When Hope Was Running Out

veterinarian and tech smiling and hugging patient after surgery

As we were driving away, I watched Janice wave through the side-view mirror until our Ford Transit disappeared around the corner.

We were transporting her dog, Maxey, to our clinic for surgery, and it was the first time since her husband passed away that I think she had ever been alone.

For a moment, I spaced out thinking about all of the emotions that must’ve been consuming her and I forgot to glance over my shoulder to see how our soon-to-be friend, Maxey, was doing. He was sedated enough to forget about his hostility toward strangers, but alert enough to know that he did not like being away from his mom. So much so that he squeezed all 125 pounds of him as far into the corner behind the driver’s seat as possible.

Janice comforting Maxey and telling him that everything was going to be alright.

We never like seeing pets in distress when they’re out of their comfort zone, but we knew we were doing this for his own good. And we had to find a way to help because Janice was afraid she wouldn’t be able to get Maxey medical care anywhere else. 

Plus, it had taken us seven days of trial and error to figure out how to get him into the truck, so there was no turning back now.

The History

Janice has had Maxey, a senior English mastiff, since he was 2 years old, but she has no jealousy in telling you that her husband, Harold, was Maxey’s “person.” 

After he passed away last October, they both had a difficult time adjusting to life without him. Maxey spent weeks sitting on the front porch gazing at the opening in the treeline where he used to be able to spot Harold walking down the street on his way home from work. And Janice would have to coax him inside and remind him that, unfortunately, Harold wasn’t coming back.

It’s heartbreaking, I know. But it’s why he’s sort of a grumpy old man now. And it’s why he grew to be so protective of Janice. 

outreach team member going over pain medication instructions
Rae explaining Maxey’s antibiotic and pain medications to Janice.

Every story she told us while we chatted at the end of her driveway deepened my understanding of just how much these two meant to each other. Here was a petite, senior woman who just lost her husband and continues to push forward in life despite repercussions from suffering a traumatic brain injury a while back. Maxey’s companionship was all she had left, and, in my opinion, her only motivation. 

I couldn’t stand the painful thought of Janice having to move on without him. Or Maxey suffering in the meantime if we weren’t able to get him care. 

The Attack

Ten days before we transported Maxey to our clinic, a friend of Harold’s dropped by to pay Janice a visit and unexpectedly brought his dog. They tried putting her in the backyard so they could chat inside, but the dog shimmied through Janice’s legs as she was trying to go back into the house and came face to face with Maxey, who felt obligated to protect his home and family. 

That’s when the scuffle took place.

English mastiff being transported after surgery
Maxey was anxious to be reunited with his mom after surgery.

It was hard to get control of the situation at first because the dogs were so big and the back entryway was so small, but, luckily, the friend was able to break up the fight. The other dog walked away with minor scratches and wounds, but Maxey had a wicked, 4-centimeter-deep laceration right above his elbow. The kind that needed medical care.

However, because of his distrust of strangers (which ultimately stems from fear and resource guarding), he wasn’t going to make that easy for anyone.

The Plan

A neighbor told Janice about the Pet Resource Center a few days after the fight had happened. She left us a message over the weekend, so our outreach team tried to transport Maxey that following Monday, but he didn’t want anything to do with us. And Janice couldn’t persuade him to get into the truck either.

outreach team member giving dog a toy
Maxey coming around to Rae, who was determined to make friends with him.

That’s when we had to get the wheels turning. Rae and Ramona, the ones who did the transport, FaceTimed one of our veterinarians, Dr. Kobs, to see how we could help this patient; just because he was reluctant didn’t mean we were ready to give up on him. She prepared some antibiotics, pain meds and the largest e-collar we had for them to take back to Janice until we could follow up with a doctor on a curbside visit to, hopefully, repair the laceration on site. This wasn’t ideal, but it was looking like the only option we had at the moment, and we had the tools to do so if that was the case.

Dr. Washington, our chief veterinarian, went out on Thursday to assess the situation and was optimistic that we could get him to the clinic if we made one last effort: a sedative called trazodone. This would make him more relaxed during the transport so we could get him to the clinic to do the procedure in house. All we needed were muscles.

Rae recruited one of our vet techs, Ben, and we returned the following Monday (now 10 days out from when the fight occurred) and were finally able to get him in the Transit without a muzzle! The repair went quickly and smoothly, and we were able to get him back home to Janice within an hour and a half (making sure to sneak a hug in while he was still a little sleepy from the anesthesia, of course). 

veterinarian performing laceration repair
Dr. Washington repairing the laceration Maxey got during the dog fight.

If I felt a giant weight lift off my shoulders, I can’t imagine how Janice must’ve felt. After a week and a half of worrying about the destiny of her injured family member, she could finally breathe again. And he can get back to being his normal self.

When we set out on this journey 20 years ago, we made a promise to do everything we could to be there for folks who needed assistance. That includes people like Janice who need some help mitigating the cost of veterinary care when the rest of life’s expenses are overwhelming, but also pets like Maxey who require a little bit more time, compassion and patience to gain the trust of new faces. 

We’re here to impart kindness, care and love. And seeing pets and people stay together is the only thing we ask for in return.

Maxey’s treatment plan and surgery were made possible by the Mary Reed Special Medical grant and the support of our wonderful donors. You can help us make an even larger impact by joining our Paws for a Cause monthly giving team at www.prckc.org/donate/.

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