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Therapy dog Max helps people find the spring in their step

Our pets are not only family members, they've been a constant for so many of us throughout the last year. And one dog in particular, a Springer Spaniel named Max, not only saved his human from despair, but has been a joy online for tens of thousands of others during the pandemic. Malcolm Brabant reports on the special pooch this National Puppy Day.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now, if you have not already been told by your best friend, today is indeed National Puppy Day.

    This is Shiloh (ph), my six-and-a-half-month-old grand-puppy. And this is executive producer Sara Just's new puppy, Archie.

    We caught them at one of the very few quiet moments during their days.

    Our pets are not only family members. They have been a constant for so many of us throughout the last year. And one English dog in particular named Max not only saved his human from despair, but has been a joy online for tens of thousands of others during the pandemic.

    Here's Malcolm Brabant.

  • Kerry Irving:

    We are live.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    Max's live streamed walks in the Lake District are compelling viewing for his 200,000 followers online.

  • Man:

    Max is frantically looking for a stick.

  • Woman:

    Max, a springer spaniel, uses his talent to offer therapy online. He's helped thousands of people improve their mental health.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    After being rear-ended by a truck 15 years ago, locksmith Kerry Irving endured excruciating back pain that left him depressed, too anxious to leave home, and even suicidal.

    Then he encountered a certain springer spaniel, who provided the key to happiness.

  • Kerry Irving:

    Six years of pain, six years of frustration, six years of being passed from hospital to specialist to physiotherapist to a different kind of drug, and really the best kind of drug I had was sat beside me, and his name was Max.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    We were going to head up north to go and see Max and Kerry, but our dog picked up a very contagious bacteria. So, we decided it was safer to stay away.

    That's why we're using the publicity video. The unconditional love that helped restore Irving's mental equilibrium began to spread far and wide when COVID struck. Max's daily walks in one of England's finest national parks brought joy and more to his many followers.

  • Evelyn Webb:

    He helps make people better.

  • Kerry Irving:

    What do you want? I know — they know you have got a sore paw, and you're going to the vet's tomorrow, aren't you?

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    For Evelyn Webb, Max has been a healer and stress reliever. She can suffer seizures when she gets a cough or cold. Her mother Hannah (ph) lives in constant fear that any temperature change could trigger another seizure.

  • Evelyn Webb:

    He says he's allowed. He's allowed breakfast.

  • Hannah Webb:

    It's incredibly important to have a distraction. And it really helps her to, in a way, make her feel better. For her, Max is an extension of her life, really

  • Evelyn Webb:

    How can Max say?

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    Evelyn will eventually grow out of the condition. In the meantime, her parents are grateful for Max's calming online presence.

  • Hannah Webb:

    It's not similar to epilepsy, where they are constant. So, for her, if she feels upset or she's not feeling very well, then, for her — a focus for her and a focus for her mind is to watch the videos of Max and just see him trundling along. And that makes her really, really happy.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Kerry Irving:

    I think lockdown was hard for all of us, and we were all worried, all concerned about our jobs, our future.

    We started doing live feeds on our daily walks, because we have got the Lake District here.

    Canada geese.

    Some people are trapped in cities, tower blocks. Some people are trapped where they shouldn't be trapped. And I think we gave that release to people that there was a sense of normality still out there.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    Kerry and Max have raised more than $350,000 for Britain's biggest veterinary non profit, the PDSA. This and Max's qualities as a therapy dog have earned him the PDSA's Order of Merit.

  • Kerry Irving:

    There are no words. Proudness does not come close to what we feel about how our little dog, with the biggest heart, has helped so many.

    Come on. There you go.

    If Somebody has left sticks on this bench for Max, thank you very much. He now has them and his tail's wagging.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    Have you ever met him? What was he like?

  • Evelyn Webb:

    Furry and soft.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    By way of thanks, Evelyn has helped raise money for a statue of Max to be erected in the Lake District.

  • Kerry Irving:

    If I could have 12 more years with him, I would willingly do it again.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    In his golden years, one man and his dog can bask in the knowledge that Max has an outstanding legacy.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Malcolm Brabant.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Such a beautiful story. We're so glad to hear that.

    And a quick postscript: The Brabant family dog, Loki, you saw in the piece has recovered now from that infection.

    And for the many of you who asked about Malcolm's wife and son, who contracted COVID-19 late last year, they are now healthy and well, we're happy to report.

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