Celebrate the 14th birthday of my main man, Maxie.
An animal-loving, Pit Bull dog advocating, “will spend more money on my dog’s birthday than on my own”, kind of girl.
I adopted Maxie when he was newly 4-years-old and I was newly graduated from college.
I was deadset on adopting a dog as soon as I moved into an apartment off campus and, because of my experience working in animal welfare and dog behavior, I was heart-set on getting a Pit Bull dog. The many "pibbles" I had met from every walk of life were kind, joyful, ever-forgiving, loyal, intelligent, and misunderstood. Of course there were the few who would bear the reputation the breed had acquired, but when searching through their past, the love they were given, and the responsibility their owners had taken for their care, it was devastating to recognize how those things led them to their fate. I vowed to be different and to provide my first dog with the best life I could give him.
After weeks of online searching, Maxie's picture caught my eye when he had a striking resemblance to my favorite dog at daycare.
His story was brief but heart wrenching enough for me: he had been surrendered to the shelter when he was two for being too rambunctious and had been in rescue for right around two years. When I asked the shelter about him and the rescue he had been transferred to, they remembered Maxie as the last dog they had sent to that rescue after determining that things were not handled in a way they could agree with.
My 33-year-old pragmatic self, who has now worked in animal welfare for 10 years, three of which includes being the Director of Operations of an animal shelter, would shake her head and eye roll at the 23-year-old girl who thought Maxie was a good idea.
Heart wrenching story, yes, but let’s not ignore the obvious fact that he had been in questionable rescue for TWO YEARS. As I would soon discover after adopting him, Maxie barked a lot, had a fear of most men and children, didn't know how to appropriately play with most dogs, and got stress diarrhea at every holiday decoration change for the first year I had him.
But then my 33-year-old compassionate Believer-in-Everyone would remind me that he has been every bit of an amazing companion as I could have ever wished for and that he was in rescue for so long because he was waiting to be in my family. He was not the easy-going dog that would jump into my life without any stress, but he was exactly the dog that was meant to be in my life and I dedicated my heart to help him build confidence, accept where his limits were, and provide him with the life that he best thrived in.
Now ten years later, Maxie is a skeptical, protective, loyal, eager to please, not eager to do anything quickly, garden-loving, frog-hunting, ball-loving (even in his elder bull years), champagne-drinking, forgiving, ghost-hunting, perfectly imperfect dog. He has come a long way.
We rocked his world when we brought his baby sister home, but after a few months a patience and believing in his loving heart, he is now gentle and kind towards Dagny and even became the first family member to receive one of her coveted giggles.
He has taught me that we can always continue to learn and grow, but that accepting who we are and where our boundaries lie is the most important.
He has taught me to not focus so much on doing but to focus more on being.
He has taught me how to love unwaveringly and to show kindness and patience even in moments of anger.
He has taught me that sometimes even your best efforts do not bring you the results you were hoping for, but that all you could do was put in as much effort as you could muster.
My heart will be broken when he is gone (though we’ve made a pact that he’ll stick around forever), but until then, I am soaking up every single day I get to share my life with this spirit.
For his 14th birthday, I enlisted the help of a local natural pet food store Katzenbarkers.
They had single-serving Pupcakes and the best lime green octopus and wooly sasquatch for Maxie, who used to destroy his toys within minutes, will now choose to snuggle with them in bed at night.
Do you celebrate your pet’s birthday?
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for them?
Share your stories in the comments below!