Saturday, October 8, 2011

Maximus - My Hero

Okay, so you're probably thinking, gladiator, right?  Well, no.  Labrador Retriever actually.


There is a dog in my neighborhood; a beautiful golden lab, like the one in the above photo.  His name is Maximus.

I remember, just after we moved into this house nine years ago, his owner playing with him when he was a just a puppy.  He grew quickly, and she bought one of those plastic ball launchers to make throwing easier for her and more challenging for him.  She would throw the ball for him and he would take off after it, his body a flurry of muscles and tendons and eager puppy energy.

Then there was a period of time that I didn't see him.  I didn't really wonder that much about it.  I figured perhaps they had moved or were on vacation or something.  Until, one day, when I was walking in the area, I saw the owner, along with a group of neighbors, maneuvering a very weak and seemingly paralyzed yellow lab into a framed sling, so that his body was supported and his legs hung down.  I stopped and watched very briefly as I didn't want to be a gawker.  Then I moved on.  Could that be the same dog?  I wasn't sure.  But the more often I saw this paralyzed dog as its owner and the neighbors attempted to rehabilitate it, and didn't see the Maximus that I had been familiar with, the more I was convinced that it was him.  What had happened???  I was too shy to ask at first.  I simply watched as, over weeks and months, this lovely dog, with the diligent encouragement of a group of dedicated people, regained the use of his legs and body.  He will never be what he once was, but he is able to get along with a crazy list and a lazy leg or two.  He looks, when he moves, as if he'd had too much to drink.  I did eventually find out that it was a stroke that caused the paralysis.  His owner went on to bring two other dogs into her home, as companions/motivators for Max and pets for herself.  She trains her dogs well and obviously gives them lots of love and attention.

Then I found myself struggling with my own issues of disability, as I suffered through some mysterious symptoms and was subsequently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  I often think about Maximus, who does not care a whit what other animals or people think about the strange movements he is forced to make as he pulls his injured body along.  He is friendly to everyone, an angel with the children, and makes the best of the life he has.  No self pity.  Just determination to enjoy everything that life still has to offer - like a sunny day with a gentle breeze, a group of laughing children coming over to pet him, or a short walk with his doggy 'brothers' and committed owner.

I hope that, no matter what I have to face in the future in regard to my state of health, I will convey the same dignity and carefree attitude that is expressed daily by this beautiful creature.

8 comments:

Kerry said...

Elizabeth, what a beautiful posting. I loved reading about Maximus. His story is so sad, but uplifting and positive also. I wish you all the best with your health. It sounds like you already have a positive outlook and that is going to be the number one thing that you'll need to win the fight against m.s. *hugs*

Elizabeth Lister said...

Thanks so much, Kerry. It's been almost three years exactly since my diagnosis and I have not had another relapse. I'm doing very well :)

Pommawolf Emeraldwolfeyes said...

As a retired professional caregiver of many years, and now struggling for the last 12 years with my health problem I truly understand where your coming from. Thank you for sharing your experience about Max....*S*
Animals are perhaps the most forgiving creatures when life changes their circumstances....*S* It would serve us well to learn from them...*S*
Thank you for a very awesome post...*S*

Elizabeth Lister said...

Thank you, Pommawolf. He really is the most lovely dog and it makes me happy to see him getting along so well.

Terry J Cyr Photography said...

My dear you are doing wondrous things with where you currently are. We have to learn to live in the moments we have are hold them that much more precious to be truer to our selves. Several years ago I went through a bout with cancer and spent an entire summer in chemotherapy, that summer I felt I was robbed of life and vitality because every time I would begin to regain my strength they would zap me again. It was an eye opener to things I thought I would never have or do. You are crating remarkable work right now and seem very content. Live That!!!! Be your brilliant self every day.

Elizabeth Lister said...

Thank you, Terry :)

Anonymous said...

Maxmom said…

Thank you Elizabeth for this story, you have touched our hearts. As Maximus’ owners, we have always thought him amazing. So much so that we had taken steps and intended to groom him as a “Service Dog” as we believed that he could make a difference in someone’s life, like sick children, disabled adults and seniors…. but this was not in the cards for Maximus, for at a very young age he suffered an embolism that paralyzed him from the neck down. Little did we know that our Maximus, like the gladiator, would be fighting for his life? We are thankful for the great vet who believed in him and guided us to make the right decision. We are forever grateful to the community of neighbors, friends and family who cared enough to help and support us during this difficult time. With this aura of energy and love, Maximus found the strength, the courage and the will to live and was determined to pull through. A child in our neighborhood now calls him “the dancing dog” because of the way he walks with his disability. He made an amazing recovery that continues everyday – no self pity, he just smiles. He is truly a wonder dog and brings us joy every day. This September, he swam on his own for the very first time since this unfortunate incident happened over 4 years ago. Perhaps someday I will write about his journey – “The Story of Maximus”. We are thankful for your story and to know that Maximus has influenced and given you a new outlook on life. This to us means that Maximus, on his own, has achieved the goal of a true “Service Dog”. May you continue to find the inner strength and the courage to keep going, like Maximus, regardless of the challenges that life will toss your way and know Elizabeth that with love, support and determination, all is possible. Thx Again

Elizabeth Lister said...

Maxmom, thank you for telling us all a bit more about Maximus' story! I'm so glad he got to swim on his own this past weekend - he must have enjoyed that so very much. I LOVE that one of the kids calls him 'the dancing dog', that is so sweet! He totally does a little hop dance when he walks. He is very very special, that is for sure.