I noticed the change in Maximus several weeks ago.  Normally possessed of an appetite characteristic of most pugs, he would scoff down treats on sight, snapping up kibble, liver brownies, and fingertips with equal relish.  And then suddenly, three weeks ago, something changed.  While he didn’t exactly turn down the treats, he no longer attacked them with the same gusto.  Rather than wolf them down as fast as he could, he seemed deliberate, almost cautious in his approach – carefully sniffing and disposing of them with a slow, extended chew.  It was enough to tip me off that something was wrong.  Over the course of the next couple of days, I observed him more closely and noticed other changes in his behavior.  Always the first one to finish his meals, wolfing down his breakfasts and dinners as if they’d be the last ones he ever eat, Max suddenly seemed less enthusiastic about what was set down in front of him.  He always seemed considerably slower on his daily walks, lagging behind even Jelly with her hip dysplasia.  Max had always been the most laid-back of the foursome, preferring to spend the better part of the day in his doughnut bed or lying about in the sun, but even his typical laziness seemed fervent compared to the lethargy he was exhibiting.

I made an appointment and took him in last week.  During the check-up the vet appeared to discover the problem: a broken tooth that had led to an abscess.  No wonder he couldn’t eat and had been so unlike himself.  He was in, no doubt, a great deal of pain.  The vet sent us home with antibiotics, pain meds, and a scheduled dental surgery the following Monday.

I hate bringing my dogs in for surgery, particularly Jelly and Maximus who cower and tremble, gazing out at you longingly as if to say “Please, don’t leave me!” and “What’d I do?!”, but if dental surgery was going to get Maximus back to his old self then it had to be done.

 I dropped him off Monday morning, then headed off to set where I awaited word.  Finally, some time after lunch, the doctor called to inform me the surgery had been a success and that Maximus was doing fine.  They’d had to remove two teeth in addition to two masses inside his mouth.  The latter had been sent out for testing.  To be honest, I wasn’t that concerned.  Throughout his life, Maximus had been prone to these mystery masses that seemed to sprout out everywhere -on his belly, on his back, between the pads of his paws – but test after had shown every one of them to be benign.  So really, I thought, why should this time be any difference.

Maximus returned home and, in the hours after his surgery, almost seemed to be his old self.  His appetite seemed to pick up as did the pace of his walk.  I’d completely forgotten about the outstanding test results until I received a message from the animal clinic asking me to call them back.  I did.  The technician informed me the doctor wanted to go over Maximus’s test results with me.  I asked if everything was alright, a question that, curiously, seemed to catch her off guard.  She stumbled a little, then suggested the doctor would be able to answer my questions.  “Should I bring Maximus?”I asked her.  “No,”she informed me, “the doctor just wants to talk to you.”

And so, I went to the animal clinic where we discussed the test results.  Afterwards, I had the doctor forward me the histopathology report.  “You were hoping for something benign and I am going to give you some really bad news,”it read.  “This is malignant melanoma.”  Then, after a detailed explanation of the type of tumor we were dealing with: “These tumors are dangerous both because of locally invasive and recurrent growth, and because of a very high metastatic risk to lymph node and then lung.”

I’ve made an appointment to have Maximus seen by a specialist, a canine oncologist at Guelph University.  There, they’ll run a battery of tests to get a better sense of what we’re dealing with after which they’ll be able to suggest some treatment options.  Provided the cancer hasn’t already spread to his lungs in which case, the doctor informs me, the prognosis is not good.

Rather than wait around, I set aside less pressing concerns to surf the web in search of alternative/homeopathic treatments and came up with a list of safe, natural remedies that anecdotal evident suggests can help (and, at the very least, can’t hurt).  We’ll see how he responds.

I’m still a little stunned.  This same time last year, I thought Jelly was on her last legs.  Suffering from hip dysplasia, arthritic joints, and a spinal condition, she was barely able to walk, much less squat to pee.  I thought I was out of options – until I came across an article on the surprising results of stem cell treatments for dogs and horses.  I looked into it and, with the help of the fine folk at Vet-Stem, proceeded with the treatment given the understanding that results vary.  Well, one year later and not only is she squatting and walking, she’s actually charging down the corridor in albeit wobbly form.

Here’s hoping for a second miracle.

100 thoughts on “August 1, 2011: Maximus…

  1. Joe, so sorry to hear about Maximus.

    We have a Yorkie who’s 11. When he was 9 months old he had what appeared to be a seizure and we then found out he has microvascular hepatic dysplasia aka ACVS.

    One intense surgery and several thousand dollars later, we were told “Oh, sorry, we can’t fix it.”

    Since then he’s been on a diet of LD food, no treats, and still has had bouts of pancreatitis three or four times.

    Not to compare the two maladies, but it’s never fun seeing your little furry family members suffering, or knowing they are.

    I wish you the best 🙂

  2. Joe,
    Wow, I am so sorry to read your post. Hoping and praying with you for a miracle.

  3. Thinking good thoughts for Maximums and sending hugs and tummy rubs to you all.

  4. Oh no! Poor Maximus. Sending him virtual cuddles and best wishes for an excellent outcome. My daughter worked for a veterinary oncologist and it’s amazing what they can do in some cases. Keeping my fingers crossed that Maximus will respond.

    Nola S.

  5. I am so sorry to hear of Maximus’s medical condition. I will keep you and yours in my thoughts’ and prayers!

  6. Oh, Joe, my heart bleeds for you. My Boston mix is 14 & I’ve already decided any medical care had to meet some criteria. Is she in pain? Will the treatment solve the problem? What will be quality of life? And, most importantly, will I be torturing her for my sake or her’s? Max depends on you to make the hard choices. Best of luck to you both

  7. Very sad, best wishes and hope it’s not as bad as it sounds.

    My Nana’s dog (nasty thing) got cancer in the squishy bits. Had them chopped off and with treatment was still the same old nasty dog that lived another 5 years.

    I’m sure there’s better natural alternatives than homeopathy though, does the placebo effect work on dogs?

    Fingers crossed.

  8. Wow. Talk about a rollercoaster post… first I thought, lethargic? that sounds bad. Then, oh, it’s only a toothache. And then, Ooooh, it’s malignant.

    I’d be stunned as well. I feel for you. I had cancer once, but it wasn’t malignant. Hoping for the best…

    Curious… what kind of natural remedies did you find online?

    Maximus is lucky to have such a dedicated dad.

  9. Hugs and love to Ma and you, and Akemi and the other furry babies, because this is traumatic for the whole family. Here’s healing vibes and good wishes for the very best for you all.

  10. Oops, typo.. Love to Max.

    Although love to your Ma too, just because there isn’t enough in the world.

  11. My thoughts are with you and Maximus, Joe. Here’s hoping for that second miracle too.


  12. Hang in there Maximus, you can beat it! My dog BobCat and I send Maximus and you our best wishes.

  13. Ouch. Sorry to hear the news about Maximus. I think it’s even worse because, as you said, there’d been a trend of benign results for so long, you assumed there was no problem. Sometimes, at least preparing for bad news somehow lessens the actual hit, but this one blind sided you. I’m going to join the others in hoping for the best and that there’s treatment.

  14. I have read your blog and the comments section for several years – but haven’t ever replied myself. I know it seems silly, but I look forward to hearing about the gang and how they are doing. I am so sorry to hear about Maximus. As a dog lover whose beloved lab also had cancer I can definitely relate. Will keep my fingers crossed that you get good news that it has not spread and that the natural alternatives help.

  15. *Hugs to Joe and Maximus*

    Doesn’t the University of Guelph have a renowned veterinary department? If so, Maximus will be in good hands. Best wishes and good luck.

  16. Awww no, Joe, so sorry to hear about Maximus. He’s such a cool cat…ya know, for a dog…I can’t fathom him being sick. Like everyone else, I am hoping for the best. Hugs to both of you!

    Ya know, I’m starting to hate Toronto, too. 🙁


  17. Awwww, poor doggie – and you. You must be worried sick. I know how devestating it is to have to decide between surgery, other treatments and euthanizing. It’s hell to have to ask yourself the question (later down the line), “Am I forcing my baby to suffer because I’m not ready to let him go?” Prayers for you all. Tummy rubs where applicable. {HUGS} I’m so sorry that you all have to go through this.

  18. :'( So sorry to hear about Maximus, Joe. Give him an extra hug from all of us (and take one for yourself, too). Sending positive vibes for his quick recovery.

  19. It really is horrible when our little furry friends are sick. During their short time on this planet they makes such an impact to all who love them. We always know that one day they will leave us – but we hope that it is always going to be tomorrow – or maybe the day after.


  20. I’m so sorry to hear about Maximus. Fingers crossed that the test results are good, with no spread, and a treatment is found.

  21. *hugs* Joe, I’m so sorry about Maximus. 🙁 I literally have tears in my eyes from reading your blog. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Maximus. I pray to God for a miracle. May God’s work be through the hands of the vets who will be working on him.

  22. Sorry to hear Joe. Poor Max. Hope the pain you’ve been experiencing in other areas of your life is so you can have a good outcome for Maximus. Balance and all. Seems only fair.

  23. Dogs and I are keeping sweet little Maximus in our thoughts. He is very lucky to have a good pooch-parent who is willing to go to the wall for him…

  24. The continued hot weather has got me pretty depressed lately. Just reading your blog title and I burst into tears. Still crying… This is the hardest part of having a pet. I know Maximus will get the greatest care and has the best possible dad a dog could ask for. I’ll be keeping you all in my prayers.

  25. I’m really sorry to hear about Maximus….he is the one I always look forward to seeing and hearing about….my thoughts are with you and Maximus..

  26. Omg joe my heart goes out to you as a fellow dog lover a jack russell terrier I hope maximus has a positive outcome and pulls through this

  27. Oh, Joe… Praying hard here for Maximus, you and Akemi, and the fur babies.

    Just sent you a link to the Purdue Veterinary School study on using Piroxicam in treating canine melanomas & other cancers.



  28. As I read your post I guessed it wouldn’t end well. I’m so sorry to hear about poor Max but if any owner will pull out all the stops for a pet it’s you. Best of luck to you all!

  29. I’m hoping for a good outcome for Maximus (and you). Give the little dude a pat on the head for me. I think about you and your pups often. Your blog entry in response to my question about getting a new pup inspired me to adopt a little female from the humane society. I’m rooting for you guys.

  30. Your blog has never made me cry before. Seriously – not even cancellations could do this to me. As a fellow dog owner, I know what I would be like if I heard this news. Here’s hoping for that second miracle. Let’s beat this, Maximus!

    Snoopy and Buster, my 12 year old beagles, send best wishes too!

  31. I’m so sorry about the news, Joe. He’s such a cutie pie and I know you adore him muchly… this wasn’t the news I was expecting upon coming back to your blog. I’ll be praying for you and Maximus.

  32. so sorry to hear of this news. Here’s praying for good times ahead for both you and Maximus.

  33. Listen.. It’s long shot, BUT… Check out http://oncolyticsbiotech.com

    ONCOLYTICS specialises in TUMOUR research, some of their first patents dealt quite successfully with Canine Oncology – from the results of Their earlier Human Trials!… I believe They’re out of Calgary. The stuff is probably still “clinical”, but you never know…

    I used to work with a Microbiologist [who’s own Company is doing quite well] who knows the Founding Researchers at Oncolytics – he mentioned that They were well respected Scientists. And I’ve owned Their “Stock” since Day2…

    Whatever… They’ve got tons of Patents, etc on this sort of thing… Couldn’t hurt to see if Their Stuff would work…

  34. Hi Joe,

    Best wishes to you and max!
    i hope you will get your second miracle!

    With kind regards,


  35. Sorry to hear about Maximus. His laid-back demeanor meant he was always my favorite. I’ve never seen such an adorable dog. I pray he gets better.

  36. I am so sorry to hear about Maximus, Joe. Whenever I see that last photograph of him it just breaks my heart.

    I know exactly how you feel. We used to have two Irish setters, but one of them needed to be put down last year. He had terrible arthritis in his back legs and some kind of brain tumor that affected his appetite. The day he was put down, he was having immense trouble breathing, and it turned out something had happened to his lungs. I can’t remember exactly what happened, but it was so bad we had to put him down. He was fifteen years old, and it broke all of our hearts, especially our other dog, his brother.

    I know how you feel, man. Good luck with finding a miracle with Maximus!

  37. Oh no…Joe, so sorry to hear about this. I’m going through a bit of the same, Summer (the black Cocker, 14 yrs old) is starting to show the same signs and symptoms as Flannery did last year, and I’m getting the same sickening feeling in my gut. I’m just glad Max has you, and I know you’ll do everything humanly possible for him. When all is said and done, all we have is the love we share, and I know that Max has a ton of that. Keeping you guys in my prayers and sending Max many squishes and kisses from all of us. Hang in there, Joe.

  38. I’m so sorry to hear about Max. The pictures you posted of him are very dear. I thought a prayer for him. And I hope you get good news about his prognosis.

  39. When I saw the title of the post, my heart sank. Sure enough, the news was bad. But not quite as bad as I’d feared. Maxiumus is still feeling good. And if he’s had these growths throughout his life, that does suggest an immune system that is able to fight back to some degree. As Tarzan has said on more thn one occasion “where there is life there is hope”.
    Just know lots of good wishes going Maxiumus’ way, and lots of sympathy and support to yourself. Just let us know if there is anything we can do to ease the stress for you.

  40. Hugs to Maximus and all the doggies. I’ve been a lurker and great pug fan for the longest time. I have a pain in my heart just reading today’s posting and I hope that all the prayers that we are lifting for Maximus will be heard. Poor baby, I hope he knows that we are all rooting for him! And for you too Joe!

  41. G’day Joe

    Love and hugs to you Joe and special tummy rubs to Max. I am crying my eyes out. Hope darling little Max is going to be fine.

  42. I’m sorry to hear about the test results. I was hoping it would come back ok also. My cat had something similar. It was a squamous cell carcinoma and they only way to get it out was to take off part of her jaw. I couldn’t do that to her. Is the tumor still in the soft tissue? That would be good because they could possibly remove the whole tumor. Don’t give up hope. They are doing wonderful things with chemo in animals.

  43. Hi Joe,

    I’m so sorry to read about Max. I’m wishing for a miracle that he will be okay. Although I’m very happy to hear that he is feeling better after his surgery…atleast that can be a comfort for you at this stage. What an adorable lil face he has! It’s a sad fact that most small dogs suffer from numerous conditions due to their size and abnormalities being passed from generation to generation…it’s very unfair! I wish you both all the best and my thoughts are with you. x

  44. Praying that Maximus can be successfully treated — and for peace of mind for you throughout.

  45. So sorry to hear about sweet Maximus. Hope you get some great treatment news soon. Give him a good belly rub from me.

  46. Sorry to hear about Maximus. ((((( JOE & MAX)))))) My thoughts are with you.

  47. Oh Joe, this is sad news. You, Akemi and Max will be in my prayers, asking for comfort and, ye,s another miracle. I believe there aren’t any quotas on miracles, so why not ask for another?

    All my best wishes, hopes and prayers for a successful and happier outcome.
    I’m sure all here support you and sweet Maximus.


  48. A-a-w…. I am so sorry to hear about Maximus. Hopefully, Guelph might have come up with a little miracle – “they” do so much these days, with humans as well as our furry friends. I hope he’s able to enjoy some special treats.

  49. So sorry to hear about Maximus; both of you are in my thoughts and prayers. Had a pug for many years and he was diagnosed with an enlarged heart at the age of 9, so I know how you must feel. He lived on for another 7 happy years, so hoping for that 2nd miracle.

  50. I hope that Maximus is feeling better very soon. I have been reading your blogs daily, but just haven’t had time to respond as I’ve been working on my own independent film project, “The Epic Adventures of Lakegirl”, on a less-than-shoestring budget (I’ve been trying madly to fundraise on the website indiegogo and so far have raised a whole $20…).

    Reading your blogs has been helping me with realizing a lot of the writing/production frustrations and challenges I’ve been going through are present no matter how high on the ladder one gets, and also, never forgetting the family probems that arise when this is happening. I have a cat that hasn’t been feeling well (I’m normally a dog person but Shanghai kinda stole my heart) and with her living with my mother currently, I’ve been wishing deperately to find a place where I am allowed to have pets.

    All the best to you and Maximus and the rest of the family,
    Marjorie Roden

  51. crossing my fingers, hoping for the best. theres no greater sorrow than loosing a pet

  52. Curse me for reading this at work… I now have tears in my eyes and people are asking if I’m ok… I’m not because I have 3 dogs myself and my heart breaks to read this about Max. I really hope everything turns out ok.

    There is no words that I can write that will make it any easier know that everyone here is sending you their support and thanks to you we feel like your dogs are a part of our lives. 🙂

    Sending you HUGS and positive energy and thoughts!!

  53. So sorry for Maximus and you and Akemi as well. He couldn’t ask for more devoted humans to look after him. No matter what happens, he’ll know you did everything possible for him.

  54. Such sad news. I hope and pray that they can find a treatment for Max. Keep positive and know that there are lots of people out here is cyberworld thinking and praying for you and Max.

  55. Joe, I am so sorry to hear about Maximus, your dogs are incredibly lucky to have such a loving owner who will go to such great effort to keep them healthy. I know not every pet owner has the financial means to do what you can do, but you are an inspiration to all of us who love our pets. I’ll keep Maximus in my thoughts and prayers.

  56. When you posted about tumors in his mouth, I kept quiet because sadly in all my experiences with dog (and it really is a lot as both a breeder/rescue/trainer)–mouth tumors are so often bad news. I hoped his would be an exception. All I can do is feel sad and send sympathy and hope.

    In searches I recommend you use
    to get educational and research sites for the best possible info.
    If I can help in any way, you have a drug or procedure you’d like me to do the search work on, don’t hesitate. When my own dog had lymphoma, sometimes I was too overwhelmed to search and called on my vet tech friend constantly.

    I am just so sorry. You’ve certainly had some tough times with the dogs. I know you love them and feel lucky to have them, but they are truly blessed to have you.

  57. Joe,

    My best wishes for Maximus for a miracle like Jelly had.

    Regarding Transporter, in case you didn’t catch the August 1 post over at my blog, here’s a copy/paste. 😉

    “Transporter: The Series” will not be “Transporter: The Series” without these critical components that were present in the original movies:

    * Opening an episode (or the pilot) with Frank Martin sitting in his car, his watch beeping, starting the car, classical music starts, and he sets out to transport.
    * Good and bad guys both going after Frank.
    * Frank going pseudo-Jackie Chan with found objects (oil fights, bicycle pedals, etc.) and at creative locations (i.e., in a bus).
    * 3-stage fights: 1. Frank vs a group; 2. Frank vs the big guy (or another group); and finally, 3. Frank vs the boss.
    * Frank getting all parkour, or perhaps l’Art du Déplacement, on the baddies.
    * A BMW car cameo.
    * Totally cliché, yet still completely cool, one-liners and poses.
    * The occasional jumping the shark for pure entertainment purposes.
    * Flying cars.
    * Action sequences involving cars, trucks, trains, boats, and planes.
    * Body-blowback concussion-inducing explosions.
    * Evil trigger-happy women from Europe.
    * International damsels in distress.
    * A girl for Frank that would be a perfect match if not for some inevitable conflict keeping the two apart.
    * Good food and drink.
    * Inspector Tarconi.
    * Fishing.
    * Other transporters never being quite as good as Frank or, worse, getting killed off from jobs he handed off to them.
    * Each new job becomes deadlier than the last.
    * Frank’s 3 rules: 1. The deal is the deal; 2. No names; 3. Never open the package.
    * Frank having to break his rules.
    * Ending an episode (or the pilot) with Frank getting into his car, getting a phone call. Person on the phone, “I’m looking for a transporter.” Frank’s response, “I’m listening.”


    Dr. D.

  58. What a shock, poor Maximus. My sis went through two surgeries, radiation, and physical therapy for a brain tumor; we learned the hard way that it’s worth it to travel to get the best treatment. I don’t know how we coordinated everything; we just did it. We still speak fondly of the flea bag hotel we all put up in while she had surgery in Washington.

    I highly recommend checking out the amazing canine cancer vaccines. Sloan Kettering and the Animal Medical Center of New York developed a vaccine therapy, here’s the info, and please give Maximus a hug from me.



  59. Oh Joe, I’m so sorry to hear about Max.

    But he’s a lucky animal to have an owner like you who will pull out all the stops to get him well.

    My prayers are with you.

  60. If anyone can find a miracle for him, Joe, it would be you. I have never seen a more devoted doggy dad in my entire life. I cried when I read this. I hope while you are searching for possible treatment options for him, that Maximus is not in pain. My hopes and prayers are with you. I know you are stressed out to the “max” (no pun intended) with all the work stuff. This was not something that needed to be added to your plate of worries. Sending much love your way.

  61. I am very sorry to hear about Maximus condition. I have lost 2 pets to cancer and stood by my mother as she fought (and won) Breast Cancer 7 years agos, and my father as he currently battles Kindey Cancer. I truely hope it has not spread and that you will be able to find something to help both in and out of the medical field. Maximus is truely blessed to have such a caring owner.

  62. So sorry to hear about Maximus. I really hope they’re able to help him at Guelph.
    I’m glad at least that he’s feeling a bit better and that he has an owner who cares so much for him. All the best to you and to him.
    – KB

  63. So sorry to hear about Maximus. 🙁

    The first thing I loved about your blog was the cute little dog at the top. It is so sad to hear that he is suffering. My thoughts and prayers are with him.


  64. Just wanted to share that I put in a prayer request for Max (and you) on my Facebook page Joe. I’ve got some hard-pray’in friends and we’ll get the word out.

    Max, Jelly, Lulu and Bubba are so blessed to have you as their caregiver. Stay strong and know we are all here to help you however we can.

    {{{{{{hugs Max}}}}}}}


  65. A prayer and loving, gentle hug for your long time friend, along with best wishes for all. I may be a lurker here but know I’ll be following developments faithfully and hoping only for the very best.

  66. I was saddened to read about the results of Max’s tests. I hope that he’s feeling better for having his dental surgery and that he’s comfortable and enjoying his chow. I’m thinking positive thoughts for the little guy. Your whole pack is awesome.

  67. Best wishes for Maximus & a second miracle.

    Wish me luck folks, driving to Tulsa Wednesday(850m) My son isn’t getting much relief with a long occurring yet still unknown chronic stomach pain condition & needs his Dad a bit. All suggestions welcomed on medical plan of attack.


  68. So sorry for Maximus………..Stay strong both of you! …………….Is this a bad time to ask for SGU season 3? Ok I will go now……………..Can we put maximus in a stasis pod?………..to much……………..sorry…………….

  69. Regardless of whether we agree on tv plots, Max–and your whole clan–has my best wishes for a recovery and return to Status: Maximus!

  70. Geez Joe I’m sorry.

    I really hope it’s been caught early and you guys can deal with it.

    Max the Pug will be in my prayers.

  71. Hugs and cuddles to you all Joe.

    Fingers crossed for a little miracle for Maximus xx

    My Spaniel is now 12 and I know the worry and joy that comes with our babies. Hope to hear good news soon. x

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