Love With All Your Heart

Hovering my fingers over the keys on this computer I can't believe what I am about to write on this Sunday morning. But here it is...

Max got adopted.

The very day about two years ago or so I sat in the garage on an old couch at Waukegan Animal Control when they brought Max out. I lifted him up onto the couch and he snuggled next to me, his mouth open, his tongue lolling. He was a silly sight. Little did I know at that time that the seven-month-old puppy would cost us a lot of money, much of my time, be a considerable burden, steal my heart and teach me once more about human kindness.

The chronological order of things isn't clear to me anymore but really it doesn't matter. All I know is that I thought I was rescuing a healthy dog that would quickly get adopted but instead turned out to be a dog that I came to the conclusion would inevitably end up a permanent resident of mine at the "AEAR orphanage of wayward and unwanted but deeply loved animals."

Max, whom we lovingly nicknamed Maxie, lived with me for about six months. A 30-pound mutt that looks a little of spaniel, a little of basset hound, a little of beagle and who-knows-what, he was every mutt lover's dream. White with black spots and brown coloring thrown in, it was as if an artist threw the colors from across the room letting it land wherever. With hair that always looked a bit mussed and with short, crooked legs on a long body he could have passed for a character in a Dr. Seuss book.

He settled into the orphanage fairly quickly, except for Mona, the husky's consistent teasing and badgering. During those six months we learned that Maxie's eyes didn't constrict. That means outside in the sun he has limited vision. The eye specialist said there was nothing to be done about it but maybe get him some sun glasses. It was way too fun picking out the glasses (believe me they make TONS of them) but quickly I realized that getting a dog to like any type of glasses on their face wasn't at all easy. Max quickly told me what he thought of them by immediately shaking them off his face over and over again. So instead Max just ambled about outside with limited sight. He seemed to make due with the limited sight.

But then I noticed his legs seemed "odd." They were misshapen and he walked tentatively on them as if uncomfortable. After a stint in a brace on his one leg, which the doctor said would straighten the leg a bit but didn't seem to be a solution, we had X rays taken which revealed that Max had limited cartilage between his bones. It was devastating news. Now at a little over a year old it was concluded that he would not live until old age and the severity of his pain would tell us when the time was to let him go.

Meanwhile life went on at AEAR and a foster home opened up and because of Mona's constant picking on Max I felt it best that Max be moved. He went to live with Sandy H., a tiny yet remarkably strong woman for her size. It was terribly hard to give Max over to Sandy but I knew that he would be in good hands. He needed carrying sometimes and I knew she could do it. I knew he needed someone who would anticipate his special physical and emotional needs and as I pulled out of her driveway, Max delivered safely, I reassured myself Max would get all he needed.

But there was something about that boy that I felt so drawn to. Max was a sweet, gentle soul I felt a deep connection with. I had a soft spot for special needs animals, maybe that was it, but I don't think that was all it was. He just is a special little dog, special in many ways. I guess I would say that Max accepts life as it is, no complaining. I concluded that it would be nearly impossible to find a home for a dog with such severe handicaps so I resolved to the fact that some day Max would probably come back to live at the orphanage and hopefully by then Mona will have gotten adopted or grown out of her obnoxious behavior.

Periodically Sandy sent me photos of Max and his foster buddy Petunia "Tunie." I went to visit a few times and that soul-to-soul connection I felt for Max remained. I just loved that dog. Sandy and I would talk on the phone and she would share with me what was going on with the dogs. We put Max on pain relievers that really helped him. It even got to the point that Sandy allowed Max to run a bit in the yard with Tunie and she said, "I had to let him be a dog and stop not allowing him to run. He wants to run and he's actually doing it," she said excitedly. I was so grateful for Sandy's love and care of Max. She was learning a perfect balance of caring for him without coddling him and letting him live his life as best as he could.

Then less than two weeks ago we got an application for Max. I was stunned. I opened it up on my computer and scanned it. It actually looked good, really good. But did they know his health problems? Surely they don't, I thought. I love Max and was committed to him for life...but someone else? Are there really people out there that are like me? Yes, I know there are, I actually know some but there are few and far between. That was the chatter that was clanking around in my brain.

I turned the application over to Bev, our most seasoned adoption screener and was skeptical as to whether it would work out but had the attitude of, "well, if it's meant to be it will be."

"I told them everything about Max. I got it out of the way right away," Bev told me. "I figured I wouldn't waste anyone's time if his health was an issue for them. But I couldn't believe it, nothing bothered them, nothing." She went on to say that they have been long time dog lovers but didn't currently have any dogs. Their last animal, a cat, was special needs too, but with behavior issues mostly, not physical. Bev spent hours screening through the application and everything checked out. Everything.

Yesterday was a deceptively cold yet sunny late winter day. Sandy H., with Max met Bev met and the couple who were approved to adopt Max at Cook Park in downtown Libertyville. Bev told me later, "we spent plenty of time together there. I always want to make sure that everyone has enough time and the dog has enough time to adjust. At one point Sandy and I walked away from Max for a bit while the husband held the leash just to see how Max would react. He actually did well, he seemed okay, he didn't cry for Sandy. When the time came, the paperwork signed and Max officially adopted, Bev and Sandy walked away as Max was gently lifted into his new family's car. Sandy was softly crying.

In this world we can choose to focus on the negative, the evil and the ill intents. But we can instead choose to focus on people and situations which give us all great hope for humanity. There were a circle of people that gave their all to a little handicapped dog.

All those throughout the years who donated for Max's medical care and prayed for him. Bev, knowing full well the magnitude of her responsibility for Max's future willingly and diligently screened the application for Max. Sandy H. who loved Max with all her heart, nurtured him, taking care of his special needs and ultimately making the greatest sacrifice, that of a foster mom, to let him go. And finally Max's new parents who saw past Max's limitations and instead saw his potential. They must understand the secret of life. Live for today, be grateful for the moment and love with all your heart.

Happy Sunday everyone. Max...I love you baby boy.

Date: March 22, 2015
Posted By: Sandy Kamen Wisniewski

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