The Adventures of Max

It’s taken us a couple of weeks to get to a point where we can write this post. Our stay in La Crosse, Wisconsin was Max’s final campground. He was just shy of 13 years old.

Our Max was part Great Dane (average life span 8–10 years) and part Labrador Retriever (10–13 years). Over the past 10 months or so, Max’s health was slowly deteriorating. He gave us quite a scare last November when he was diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia while we were in Texas and had to be hospitalized for a few days. After a couple months of gradual recovery, he was mostly back to his old self but never fully bounced back. Between his laryngeal paralysis, degenerative myelopathy, and old age, we knew he didn’t have a lot of time left. He still enjoyed short walks, long naps, and sniffing out (and receiving) bits of our dinner (he could barely see due to cataracts, but his nose more than made up for that). Boy did he get spoiled!

Being taller than the dinette table has its advantages.

Being taller than the dinette table has its advantages.

In October 2014 at a campground in Florida, another camper who was disposing of a dog ramp they no longer needed saw old Max and his weak legs and gave us the ramp to help him get into and out of the motorhome. The ramp helped Max and us immensely (we’ve since passed it on to another camper to help his dog). In March, even the ramp was not enough, so Max received a Help’EmUp Harness which again made a big difference in his mobility. With its front and rear handles, we were able to give his back legs extra support on walks, when getting up, and when using his ramp.

Max sporting his new Help'EmUp Harness.

Max sporting his new Help’EmUp Harness.

Since Austin, we’ve had “the discussion” several times when Max was having a particularly bad week, but he always bounced back the next week and his mind was always alert. Unfortunately in LaCrosse, it became clear that his body just got too tired to carry the burden any longer. We made the extremely tough decision that it was time to let Max go and on August 12, Max crossed the Rainbow Bridge just shy of 13 years old.

As many of you know, we’ve been volunteers for Labrador Retriever Rescue for many years. Max was one of our many foster dogs in 2004, but we fell completely in love with him and couldn’t let him go (check out his profile on the Lab Rescue web site). He was the first foster dog we adopted (but not our last!).

Foster dog Max in 2004, before we adopted him.

Foster dog Max in 2004, before we adopted him.

Max was the kindest, largest, and most chicken of all our dogs. He was known to hide behind humans when 10 pound dogs would bark menacingly at him. His sweet deposition helped numerous toddlers learn to like dogs. They would come close to him and because Max never made sudden moves and spent a lot of time laying on the ground, they could do anything to him and he would just wag his tail and give them one good lick.

What a face!

What a face!

Max tolerated and welcomed the dozens of foster dogs that came through our house over the years and even welcomed three more canine brothers into the family.

Max was such a sweet-natured dog with a mischievous streak. He loved carrying things in his mouth, so he would regularly drag out our dirty laundry and strew it everywhere. When I would come home, there would be a trail of dirty clothes from the bedroom into the hallway and sometimes halfway down the stairs!

It's hard to believe that just two years ago Max was still jumping in the pool.

It’s hard to believe that just two years ago Max was still jumping in the pool.

Since he was so tall, he could easily reach the countertops and therefore food was often a self-service item for him. He helped himself to half a bucket of halloween candy one year with no adverse reactions at all! Then he jauntily pooped out silver candy wrappers three days later. Max snagged some apple crumb mix (just add water) from the pantry and helped himself. When I came home, his legs, muzzle, and dog bed were covered in hardened apple crumb, making it difficult for him to hide the evidence or blame another dog.

Handsome devil...

Handsome devil…

One year Max gained weight at an alarming rate over a few weeks. We took him to the vet and ran all sorts of tests which showed nothing. One day I happened to be working from home, heard some odd noises in the laundry room and snuck over to see what was going on. Max had figured out that he could just nudge our wall-mounted dog food container’s handle slightly open to self-feed! The goofball was gaining weight due to all the extra food he was sneaking! He was the only one tall enough to reach the handle, but the other dogs were very happy to participate by cleaning up any evidence that spilled onto the floor.

So THAT'S why Max has been gaining so much weight!

So THAT’S why Max has been gaining so much weight!

Just in the past 18 months since we started traveling, Max visited 21 different states, swam in the Atlantic, Pacific and many lakes and rivers in between, and made many new friends at our various campgrounds. We miss him terribly already, but we’ve also been smiling and laughing as we reminisce about all the adventures (and misadventures) we’ve been through together. If you knew Max, we hope you’ll join us in remembering him…

How lazy can you get?

How lazy can you get?

Quail Run Dog Park, Mesa AZ

Quail Run Dog Park, Mesa AZ

Max enjoying the Tolt river, near Seattle WA.

Max enjoying the Tolt river, near Seattle WA.



  1. Jay & Dee   •  

    Max had a great life and his spirit will live on in your adventures! This is a great tribute post and we hope you guys – and Opie – are doing well.

  2. Cindy   •  

    Why is there a single shoe on the staircase? Ohh…. Max. (…asleep with the other one in his mouth)

    He was worth every shoe.

  3. Oh, what a sweet tribute to what seems to have been one of the most loveable, goofy dogs on earth! Our own two (Rosey + Ramble) are sending you our love + comfort in this time of grief and adjustment to your new normal. Hugging our pups extra hard today! xo

  4. Wheelingit   •  

    Well that definitely got me crying :( I’m so very sorry for your loss. What a beautiful memorial to a beautiful doggie. I’ve never known Max, but feel like I do from your writings. Doggies love us so very unconditionally, but leave us far, far too soon. You gave Max a wonderful life and I’m sure you’ll see his spirit again. Doggie hugs to you both!


  5. Steve n Rory   •  

    Mike , kat we are so very very sorry for your loss. Our hearts are broken. We loved receiving your posts and being that our three dachshunds are the center of our life, we could wait to hear about the adventures of max and opie. Since meeting you guys online. You both and especially max and opie have been household names in our house!
    God is good Max is with him waiting for you both someday but in meantime I’m sure he is cutting it up in heaven finding all those dog feeders and letting food out for all the other precious dogs in heaven!
    Regards. Your friends. Steve n Rory walsh

  6. Tomi   •  

    Oh goodness, what a wonderful legacy Max has left. You composed a beautiful eulogy/obit so obviously from deep in your heart. We follow your posts and thoroughly enjoy the updates on what you are able to do in the areas you visit with Max & Opie. We feel like we know you four! Our deepest condolences from the Summerhouse crew, Dave & Tomi, and Buddy. Run free sweet Max.

  7. Barbara   •  

    Max and Webster (brother from another Mother) are running and playing together and trying to fool everyone with which is Max and which is Webby. Loved your stories, he was a great guy and we will always remember him.

  8. timojhen   •  

    A fitting tribute. I have several pictures rotating through my screensaver pictures of Max (the Dog) and Troy (our son) hanging out when one was quite black and hard to photograph and the other was quite small. He was a favorite amongst the kids in our neighborhood whenever he was around to visit. The honorary “biggest dog I’ve ever seen!” until Mini Pearl came around (great dane). Sorry for your loss, we’re all better for having known him.

  9. Crunch Hardtack   •  

    How sad, but inevitable. It’s the up and down of a dog’s health and how it feels that makes such a decision as you had to make, that much harder. What a lovely tribute to such a wonderful dog like Max, whose heart I’m sure filled up most of the insides of that big, goofy and loving pet.

  10. Jean Schwartz   •  

    What a beautiful write-up on such a beautiful dog, both inside and outside. And, your pictures so clearly portray his wonderful, handsome, funny, and sweet qualities. I laughed and I cried. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Vicki   •  

    So sorry to read that Max’s journey has ended. He was a lucky dog who was obviously much loved and returned it tenfold.

    You wrote a beautifully touching and fitting tribute to your ol’ man.

  12. Dave & Diane   •  

    We are so sorry to hear of your loss, Diane had tears in her eye’s as I read the story to her. He was one lucky fellow and had a great life that many other dogs would envy. We are glad and lucky to have met him.

  13. Jonathan   •  

    Kat, Mike sharing your travels with all of us is a way we can feel that we too are vicarious explorers. I have been reading and following your story since the beginning hanging on to every word trying to experience everything that you were experiencing. We have several things in common, We both own a Tiffin 36LA, we changed faucets because of you, we love our dog and so on. The one thing that I always enjoyed reading about was the inclusion of Opie and Max in almost every story. Max was so lucky that day in 2004 when you decided to make him a permanent part of your life’s story. Peggie and I know how painful it is to lose a pet who has been such an important part of our lives. Pets share some of our most intimate moments and experiences with us. That is the way people like us roll. Max had a wonderful life, and was as lucky as you two are to have been able to have made this cross country adventure with you. In your minds Max will continue the trip with the three of you, in some cases you may even be guided by certain memories that all of you may have had together.

    The Adventures of Max was a warm, beautiful, and heartfelt eulogy. RIP Max………….

  14. Jim Jensen   •  

    I feel for your loss, so sorry, but you gave Max a wonderful life.


  15. James   •  

    Sorry to read this, yet it is a great tribute to an awesome dog! I laughed and shared your stories with my kids, I think any dog owner can relate.


  16. Sue   •  

    Sorry it took me so long to reply…we certainly have fond memories of our short time with Max. Your post made me cry, as we still do for our dog Shadow whom we lost 2 years ago (just before starting our RV adventure).

    Hope to catch up with you guys in Arizona or Utah…

    -Sue and Jeff

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