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Facebook star Max earns animal charity award PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Walsh   
Saturday, 20 February 2021

max spaniel.pngA 13-year-old English springer spaniel Max has been awarded the animal equivalent of the OBE.

The PDSA’s Order of Merit is the first to be made to a pet rather than a trained rescue or working animal.

Max is a virtual therapy dog and he and his owner Kerry Irving of Keswick feature regularly on a Facebook page, Max Out in the Lake District.

Almost 200,000 regular followers watch the pair’s escapades on the fells, along with those of fellow spaniels Paddy and Harry.

The online presentation to Max for his contribution to society was made by Jan McLoughlin, director general of the animal charity PDSA.

Explaining the award the PDSA said: “The positive and life-altering impact Max has on the wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide is unprecedented.

“His popularity as a social media figure not only provides a feel-good factor, but has also supported many people through dark and difficult times, even more so through the pandemic.

“Since 2017, Max has met over 10,000 people through personal meet-and-greets, charity walks, public appearances, school visits and book signings and helped to raise nearly £300,000 for a number of charities, including PDSA.”

A road traffic accident in 2006 had left his fit, outdoor-loving 46-year-old owner, with chronic neck and back pain which made him unable to walk.

His mental health deteriorated as a result and he was diagnosed with severe depression. Two years after the accident, Mr Irving met Max and the close bond they developed turned his life around and gave him a reason to walk again.

Twelve months after the pair met and began their friendship, they ascended Ben Nevis – a challenge that proved how far they had come together.

Mr Irving, a keen amateur photographer, began charting the exploits of Max enjoying his walks in the Lake District on his Facebook page. Followers grew as more people visited the page to enjoy Max’s adventures, prompting Kerry to dedicate the entire page to him, renaming it Max Out in the Lakes.

Max trained as a therapy dog with Therapy Dogs Nationwide in 2016, so he was also able to make special visits to schools, hospitals and hospices. Max’s popularity was so great that Mr Irving began organising walks for charity, enabling large groups of people to come together and meet him, while also building a support network of ‘Max fans’.

In 2018, alongside his ‘brother’, springer spaniel Paddy, whom Kerry added to his family in 2017, Max received the PDSA Commendation. The citation read: ‘For providing support in recovery and enriching the lives of many others’, which recognised how the dogs had helped their owner and this valuable community outreach activity.

Max is also the first animal to receive a PDSA Commendation and a PDSA Order of Merit due to his role in promoting the positive contribution animals make to human lives.

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