww! So glad Max could enjoy himself a little longer.

  4. Thanks for all the great comments everyone. Max was one of those rare creatures you get to meet once in a lifetime and I love to share his story. Thanks for reading!

  5. What a beautiful and moving story! How great to see Max trundling along in his wheelchair.
    Heather Peden you have a huge and lovely heart!
    Thanks Brenda for sharing this beautiful post!