Written my Mark Stover
South Portland, ME - June 2012 

When I first moved into my current apartment and realized that dogs would be allowed, I quickly went to the local shelter and looked into adopting a dog. Not having many to begin with and seeing as how I lived in an apartment on a busy street, I realized I would need to look elsewhere.  A friend led me to an organization called Labs4Rescue online and I began to search for a lab. After not having much luck with the ones that looked good to me, my adoption coordinator Ann asked if I would take at look at “Maxx”. She thought he would be a great fit for me if I was willing to work with him some and give it time. She suggested I foster him first before deciding whether or not to adopt and I quickly agreed.  

It was a frigid January day when I picked him up in New Hampshire and all the way home I wondered if I had picked up a dog or not. He was quiet and still and blacker than the night. When we got home to Maine some of my family was there to meet him and he seemed to know right off that I was going to be his daddy now and he sat with me the whole night, attached like Velcro, just like Ann had said he would. We had a quiet first night until he saw Taz the cat. It was instant chaos! For the first couple of weeks, it was much of the same, Maxx wanting to eat Taz, Taz wanting to scratch Maxx’s eyes out and I wondered if it would ever improve. It was almost a deal breaker for me. Ann and everyone else said to give it time, things would work out, so I decided to adopt Maxx permanently and hoped everyone was right. Fast forward over 2 years now and I am happy to say they all were. Through patience and perseverance the three of us have weathered the storm and Maxx and Taz are what you might call “buddies” now; I have even caught them on the same chair together at times! Maxx still gets excited and over zealous with Taz sometimes, but no harm is meant and Taz tolerates him to an extent, although a few well placed paw strikes to the nose get Maxx back in line rather quickly if he gets too rough.

Living on the busy city street that I do, it was always a challenge to find Maxx areas to run around in and play with other dogs. The local parks and beach became our hangouts during the times dogs are permitted, but we quickly grew tired of the monotony of the same place day after day. I needed someplace else to take him from time to time to get away from the same old.

One summer weekend I had planned a backcountry camping trip into the White Mountains of New Hampshire and decided to take Maxx with me to see if he would enjoy it. On that summer day, we found his true calling - my hiking partner. He seemed truly happy in the forest and explored everything he came across. We finally reached the summit of Mt. Moriah around noon time and we enjoyed a lunch break of Peanut Butter and Jelly (his favorite trail food!) and the views for a bit before heading off to find a good spot to set up camp. I wasn’t sure how Maxx would handle hanging around the camp and fire at night, but he loved every minute of it. He never wandered far and when it was time for bed, he knew the tent was where we slept and he never stirred the entire night. He even snuggled on top of my sleeping bag before I could get in, leading me to a very chilly night!   We hiked out the next day and Maxx was physically drained from the 2 days of hiking. He must have walked and ran 20 miles to our 10 with all his exploring. I knew then that this was a way to really get Maxx some good exercise and we would have to do it again soon. Life got in the way however and about a month went by before we ventured out on another hike.

During that month off I learned that the Appalachian Mountain Club has a list of 48 peaks in New Hampshire that are over 4000 feet high. A lot of people have done them all and many more are working towards that goal. I also found out that dogs can join the club too.  I decided Maxx and I would try and join that club. We started to get out on weekends more and more and each time we set off to summit a new peak. Each new mountain brought new scenery and challenges and Maxx has met them all with relative ease. As winter approached, I began to wonder if he could handle the conditions we might encounter. The White Mountains are famous for their notoriously bad weather, but to my surprise we didn’t slow down a bit. He handled winter with just as much ease as summer, and even seemed to enjoy it more so long a the winds were light and not blowing too hard.

It’s been just about a year since our first trip to Mt. Moriah and Maxx has 39 of the 48 peaks done. He has even stood on top of Mt. Washington – the highest point in New England at 6,288 feet.  Recently he completed his longest single day hike of 16 miles on a mountain called Owls Head. Maxx has 9 peaks left to summit before we can send in his application and he receives his patch and certificate, but I know he will finish because I truly feel that this is what he was meant to do. Something tells me that Maxx knew it too.



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