Maxwell’s Agenda

When I adopted Maxwell I never thought of the future and what hurdles or endeavors we may be facing – all that I knew in that moment was that his previous “people” were giving up on him, washing their hands of him because he was “different” and being someone who just lost her pug about a month prior I felt it was a sign from the universe — that Maxwell came into MY clinic (of all of the other clinics) and it was a “new client”– I had never seen Maxwell or this person prior to that fateful day I took him home.

I remember calling my husband and starting the call with “I MAY have done a “thing”…but remember that I love you!” I could SENSE his eyeroll over the telephone followed up with “what did you adopt now!?” (He knows me FAR too well!).

My husband told me we could “foster him” (his defense mechanism for all the handipets we have adopted!) but he and I both knew that Maxwell was coming home to stay permanently. Thus kicked off our journey of Maxwell Seamus!

Everyone see’s the “romanticized” version of adopting a specially-abled animal — the cuddling, the “adorable hurdles” and their cute, unique little quirks that make them … “them”! Friends, I am here to tell you that this is NOT one of those stories (but it is still cute and inspiring!) and the first few days being Maxwell’s mama was turbulent to put it mildly — despite the rough ride I was not about to give up and we were going to figure this out!

Early on the veterinarians (and myself) were holding out hope that Maxwell may be able to walk despite his adversities — we immediately started physical therapy, hydro-therapy, acupuncture and various obstacle courses to help give Maxwell strength & stamina. As time carried on it was evident that Maxwell would not be able to stand upright on his own or be able to use his back legs — even then we were not discouraged and continued to work on his progress.

Every morning Maxwell and I start the day the same — I creep into his room and begin to lightly talk to him helping him greet the day! Maxwell gives a big stretch or two, a yawn and looks up with those big ol’ brown eyes full of hope and wonder. I take Maxwell outside to use the “facilities” (which he needs assistance in) and then I pack his “diaper bag”, wheelchair, harness, toys, baby wipes and grip booties (to help keep him upright when he’s in his wheelchair) in the car before placing Maxwell in his car seat (safety first!)

Maxwell goes to work with me daily simply because he needs his bladder expressed manually several times a day and needs a tad bit more supervision then his handicat brothers require – luckily we work at a veterinary hospital that embraces specially – abled animals (and loves Maxwell!) so this is not an issue.

In addition to Maxwell needing his bladder expressed several times a day he also requires daily physical/hydro therapy to help his muscles not waste away (despite not being able to use his legs we want to always ensure Maxwell is healthy, big & strong!) as well as short bursts of time where he’s in his wheelchair (that was so graciously donated to Maxwell by a kind soul) to help his upper body strength and overall stamina.

Maxwell enjoys lounging on the couch with me, being surrounded by his “brothers” (aka the handicats) and playing with ALL of his toys (his favorite is his stuffed “lamby” and his rope toys) and he just overall enjoys being in the company of myself and his dad! Maxwell does not realize, nor is he phased by the fact that he may be a “little” different than the other kids (though I am starting to get concerned he believes he is a cat!) and lives a happy, spoiled life.

Every night before bedtime Maxwell goes outside to use the facilities one final time before sleep and then he is placed in his “bed” (a portable crib that was also graciously donated to us) surrounded by all of his toys and a little “bedtime snack” — Maxwell’s favorite is a couple of plain cheerios to munch on before falling asleep.

Does it sound like a lot? Absolutely not. Are there some days that it feels like it is the most overwhelming thing in the world? Sure! Some days I worry that I will not be able to give Maxwell all that he needs in life but then I am reminded that those short comings & insecurities only come from my own anxiety… Maxwell already has ALL that he needs — a family that loves him and is patient with him.

Are there some days that Maxwell blesses friends and family with a “golden shower”? Hell yes there is! And in that instance all you can do is laugh, politely apologize and remind them that Maxwell has no idea he is urinating (and definitely cannot “steer” his urine stream in any particular direction – trust me, I struggle daily with this!), has Maxwell pooped on a few friends of mine (and a few that weren’t friends) – YES. He has gifted a “code brown” or two in his short little life thus far? Of course. But everything he does — gross and otherwise — you learn to take with stride and a few laughs here and there.

Everyday Maxwell amazes me in his progress. Though he still requires “grip” booties to help keep his front feet upright when he is in his wheels and sometimes he pouts about having to not simply be a “lazy pug” and has to put in actual work with his wheels he is improving daily.

The best advice I can continue to give people is NEVER be turned off or discouraged by a special needs animal, understand that when you take them into your home there will be an adjustment period (for both you and the animal) and remember a time when you needed someone to NOT give up on you? Special needs animals everywhere are looking for someone to NOT give up on them — be that person that changes their entire life.

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! 🐾💕

Specially-Abled Animals Day — Maxwell

Maxwell was surrendered to our house of misfit toys when the backyard breeder realized he was not going to “regain feeling” in his back legs (disclaimer: he never used his back legs). Maxwell was born with a condition called “Swimmers Syndrome” which is an uncommon developmental deformity of newborn puppies and kittens whereby the limbs– primarily the hind limbs are splayed laterally resulting in an inability to stand or walk). He is not in any discomfort or pain and the condition will not get worse (though with rigorous physical therapy, love, patience and we are doing acupuncture as an extra measure) and honestly it does not slow Maxwell down at all! He is an affectionate, ornery, playful little boy who craves attention from his friends and family and loves to get into stuff.

Maxwell was surrendered because he was considered “broken” and unable to sell but honestly in this situation their loss was our gain! We obtained such a sweet, full of zest little boy who is teaching us so much as well as helping us with our sorrow over losing Maggie Mae. Maxwell blessed our lives at the most perfect time — right when I vowed that I would never have another pug after Maggie Mae, Maxwell came into my clinic needing someone to love and understand him (as well as be patient and work with him) but I equally needed Maxwell in my life — to love & understand me.

Specially-Abled animals grace our lives for a plethora of reasons and sometimes those reasons are not so blatantly clear but it is not our job to understand it is just our jobs to give these babies every opportunity to thrive and to succeed as well as to be loved & protected.

Continue to check back for Maxwell updates and progress on his physical therapy and acupuncture!

The Maxwell Chronicles (Continued…)

Have you ever heard the age old “tale” that having children one does not get an instruction manual but do you know what else they do not give you a manual to?

Handipets.

Or more specifically — handiPUGS.

It is even more difficult when you have a handipug who has a medical diagnosis that is not commonly seen (all of you handipet parents with those rare babies know exactly what I am lamenting about!) so you run into the problem of worry that is almost like an onion and you can peel away the layers but its just a different avenue of worry.

“Could this minor issue/problem be somehow related to their diagnosis?”

Can they handle or tolerate minor wellness things such as vaccines or dental cleanings?”

Am I doing everything that I can possibly be doing for their comfort, happiness & well-being?”

I am the very first to admit that I am stumbling in the dark when it pertains to Maxwell and his diagnosis (multiple limb deformity & kyphosis) but I am always willing to learn and continue to learn about dudes like Maxwell but in the meantime I am sort of learning by the absolute seat of my pants.

Is that scary? Absolutely.

But what can you do? You just have to keep “pressing on” because what else is there possibly to do? So you roll with the good and you roll with the bad just like life.

For every heart warming video I post of Maxwell cruising in his wheelchair there is probably a memory to match that of him and I up all night long while I hose down his bed that he managed to smear poop all around in (we suspect a nerve was pinched in his spine which was causing his legs to kick madly) or panic texting the patient vet’s that I work with because Maxwell is behaving in pain and I am constantly worried that he will BLOAT (again, insert face palm here!) and that I probably sprouted another few dozen gray hairs worrying if I am doing all of the right things for Maxwell all while not breaking the bank, being a pest to my co-workers or straining my marriage — sometimes handipets are dirty work and sure sometimes my husband and I bicker and squable over the animals, their “abilities” and if they in fact rule the house or not (I have accepted the fact they run the house but I fear my husband is still in denial and thinks we stand a chance — we do not), some days I am absolutely a few minutes late to social engagements because I had to hose off/sanitize/hazmat/biohazard someone’s litter box, bed, behind, paws or on one occasion face but it is life and I do believe that everything happens for a reason and there was a purpose and a reason that my adorable crew of misfits came to bless our home.

And then there are some memories that you just laugh at the horribly-timed misfortune that if you do not laugh you will cry type of moments – like when we took Bifford on his first adventure to Michigan and were unsure how to handle the bathroom issue so at the time my husband and I decided that a diaper would be the best plan of action (in case you were wondering it was not, in fact, the best plan of action!) but we had not decided who would be the official “checker” if we happened to find ourselves catching whiffs of atomic sulfur.

So if you can picture my husband and I circling our vehicle as if we are in some sort of a hazmat standoff because we could not decide who was about to check if Bifford graced us with a code brown or not. After a heated round of few choice words and panic I took the plunge and became the hero that day and checked (luckily it was a false alarm!).

But just like in life, a life with handipets is not for the weak person. They are no more work if you go in with an open mind, a healthy serving of patience and then lastly (but most important) … you must have a warped sense of humor! How else do you cope with life in general? Which is why we enjoy posting all of our funny, adorable, cuddly and sometimes messed up memories because they are all warm memories to us!