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Maxxi On The MoveBy Regan Michelle White

On June 2, black Lab/Golden Retriever mix, Maxxi Lee Page will celebrate her 15th birthday. With parents Lisa and Jim and black cats Phantom and Jackson surrounding her, she plans to celebrate in a small, festive way at home in Salem, Massachusetts. “We’ll cook her a boneless chicken breast on the grill,” Lisa said. “She’ll have a little bit of dessert, too. I figure at age 15, she deserves it!”

Maxxi’s spirited bark in the background of our phone conversation belies the physical problems old age has brought upon her. Eight years ago, Maxxi was diagnosed with degenerative bone disease. The first signs began when Lisa and Jim noticed that her hind legs were going lame. “We’ve seen a lot of vets since then,” Lisa said. “Some thought that she may have injured herself really early in life, others say it’s just something you can’t do anything about it just happens.” Regardless of the cause, it has been clear that since her diagnosis eight years ago, Maxxi’s condition has progressively deteriorated.

“Early on we thought it was just her weight. She’s always been a heavy girl a very big dog,” Lisa said. “By the time she was older we couldn’t do a whole lot about it except take care of her.” Eventually, the Pages had to carry Maxxi outside to go the bathroom and lift her up. Knowing that Maxxi’s quality of life was being compromised, Lisa and a friend researched dog wheelchairs on the internet. Their searches of the worldwide web uncovered Doggon’ Wheels, an internet based dog wheelchair company that seemed to fit Maxxi’s needs perfectly. “I always thought that I would never put my dog in a wheelchair,” Lisa said. “Then I found Doggon’ Wheels and they are the nicest group of people. I had to measure Maxxi all over because every wheel chair is fitted to each dog. To this day I know I could call them on a whim and they’d help me with whatever I needed.”

When they received the wheelchair, the Pages didn’t expect Maxxi to take to it right away. The wheels strap on with both a front and back harness, necessitating that Maxxi be walked into it. “That first time we put her in it, we kind of dragged her along at first. Jim had some biscuits and of course, she’ll eat anything. Following those biscuits she got the hang of it in a matter of minutes,” Lisa said. She added, “We were extremely, extremely lucky. And thank God for the food!”

This April marked the anniversary of Maxxi getting her wheels, and a bit of her freedom back. She can’t zip and run around in her wheelchair because at her age it takes her a long time to walk regardless. However, her wheels have definitely made a difference. “We’ll walk around the block. We live between a park and water and sometimes we’ll walk to the park and she’ll lay down in the grass. It still takes her a long time, but it seems that once she stretches her legs she does a lot better,” Lisa said.

Maxxi’s mode of transportation definitely gets mixed reviews. “Some people will come up and say ‘Bless you, for doing that!’ and other people are just appalled that I would do this for my dog, but they don’t see how she is at home – how exuberant and full of life and how heartily she eats. All they see is a big dog in a wheelchair,” Lisa said. However, her close knit neighbors are all big fans. “She’s like the icon on the street,” Lisa said with a laugh.

Maxxi is Lisa’s first dog, purchased at six weeks old through the friend of a friend 15 years ago. “Getting a dog is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Lisa gushed. “I’ve never had any other kind of dog, but I know from Maxxi that Labs are just so good with people and so good with kids. If anything happened to her I would definitely get another one like, the next day. My husband feels the same way.” Over the years, Lisa has found that Maxxi has taught her patience. Due to Maxxi’s wheels, she also has a greater understanding for people with disabilities. “The sidewalks are really so narrow,” Lisa said. “I feel so bad for people in wheelchairs.” Maxxi has also taught her how to take life one day at a time and not to worry what tomorrow will bring. “We just deal with whatever life brings us,” she said. And Maxxi keeps rolling with the punches, thanks to her new set of wheels.

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