Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tribute to Max

In the normal bustle of the holiday season, PAW Team would like to stop for a moment and honor the life of Max, the little Shitzu mix who crossed the Rainbow Bridge a week ago, after 14 wonderful years with his person, Vicki Sittinghawk.

Vicki and Max were a well-known sight on the streets of Portland, often on the corner of Powell's selling Street Roots papers. Vicki got Max in 2004 from a friend who had cancer and couldn't keep Max anymore. Vicki was homeless for a decade before that, alcoholic and depressed. When she got Max, she had just gotten into Section 8 housing, and she and Max became instant friends and best buddies.

Vicki says that "Max keeps me from wanting to drink. He's always in good spirits, he's just happy and brightens my day. When he's with me, I feel better."

Vicki and Max came to PAW Team very soon after we started. Vicki brought Max to one of our clinics in the basement of the Outside In Arts building, in 2004, and I happened to be the vet who first treated this happy little guy. He needed his shots and a pet license so Vicki could keep her housing, and also some treatment for eye and ear infections. Vicki was also very worried about his feet. "He gets little rocks in his paws, caught in the hair in his feet, when he walks with me on the streets selling papers." So in addition to medications for his eyes and ears (typical problems in this breed), we also gave Max a full-body haircut because his fur was so matted. We didn't have volunteer groomers that day, and it was near the end of the clinic, so Barbara and I stayed a little later and got Max's fur all cleaned up. He was such a patient little guy, submitting to everything with his usual aplomb, and relaxing with magisterial dignity on the table as we turned him all around, the clippers humming and fur flying everywhere. He looked so happy and clean afterwards, and Vicki was thrilled! She gave us many, many of her trademark "double blessings" and her beautiful wide smile.

That was the start of many encounters with Vicki and Max at PAW Team. Vicki would bring Max for an annual haircut in the spring, and would stay to sweep the floors for us at the end of the clinic. As Max got older and had a little more trouble walking for the long distances that Vicki traveled in selling the paper, Max would spend more time in the baby stroller that Vicki pushed him around in, and she would let him out for romps in the Park Blocks. He was King of the Pearl, riding along in his buggy throne, watching the antics of lesser dogs and people with a kingly grace.

Max was a feisty little guy when he wanted to be, but he knew he was special, and he was so patient and calm while we were treating him and cleaning up his fur. He didn't like his face touched, though, which is understandable for a dignified guy like Max, but it definitely made it a little more challenging to put drops in his eyes and ears! But Vicki was loving and patient with Max always, and you could see the powerful bond between the two of them.

In the past couple years, Max began to have seizures, and PAW Team was able to use our emergency funds to send him to Rose City Vet Hospital for some tests and treatment in between our regular clinics. Max stabilized on medication, and we treated him for the pain from his growing arthritis in his neck and back. Although he was pretty much blind and nearly deaf, and could only wobble around a bit when he walked, he was still King of the Pearl, perched royally on a stack of blankets in his stroller, and dressed warmly against the winter chill in sweaters and coats from PAW Team's supply of dog winter gear.

 One day Vicki came in pushing Max's stroller which had lost one of its wheels. Amazingly, someone had just donated a stroller to us, and so we were able to get Max ensconced in a new, fully-wheeled buggy so Vicki didn't have to half-carry, half-push the broken one. We all received many double blessings that day.

Over the past few months, Max was on increasing doses of pain medications to keep him comfortable, as his health declined and his life-spark waned. Max passed away peacefully in his sleep, crossing over the Rainbow Bridge to wait for Vicki and his many admirers on the other side... he will be missed until we see him again.

We wish Vicki and everyone a peaceful and safe holiday season, with double blessings, as we remember the love that we share with our four-legged family members. They leave us too soon, but they keep us alive and fill our hearts with joy while they are here with us...


(top photo by Lynn Lippert, 2004; other photos by Karylee Harrison, 2011)


  1. That was a lovely tribute to Max. I met the special guy several times and it was clear how beautiful the bond was that he and Vicki shared. Thanks to all who were able to give Max the quality of life he deserved. My heart goes out to Vicki. Her love for him was radiating.

  2. I had many lovely interactions with Vicki and Max. In every one, it was clear how very loved he was and how well they took care of each other. Peace to sweet Max, gratitude to the generous folks at PAW Team, and thinking of Vicki in this difficult time...

  3. What a dear! I am so sorry for Vicki's loss. I hope she was able to find some joy and peace over the holidays.

    Thank you for blogging, and thank you PAWS for supporting Max so he and Vicki could share a happy life.

  4. What a beautiful article and tribute, both to Max and Vicki. The love of an animal is amazing and always life changing; thank you for the work you do!