A Win for Maxwell
Maxwell is a 7-year-old retriever/hound mix who was rescued from a hoarding situation with more than 100 dogs. Maxwell was the most fearful of them. We don’t know a lot about Maxwell’s day-to-day life while on the hoarder’s property, but volunteers reported that he was kept in a small shed without much social interaction.
Not surprisingly, he was fearful of people and of being touched or handled. The veterinary facility that provided Maxwell’s initial care was unable to examine him or perform any medical or handling procedures unless Maxwell was placed under anesthesia or heavy sedation. Maxwell would shake uncontrollably and withdraw if any person approached him. Unfortunately, during his initial care, some handling interactions were forced on Maxwell to which he responded by “gator-rolling,” snapping, and inflicting a severe bite to one of the vet techs.
After moving to a foster home, Maxwell was taken to see the wonderful Dr. Lynn Honeckman, owner of Veterinary Behavior Solutions and a Level 3 Fear-Free Certified Professional. She diagnosed Maxwell with severe global fear of people and new environments and started him on a course of daily behavior medication in an effort to reduce his anxiety.
Maxwell did not do well in his initial foster homes, so in December 2018 he moved into a new foster home, where he has remained and is doing very well. During his initial visit as well as his behavior rechecks, Dr. Honeckman recommended introducing Maxwell to cooperative care behaviors and made specific recommendations of pre-visit pharmaceuticals to help alleviate Maxwell’s fear during veterinary visits.
Since December 2018, Maxwell has been a client at Loch Haven Veterinary Hospital (one of the lead veterinarians, Dr. Jim Martin, is Fear Free certified and the entire hospital including all technicians follow the Fear Free approach). Since then, every veterinary visit has consecutively been more positive and more stress-free for Maxwell. Prior to his visits, Maxwell receives a combination of gapabentin and Sileo. His appointments are scheduled during times when the hospital is less busy, and the staff ensures we get put into a treatment room right away, where Maxwell is given ample time to acclimate before any staff enter the room. Physical handling is kept to a minimum and all procedures follow the Fear Free approach. One of Maxwell’s many cooperative care behaviors was to comfortably wear a basket muzzle. Although he has shown zero signs of aggression since switching to Loch Haven Veterinary Hospital, Maxwell now happily wears the muzzle for any physical handling in the exam room, which allows everyone to feel comfortable and at ease. Now – almost a year later – Maxwell no longer (or only rarely) shakes when entering the veterinary hospital. He willingly accepts treats while waiting in the exam room and is eager to perform his chin rest behavior while waiting to be seen. As his foster mom, I am overjoyed by Maxwell’s progress, none of which would have been possible without his dedicated veterinarians. Their care, patience, and understanding in using a Fear Free approach has made a world of difference for Maxwell and we could not be more grateful to them.
In his foster home, Maxwell has blossomed into a happy and playful dog who is particularly fond of his canine housemates. New environments will likely always pose challenges for Maxwell, but at home he has found his happy place.
Daniela Ackerman, Orlando, Florida