Posted 7 months ago ago
In more ways than one, dogs really are unsung heroes.
This past year alone has made many dog owners realise just how precious their pooches are, especially in the ways that they’ve helped to improve people’s mental health.
One dog in particular, 13-year-old Max, has gone above and beyond in helping his owner after giving him a reason to live again.
After his owner Kerry Irving was involved in a serious road accident in 2006, the English Springer Spaniel has helped him to overcome severe depression.
Max, who is a virtual therapy dog, has now been awarded the animal equivalent of an OBE - the PDSA Order of Merit - having helped not only Kerry but also thousands of others across the world, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
As reported by LancsLive, Max is the first ever pet to receive the award since its introduction in 2014. The other 32 dogs and horses that have received the medal were specifically trained as police dogs and horses, medical detection dogs or search and rescue dogs.
In 2006 Max’s owner, 46-year-old Kerry, was the victim of a road traffic collision which left him unable to walk due to chronic neck and back pain. Kerry’s mental health also deteriorated as a result of the accident and he was later diagnosed with severe depression.
Two years later, Kerry met Max and soon enough a close bond developed between them, which eventually led him to turn his life around and gave him a reason to walk again.
Just 12 months after meeting, the pair took on climbing Ben Nevis together and the tough challenge proved just how far they had come.
Kerry, who is a keen amateur photographer, began documenting his walks with Max in the Lake District on his Facebook page. Many people visited the page to follow Max’s adventures as the page grew, Kerry chose to dedicate the page entirely to his best friend - renaming it ‘Max out in the Lakes’.
Following this, Kerry received hundreds of requests from Facebook fans asking to meet Max - and Kerry was happy to oblige. In 2016 Max had previously trained as a therapy dog with Assistance Dogs UK, so he was also able to make special visits to schools, hospitals and hospices.
Max became so adored that Kerry began organising walks for charity, so that large groups of people could come together and meet him, while also building a support network of ‘Max fans’.
Since 2017, Max has met over 10,000 people through personal meet-and-greets, charity walks, public appearances, school visits and book signings and he has helped to raise nearly £300,000 for a number of charities, including PDSA.
On Friday, February 19 Max was awarded the PDSA Order of Merit by the veterinary charity PDSA at a special virtual ceremony. He is the first pet to receive the commendation due to his incredible role in promoting the positive contribution animals make to human lives.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Max has been invaluable in providing comfort, hope and support to thousands of his Facebook followers, who joined him on his daily walks via Facebook Live.
Max’s owner, Kerry Irving, said: “When I was at my lowest, Max became my reason to live and he continues to make me smile every day. Being able to share the support, comfort and joy that Max brings to thousands of people has been a privilege.
“We receive daily messages from people all over the world, saying how Max’s adventures make them smile and bring joy to their life. Each has their own personal story. I have met soldiers who served in Afghanistan who say they used to look at Max’s page to remind them of home. I’ve also received messages from NHS staff working on the frontline during the pandemic, who have found moments of peace and escape with Max.
“It is a huge honour for Max to be awarded the PDSA Order of Merit. He is extremely deserving of this award and I am immensely proud of him.”
Jan McLoughlin, PDSA Director General, said: “Max has provided a source of huge comfort – not only to his owner Kerry – but to thousands of people across the globe who are facing or have gone through, hard times. He has become a true ambassador for the positive impact that animals have on mental health and wellbeing, which is more important now than ever.
"PDSA is honoured to recognise Max with the PDSA Order of Merit, for embodying the contribution that animals make to human lives, beyond ordinary companionship.”
More about PDSA
PDSA’s Animal Awards Programme was launched in 1943 by the charity’s founder, Maria Dickin, CBE. She believed that if animals were recognised for their heroic actions and the vital roles they play in society, it would help to raise their status, ensuring they are better treated. The charity continues this legacy today with the world’s leading Animal Awards Programme.
The programme comprises three major awards, including the PDSA Order of Merit, which recognises animals who display outstanding devotion above and beyond normal companionship, and animal acts that symbolise their special relationship with humans.
For more information on PDSA Animal Awards Programme click here.
From one inspirational dog to another, read the story of Titus, the the bilingual police dog.