LINCOLN — As Max, an orphaned pit bull, used his teeth to rip bark from a tree just outside the Wellington Road shelter, Animal Control Officer Louann Noreau laughed, then uttered, “I think he was a logger in his past life.
“You know, he just loves anything to do with trees,” she stated early Tuesday afternoon. “He'll climb them, swing from tree branches. If there's a tire swing around, he'll jump through the tire and swing his legs to gain momentum. He's just like a little boy.
“Max is so lovable and playful,” she added. “We all fell in love with him, despite the bum rap some pit bulls get. Sure, pits can be dangerous, but some aren't. Yes, he's a pit, but he doesn't know that. He thinks he's just a big puppy.”
Max, just months away from his fourth birthday, is available for adoption, Noreau said, but not for the reasons many may anticipate. Fact is, Max had been the perfect pal for a “60-something” man named Bob from Cumberland, but he died of cancer earlier this year.
His dying wish? That Noreau – call her Max's “Momma” – work hard to find a family interested in providing a loving home for him, just as Bob had the previous eight months.
It's a sad story, but one Noreau desperately wanted to share with Blackstone Valley dog lovers.
“He came in as a stray, but it wasn't because he was mean; it's just not in his personality,” she explained. “He was always running loose around Grant Court (and adjacent roadways) in Lincoln. I found his (first) owner – this was back on Jan. 11, 2010 – and he told me, 'Look, I don't want him anymore. He's too unruly.'
“I found out through neighbors that the owner had hit Max with a board or stick several times, which is one of the reasons he snapped at him,” she continued. “I could tell just by the way the dog looked at (his owner) that he had been mistreated, and the neighbors backed that up. That day, I went to pick him up after he got loose, and he was nothing but loving to me. He was just a big pussy cat.”
Noreau revealed Max had a few scars on his head “from being whacked,” but never showed any fear in people.
“In fact, it was the opposite,” she grinned. “He loves people, loves to play with them. I don't think he's too fond of little dogs, but if there's a cat around, I don't think he'd care.”
Bob adopted Max last July, and Noreau claimed the tandem experienced a wonderful relationship.
“They would travel together; if he went somewhere, he'd bring Max along,” she said. “You know, he even used to take Max to the barber when he got his hair cut.”
In November, Bob and Max drove to the Lincoln animal shelter as they often did, just so the canine could visit with Noreau. That's when Bob leveled the news.
“He said he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the doctors told him he had only three months to live,” she offered sadly. “I just cried. He was such a sweet man, so caring and loving. I just hugged him. It took a long time for me to find the perfect match for Max, as nobody really wants a pit bull, but Bob did. He trusted him, and Max did back.
“Back on February 10, he asked me to go to his house in Cumberland, and Bob was bed-ridden,” she added. “He gave me all his dog food, bedding, his treats, then he handed Max over to me, but he was reluctant. Max just jumped into his bed, and Bob kissed him goodbye.
“You know, he started crying, and I did, too. So did Max. He was very depressed over the next couple weeks. I don't think he realized why he was back here at the shelter. Maybe he thought he had been a bad dog, but he wasn't. His owner was dying. I don't think I've ever seen anything that could grab at the heart strings like that.
“Chris Brodeur (who works with the Parks & Recreation Department) came with me; I had a feeling I wouldn't be able to drive, so Chris did. I cried the whole way back to the shelter. Bob was such a phenomenal person. I knew that would be the last time I'd see him. He died about a week later.”
Noreau mentioned Max can seem a bit ornery when he's in his cage; the reason, she stated, was because she just wanted to play.
“Take him out, and you'll see the real Max,” she said. “Bob's dying wish was that I find Max the perfect home for the rest of his life, until they would see each other again. Bob was the coolest. He was just a little, half-pint kind of guy, but, oh, could he handle Max. If he told him to do something, Max did it – with pleasure.
“I know he took him to his daughter's house last Thanksgiving, and he said Max would lay on the floor and the baby would just crawl all over him … Like I said, he thinks he's a puppy.”
Noreau said he's neutered and house-broken, and has all of his necessary, up-to-date shots. She also indicated Max, who earned a behavioral certificate from Alpha Dog Obedience Center in Cumberland in March 2010, is available for a nominal fee.
To visit Noreau and Max at the Lincoln Animal Shelter, located at 25 Wellington Road, call (401) 333-0950.
“I'm looking for an owner that has a loving home, with kids and, of course, a lot of trees,” she grinned. “If you need a tree removed, he's your man.”