May 1, 2010 we had just got married, the first thing on our agenda was to find a dog! We both have a huge love for animals and couldn’t imagine starting our new life together with out one. My husband insisted on a German Shepherd, for the loyalty and for their instinct to protect. That was by far one of the best decisions we have ever made. Two weeks after our wedding day I found him!! From the moment we laid eyes on him we were in love. I instantly became amazed on how smart Maxx was, took him 4 weeks tops and he was potty trained just like that! He still amazes me every day on how smart and loyal he is.
Fast forward four and a half years to December 2014. Maxx started to get sick, he would throw up everyday if not several times a day. I would take him to our vet for what felt like once every week. They ran him through the mill doing x-rays, blood work, everything they could think of to try and figure out what was going on. It eventually surfaced in a digital x-ray. Maxx had Megaesophagus, and he would need special care to survive. Megaesophagus is where the esophagus stops working and becomes a pocket for food and water. The next morning we were at his veterinarians office, Brunswick Animal Hospital, we met with Dr. Sage Umphries, his primary care Dr., and she told us she would be able to care for Maxx. On top of the Megaesophagus also known as MegaE, Maxx had aspirated some of what he had been throwing up, or by now we learned was actually regurgitating. It caused him to have aspiration pneumonia, for those of you who don’t know this can be deadly if not treated by a veterinarian and is common in MegaE dogs. She told us she wanted to keep Maxx over night and get him hooked up to some IV’s and would call me in the morning for an update. Of course Brandon and I didn’t sleep at all, and the next morning I patiently waited for the call.
My phone rang, Dr. Sage informed us that his pneumonia was pretty severe and Maxx was not interested in any type of food. She asked if she could keep him another night, we agreed. The next day was Thursday, when her voice came over the phone I could tell it wasn’t good. We went in and saw him I immediately started crying, by this point Maxx had lost close to 20 pounds. She explained how he had gotten worse and that she thought his MegaE could be caused by Myasthenia Gravis, an auto immune disorder which attacks your muscles and wanted to start treatment immediately. She told us Maxx would have to get over this hump with his pneumonia and he was extremely weak. I knew what she was saying though she never said it. Have you ever felt like your heart had been ripped out of your chest and stomped in the ground? Well this was that moment for me.
I later drove back out to speak with the doctor alone. This was the hardest conversation I have ever been in. She made me a promise that she would do everything she could and if Maxx hadn’t improved in a few days she would make the decision to end his suffering because I just could not. I couldn’t bear the thought of giving up on him but I knew he didn’t deserve to suffer.
That night I was completely numb. I just prayed that God would give him the strength to pull through. Word got out and our family and friends posted Maxx’s story on Facebook, Instagram, and even put him on the prayer lists at a couple of churches. I had people reaching out to Brandon and I that we didn’t even know just to tell us they were praying for Maxx. The amount of love we felt in the midst of having our hearts broken was truly amazing.
The next morning my heart, what was left of it, fell to the floor as the phone rang. It was Dr. Sage and a miracle had occurred, Maxx was about 15% better!! This is proof that there is always hope. Maxx stayed another night and was able to come home that Saturday.
Our lives have changed a bit since his diagnosis. Maxx still has bad days however the good days out weigh the bad. He has to eat and drink sitting vertically in order for his food to reach his stomach. With the help of Susan and her wonderful husband they made Maxx his Bailey chair.
A Bailey chair is designed to help the dog sit comfortably in a upright position to eat and drink. He is also now wearing a harness rather than a normal neck collar for walking. Maxx still plays fetch, runs, goes to the beach, and plays like he did before his diagnosis. He loves life and shows its still possible to be a happy dog with MegaE.
It has came to my attention that people are being informed to put their dogs down after being diagnosed with MegaE because they cant live a normal life and its too much hassle. That more MegaE dogs are abandoned and left in shelters because people think they cant take care of them or have limited information about their disease. I’m here to tell you that Megaesuphagus is NOT a death sentence. I was fortunate enough to have a caring and supportive doctor and staff who went above and beyond and never gave up on Maxx. This disease is manageable!
Bailey Chairs 4 Dogs donates chairs to people, shelters, veterinarian schools, and rescue organizations who don’t have the means to make one, or the funds to buy one. They also share links for support groups and informational sites.
Our goal is to first raise awareness! With awareness comes hope, and to raise money to help other dogs like Maxx get a Bailey chair. I believe Maxx was given a second chance and with that chance I want to use it to help others. I hope sharing his story and these shirts are going to do just that!