A Life Well Lived: Cashiers Highlands Humane Society


Written by: David Stroud – Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society | Publish: 2021/04 – April

Sweet Max shared his sweet heart with everyone he met. Our Plateau has lost some of its joy with its departure.


David and Max, 2010


David and Max, 2020

It is the most difficult subject I have ever had to write about. Because it’s the hardest thing a pet owner will ever have to endure – saying goodbye.

I said goodbye to Max last February. After 11 glorious years of love and camaraderie, 10 of those years working together as a pet therapy team.

I rescued Max from a raid on a puppy mill south of Orlando in 2010. He was a three year old breeding male and was kept in horrible conditions. After being confined in a small crate for weeks, he suffered burns on the underside of his body so severe that once rescued he had to wear a cone around his neck for an entire month.

Max and I started the pet therapy program at the Gulf Coast Humane Society in Fort Myers and when we moved to the mountains of North Carolina in 2012 we also started the pet therapy program here at CHHS.

Max was a natural. I often joked that I was just his “driver” because he did all the work.

But it wasn’t work for Max – it was a labor of love.

Max has made a positive difference in the lives of so many people. Like “Sam from the Bronx,” a senior resident living with assistance in Fort Myers who has never spoken to a staff member or fellow residents. But every month he talked to Max like they were longtime friends.

And Stephen in Chestnut Hill who once told me he wished he could still walk a dog. Max made this wish come true. With his leash attached to Stephen’s walker, they slowly walked through a long hallway, step by step, in unison, to everyone’s amazement. There was no dry eye to be found.

When Stephen passed away in 2015, Max and I were asked to attend his memorial service together, and of course we did.

And there were also no dry eyes that day.

Last summer Max and I went to Atlanta for a reassessment test with Pet Partners.

It was shortly after his 13th birthday. We are one of more than 10,000 Pet Partners therapy teams across the country. I ran into two or three parts of the test, but Max, as always, passed every thing he was asked to do.

The only question asked by the assessor was, “Are you sure you want to be recertified as a team?” I mean, Max is 13 and you know… ”

I understood the feeling behind the question.

But I was quick to respond: “Yes. It will mean the world to me. And that will mean the world for Max.

All cancer is horrible, but canine hemangiosarcoma of the spleen is particularly insidious. It’s hard to detect, it happens quickly and spreads even faster. We found Max’s cancer on a Tuesday. Max and I immediately started a “to-do list” together, including a final visit to our friends at Chestnut Hill this Thursday.

At 2:00 p.m. on Friday, Max was gone.

I could write an entire book about the lives Max touched, the days he lit up and the spirits he lifted. Maybe one day I will.

But in this space so graciously provided by The Laurel, I’ll just say this: Max has had a life well lived. And I was honored and blessed to be his father, his work partner and his best friend.

In addition to being a beloved member of my family, Max was the canine ambassador for our pet therapy program at the Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society.

If you would like to make a donation in memory of Max and his legacy of a life well lived, I would be eternally grateful. Please send your charitable donation to: CHHS, PO Box 638, Cashiers, NC 28717 or you can donate online on our website, chhumanesociety.org.

I imagine no one in Heaven is ever hurt or feels lonely, sad or depressed. But if anyone ever does, I know Max will be there to make their day brighter.

Founded in 1987, Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit animal welfare organization located at 200 Gable Drive in Sapphire, a mile and a half east of Cashiers Ingles between Cedar Creek Club and Lonesome Valley on Route 64 East.

Our no-kill shelter is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. by appointment. For more information, call (828) 743-5752.

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