Maxwell Chronicles (Part II)

Maxwell living his very best life ever

Living with a Maxwell here at the adorable house of misfits has been a whirlwind of emotions and overall trial and error on things to best help Maxwell thrive. After hearing from various veterinary professionals and pet parents alike on what Maxwell’s official diagnosis was I finally decided to end the debate and scheduled Maxwell to see the neurology department at Akron (Ohio) MedVet.

Being someone in the veterinary field who handles curbside appointments daily I can tell you that it was a very humbling experience and reminded me to be patient and compassionate and reminded myself that despite not being allowed to go inside with Maxwell the staff, technicians and doctor’s treated him with kindness, compassion and respect (and they absolutely did! I cannot thank Akron MedVet enough!).

On the “other side” of the appointment for a change; Curbside appointments

The neurologist stated that (among other things) Maxwell has multiple limb deformities along with kyphosis of the thoracic limb region with potential hemivertebra but she reminded me that with the “right family ANY pet can thrive!” and she is absolutely right.

I am unsure why I so badly wanted an official title for what was up with Maxwell, maybe it was because I felt if “it” had a name then I would know better what to expect maybe — but much with life there is no true preparation and we just all have to “roll with the tide” whatever or where ever that may take us!

Examples of the different “types” of back issues dogs can experience

  • Kyphosis is a type of spinal deformity similar to scoliosis the difference is that scoliosis is a lateral (side to side) curvature of the spine whereas kyphosis is a posterior (up and down) curvature of the spine, specifically in the upper, or cervical, portion of the spine.
  • This curvature can cause nerve damage, which is the reason behind many, if not all, of the symptoms presented. 

  • In older dogs, the condition can be caused by trauma (like a spinal fracture) or wear-and-tear on the spine (which could lead to arthritis or osteoporosis). 
  • In younger dogs (less than 1 year old), the condition is most likely congenital, meaning it was inherited by the individual at birth, as was the case for Olivia, so this is the type of kyphosis of focus throughout this website. 
  • If you suspect your dog’s kyphosis was inherited, it is important to get in contact with his/her breeder (if possible) to let them know. They will want to make sure to not keep breeding your dog’s biological mother/father so as to stop these defective genes from passing on to any more offspring

Some of the signs/symptoms MAY include:

  • Atrophy (loss of muscle tone in affected areas)
  • Loss of sensation
  • Incontinence (loss of control over bladder/bowel )
  • pain
  • wobbliness
  • weakness in the back legs
  • walking differently
  • signs of muscle wastage in the back legs
  • an abnormally shaped back

Regions of the spine
Example of hemivertebra (left) and a normal vertebra (right)
09/2021 XRady of Maxwells Spine (lateral view)

Is the future scary? Absolutely it is! But I would feel the future as scary regardless if Maxwell was in our life or not! I am unsure what the future holds for Maxwell but I know one thing for sure: He is going to live a safe, happy & loving life with myself and the rest of the adorable house of misfits!

Life is Mysterious

I would like to believe that I am not so cynical to not believe in signs from above but this one, this one was so blatantly obvious that one could not help but NOT ignore it.

I lost my best friend, my light of my life, my “reason” on Monday 01/25/2021 and to say that I was handling it poorly was an understatement. I was on “autopilot”, masking my utter sadness and heartbreak behind a false smile and felt so incomplete that I felt would be permanent and just simply “who I was” from now on.

Until Monday 03/08/2021.

I heard commotion in my veterinary clinic I work for with my name coming up several times (which peaked my interest) as I saw a small crowd circling something … something tiny. I as made my way into the small group of women I saw him… meet Maxwell Walker (Maxwell after The Beatle’s song “Maxwell Silver Hammer”) an eight week old pug puppy (though the doctors suspect he may be younger) who is a “swimmer puppy”.

Swimmer Puppy Syndrome is a developmental deformity that results in a puppy having a flattened thorax/chest. They may have mobility issues that with physical therapy can be (for the most part) corrected it just takes a lot of patience and humility.

Meet Max:

Max will never replace Maggie ever and in fact he may be nothing like Maggie which I accept and understand also (I used to often joke that I wasn’t a “pug person” but I was an avid “Maggie person”) but I can only hope that somewhere tucked deep inside that tiny little pug puppy is a quality or two that Maggie had for so long – that patience, that calmness and most of all affection.

I know it will take time for Max to grow on me (frankly he’s creeping into my ❤️) and it will take even more time to work on getting him to use his back legs and be more mobile (without my assistance).

If you’ve been wondering why the site and our social media platforms went on a short, short sabbatical it’s because of this little dude. We’re working with him constantly as far as physical therapy, hydrotherapy, puzzles and exercise regularly (in addition to trying to potty train) as well as care for the other part of the crew has managed to occupy the rest of my day (happily of course!).

Please be patient with us as we work to find a happy medium between Maxwell and the rest of the day’s agendas — I promise we will return with gusto! Stay tuned folks!

Happy Heavenly Birthday Maggie Mae

They say that no one is safe from death. We are all moving towards the same outcome in the end though there are people, pets, memories….that we wish and pray we could save from the embrace of death. I continue to remind myself that though the grief is sometimes too much to bear I wear my sadness like a badge of courage, an honor to have such an unfathomable grief — because that meant that I loved something with such passion and gusto and now that Maggie has passed there is no where for that love to go and it manifests in such agonizing grief.

I would not trade any of this for anything in the universe. All of the memories, the good, the bad, the downright ugly — I replay them in my mind as if they were home movies in a nostalgic attempt to bring me back to those glorious times.

As I reflect on Maggie Mae’s “first” birthday in Heaven today I reminisce about her very first birthday here on earth! A baby faced 18 year old (convinced that I knew everything about being “grown up” — now that I am in my 30’s I can see how very VERY wrong I was — don’t tell my parents they were actually right about this!) working a crap minimum wage job and in college rocking the title of “poor college student”. Did I have any right having a dog? Absolutely not! Not for any other reason other then I was 18 years old! I knew nothing about responsibilities, the decisions I would have to make (or do) surrounding this little curly tailed ball of fur or when something would effect ME that it meant it also effected Maggie Mae. For the very first time in my immature young adult life I had someone else to think about, to worry about, to put before my own wants & needs.

I suppose as I reflect on Maggie Mae’s birthday, her life, ALL of the things that SHE accomplished in her life (and let me tell you, she accomplished quite a bit! What other pug can say they rode around in style on a custom made 1975 trike with there mom and grandpy? Or could go swimming whenever they wanted with mom and grammy because (my) grandparents have a swimming pool? Or all of the parades, the events, the PLACES that she went — I can say with all sincerity that no other dog can say they had the amazing, full life that Maggie Mae had) and it fills my heart with such bittersweet love that I can close my eyes and for a split second I SWEAR that I feel her brush against me, her black velvet ears, her little oinks she would make that almost expressed her inner thoughts to me, or her clawing/pawing at my arm when I was not giving her the amount of attention that Maggie felt SHE required (and let me tell you that Maggie Mae got ALL of the attention and then some! She sometimes had a “flare for the theatrics” and play the part of the “sad neglected pug” anytime I had to do chores or schoolwork — she was funny like that!).

I suppose that Maggie Mae played a MAJOR role in how my life began to shape and turn out. Without Maggie Mae I doubt I would have had the courage to leave a mentally & physically abusive relationship, without Maggie Mae I don’t think I would have had the determination to finish college, go to vet tech school and continue to learn as much as I possibly could, without Maggie Mae I wouldn’t be the person at work when clients thank me for such tenderness & compassion because I remind them that “I would want someone to extend the same love and compassion to MY animals so I will ALWAYS extend that same courtesy to others…”. Maggie Mae kicked off my endeavor to have the “house of misfits” – full of love, funny memories and general shenanigans with her handicat brothers, her epileptic brother Roscoe and even the devil child that set up camp in our basement (Lucy, she’s a calico so we cannot hold her sauciness against her!) — Maggie Mae is my reason for EVERYTHING.

So, for as much as my heart will forever ache for the little smooshy face, oinky pug that changed my ENTIRE life…. the total opposite course my life was attempting to take — I will always be grateful for her and cherish her for ALL that she did for me — she saved my life. For this I am forever in her debt and will for the rest of my days always remember and honor what a special day today is (September 13) because that is the day that the universe brought Maggie Mae into the world — by Thanksgiving 2006 Maggie and I had crossed paths and the rest is history!

Happy Happy Heavenly Birthday my beautiful, funny, affectionate, courageous Maggie Mae. Mere words will never be able to express just how much I love you, miss you and will forever appreciate you. Thank you for showing me parts of myself that I did not even know I could conjure up (and for reminding me that I can be a mom to a rag tag group of hanidpets — I learned a great deal of patience from being Maggie’s mama!). I love you baby girl.

September 13, 2006- January 25, 2021 ; forever in my heart & soul.

Dear Maggie,

Saturday. 02/27/2021 10:46am

It’s a grey, dreary, rainy, bleak day. The fluorescent lights of the local laundromat sit harsh and heavy on my hazel eyes as I watch the dryer tumble my bedspread over & over, I became entranced by the light hum the dryer was making and the monotony of its assignment at hand.

And for a moment I feel “normal” again, whole if you will but in the blink of an eye that moments gone and passed and my mind brutally taunts me…that for the first time in 14 years I am all alone, you are gone and now I am trying to remember my life before you blessed it, how I functioned, how I made it through my days but honestly — I can’t.

As much as I sift and comb through the complexities and anxieties of my mind, I cannot even pretend to remember a time before you because honestly that time never mattered.

Fourteen years seems like such a long time until you’re living without your “shadow” , your best friend, — your soul mate… then it starts to feel like a tiny drop in the ocean if you blink you miss it. And it’s true fourteen years was not at all long enough and here I am craving and yearning for more seconds, more minutes — as if trying to barter with the cruel universe that stole you from my life.

They say losing your “heart” pet changes you and that you are not the same after that. You convince yourself that won’t be you, but it will be. This is a pain that everyone takes on when they fall in love with their “soul” pet that amplifies every minute you further fall in love with them by the time you are at that horrible fateful goodbye the pain is so ungodly unfathomable it teeters on physical pain.

I teeter in and out of denial that you are actually gone and are resting comfortably among the stars (I would say quietly also but given your sweet, adorable, lumberjack snores I retract the “quiet” statement!) because some days my mind plays tricks on me – eagerly anticipating you to come bouncing from around the doorway with your ears flopping up and down like tiny velvet pig-tails and your little curly tail tightly curled resting on top of you like a bun.

Maggie Mae there will never be enough words, enough ways to explain or describe how much I miss you. WE miss you. The house feels like a vacuum with you absent from it, a repair not easily fixed. I miss you sorely but know that as long as I continue to talk about you, educate & advocate AGAINST horrible places and practices of “businesses” such as “harbor pets”, “petLand” and the “backyard breeders” they do business with…then I know you are never too far from my heart and soul. Love you my sweet girl.

Grief & Maxwell

Grief. It has a funny way of changing a person from the inside out leaving them feeling like a hollow shell of a human being and craving for your old life back — your old “soul mate” — your beloved pet that you lost. I tell people that grief is a club that no one ever wants to join but once you have you are changed forever… the dynamics of your mind have been forever altered and your emotions run on a constant spectrum of sorrow to a semi-managed “autopilot” where you simply do not think you just ARE in hopes that you can manage the day taking everything in stride by the minute.

My entry into this ominous club was January 25, 2021 at 8:53am. My memories of that day are a chaotic whirlwind of emotions but the main point I remember forever is holding my sweet Maggie Mae and kissing her uncontrollably while I reminded her how much I loved her and thanked her for so many wonderful years. The week that followed that day felt like a blur as if I were simply going through the motions in hopes of a shred of normalcy…. it was simple all that I wanted was my Maggie Mae but unfortunately and sadly it was not that simple.

Not a minute, not a second of the day goes by that I do not miss her horribly and sorely as she truly was my “soulmate” and “heart dog” , she inspired me to constantly work to be a better person… a better friend, daughter, sister, wife. A better, more improved me all around. After Maggie Mae I vowed that I would not… I could not get another dog as my heart could not handle it! I felt that for as long as I mourned sweet Maggie Mae that it would be unfair to adopt a new dog if I could not devote the same level of love and devotion that I had given to Maggie all of those amazing years.

For as much as I worked to convince myself I would never be ready for another dog the universe apparently had other plans for me and in entered Maxwell.

Now, I am not a highly spiritual person — I do believe there is a “higher power” (though I am not entirely certain what that higher power is), yet I wear the Saint Jude & Saint Francis medal’s around my neck without fail (what can I say? I am simply an enigma!) and I believe that the universe (and most likely Maggie Mae herself!) played active roles in bringing Maxwell into my world.

It did not take long to see this little boy was special. He needed someone…anyone to give him a chance and to be patient with him (after all he was learning how to navigate his world without the use of his back legs, and eventually will learn to adapt to a wheelchair/scooter) as well as manually express his bladder to help him urinate properly. Without second thought I agreed to take him home (still not entirely sure what I was getting myself into!) and quickly realized that the world needed me to take Maxwell home and it was evident by the “M” on his chest (which was before we officially named him Maxwell! I told people it was Maggie’s “stamp of approval”) and quickly found out through some investigative work that Maxwell as born on the same exact day Maggie Mae passed away! I am unsure if this is a “thing” but my heart takes comfort in knowing that Maxwell and Maggie could have easily crossed paths as Maggie was exiting and Maxwell was entering.

As time carried on I noticed something remarkable happening — though my heart hurt and I was still constantly mourning Ms. Maggie Mae, I found Maxwell to be very “good” for me! He is a clown like, spunky little dude who does NOT let the fact his back legs malfunction even phase him nor slow him down! He plays and barks and chews just like any other normal puppy does! I remind him daily that he is not Maggie and that is ALRIGHT. He is Maxwell. He is his own being and I will love and care for him for the remainder of his days.

Somewhere in my grief addled brain I tell myself that Maggie sent me Maxwell to soothe the suffering I feel deep within my soul, to help keep my compassionate heart occupied (and to give me something ELSE to worry about! I am the typical “mother hen” always worried about someone and always attempting to feed them!).

Maxwell no doubt has many obstacles ahead of him as far as his mobility goes. And that is alright. Everything that we do we will take in stride and figure it out along the way. Maxwell does not care that I am not perfect or well versed in his “special-ability” he just cares that I love him and give him affection (and the occasional snackie!) and is just thankful that someone took a chance on him and did not immediately write him off as a “suffering” being that needed to be met with euthanasia (because that is the farthest from the truth possible!). He just needed ONE person to give him a shot. Growing up I was reminded that you “cannot save them all” and though that may be true I can change the life of that ONE pet I rescued. That is all that it takes: one person to give them a shot.

Max’s radiograph interpretation of his spine/back & ribs.
Maxwell showing off his “badge” that sits proudly on his chest!

The Maxwell Chronicle

Maxwell; a collage of photos ranging from the moment I took him home in early March 2021 to now (May 2021)

The number #1 motto that I live by when speaking about a specially-abled animal and how I “handle it all” (think about it I have a neurologic cat who wobbles/falls into things, an epileptic rat terrier, a cat with one eye and limited vision in the other, a semi-feral cat in the basement and then a puppy who needs his bladder expressed and cannot use his back legs) is “FAKE IT TILL YA MAKE IT”.

I knew NOTHING about cerebellar hypoplasia, I knew NOTHING about a blind kitten with herpesvirus, I knew NOTHING about puppies with mobility issues…I did know about epilepsy only because I myself have grand mal seizures but for the most part I knew nothing about specially-abled pets of any kind and how to care for them or their “diagnoses”. But guess what? It didn’t matter! It did not matter that I did not research each disorder or disability to exhaustion. It did not matter that I did not spend thousands of dollars on specialists, supplies etc.,

All that mattered was that I was willing to learn, I was patient with each specially-abled pet and continued each day with empathy and love. That I provided them with the Veterinary care they needed … That ALL animals are entitled to!

Everything that I learned from CH was “on-the-job” experience and training and that is alright! Bifford just needed someone that would be patient with him and love him! The same with Maxwell — he just needs someone that loves him and is patient with him and his progress.

Every day with Maxwell is an adventure to say the least! I wake him up in the morning for breakfast by going into his bedroom and picking him up from his portable crib as he coos and carries on then we go outside so I can express his bladder for his morning pee (I am still holding hope he will be able to eventually go potty on his own like a big boy!). Then we come in for a little breakfast while I get everyone else’s breakfast (and medications!) Ready and give those.

From there Max and I pack up to go to work where Max has his own “office” that he enjoys to “bark” out demand to those passing by while various coworkers pick him up, cuddle him, take him outside etc.

While at work Max gets acupuncture therapy as well as laser therapy. Upon arriving home we do physical therapy and then hydro therapy before playing a little bit and then placing Max back in his crib for a good night sleep surrounded by his menagerie of toys so he can dream happy dreams and prepare for a new day.

Am I holding out hope he will still walk? Absolutely! But am I realistic (and will love him regardless!) He will need a wheelchair? Of course.

The fact of the matter is that when most hear a pet is special needs or needs a little more “special care” they’re turned off or discouraged completely from adopting that special baby as if the term imprisons those babies for life of solitude and disappointment 😔

The bottom line is that for as many “misfit toys” as I’ve adopted and loved (or even my dear friends who’ve done the same) the common denominator is all the same: love and patience.

Stay Tuned for more Maxwell Chronicles! 🐾💕