Therapy Dog Max is the First Recipient of the PDSA Order of Merit

The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals is a UK veterinary charity that has been around for over a century, but this type of award is a recent special distinction. The PDSA Order of Merit, “…recognizes animals that display outstanding devotion to their owner or wider society, above and beyond normal companionship.” It’s considered comparable to the OBE, but for animals, and has only been granted to those in military and police service…until now, with springer spaniel therapy dog Max its newest proud recipient.

Max’s story of devotion begins with his owner, Kerry Irving, who was badly injured in a car accident at 46 years old. Kerry was in good health at the time and loved the outdoors, but his injuries prevented him from taking part in physical activities or even walking, a situation that drove him into a spiral of apathy, painkiller addiction, and diagnosed depression. 

Then, two years later, Kerry met Max near his home. Their bond would grow with daily walks (with the permission of Max’s owner at the time), beginning as short sojourns in their surrounding Lake District and eventually led to the two climbing Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, something Kerry described as “the most emotional day of my life.”

By this point, Max’s original owner had moved, and he had his new forever home with Kerry. The depression symptoms eased and his physical abilities gradually returned with daily walks with his dog. Eventually, Kerry began sharing Max’s humble daily life on social media to a delighted growing audience, eventually training him as a therapy dog in 2016.

Now, Max was able to visit schools and hospitals, meeting over 10,000 people as of 2017 and taking part in a plethora of activities. The dog has helped raised over £300,000 for charity through organized walks and donations, and was even invited on a special trip to Buckingham Palace. 

Aside from Max bringing love all and distraction to all through social media, his story and this award help highlight the significant, life-changing healing which a dog companion can bring to their owner, and beyond. 

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