The signs of the abuse are almost all gone from the little white dog occupying a place of honor in the front office at the animal shelter.
But he's come through a lot.
On Feb. 6, someone reported that a dog crate had been dumped off in the old pet cemetery next door to the shelter in Carson City. Animal Services Supervisor Pat Wiggins went over and found the crate behind a tree.
The dog inside was a monstrosity. His hair was long and matted tightly all over his body, including over his eyes. He was caked with dirt and feces.
Wiggins was looking at what he described as one of the worst cases of animal abuse he's seen in his eight years on the job. But he didn't see a lost cause.
When they took Max to the shelter, they found he couldn't walk properly. That's partly because the hair on his legs had matted together. But Wiggins figures the muscles in his legs had atrophied from spending so much time in the small crate, in fact probably the majority of his 5- or 6-year life.
"He was in that crate for most of the day and the night," Wiggins said. "This guy lived a horrible life. Every time I think about it, I get madder."
They took Max to Lone Mountain Veterinary Hospital, which cared for him for a week, neutering him, cutting off the matted hair, removing maggots and giving him all the medical care he needed.
The transformation has been remarkable, and not just his physical appearance.
At first, no one could get near Max, but he quickly became friends with the women in the office. He didn't trust men, but Wiggins was finally able to get close enough to pet Max this week.
Hearing the story, I decided to see Max for myself. I went over on Thursday, when a volunteer was walking him in the exercise area. I expected a basket case, but that's not what I found. He didn't bark at me and didn't flinch when I held out my hand to pet him. Just a normal dog. Apparently the years of abuse haven't extinguished his ability to trust.
Max's situation raises a lot of questions. Why did the owner leave Max behind a tree in the pet cemetery rather than at the shelter? If they were ashamed of what they had done, they could have simply told shelter workers they found the dog. But the real question is why they kept a dog in the first place. It didn't do them nor Max any good.
Now Max, a mix between a cocker spaniel and a poodle, needs a permanent home. A quiet one would be best, without children. Max will need some training as he gets used to the outside world. Beyond that, there's not a lot of special care he'll need.
Just be aware, he doesn't like crates.
For more information on adopting Max, or any of the dozens of other dogs and cats at Carson City Animal Services, call 887-2171, or visit the shelter at 3770 Butti Way, which is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
You can also see the dogs and cats from the comfort of your home by going to the Web site www.petfinder.com. Then just type in the ZIP code 89701, and you'll get a list of the animals up for adoption.
Even if you don't have room for a pet, there are still ways you can help, including volunteering at the shelter.
A column I wrote last month about the large number of feral cats that prowl Carson City caught the attention of Karen Collignon-Foley, a cat rescuer in Ellensburg, Wash. She's an advocate of trapping feral cats, then spaying or neutering them before setting them free.
She describes how she one day noticed kittens eating in the parking lot of a Taco Bell and, upon further investigation, found a colony of nearly 200 cats living near the fast food restaurants in the area.
She didn't want to see the cats captured and euthanized, so she did some research and found the Web site for Alley Cat Allies (www.alleycat.org). Then she and others trapped and removed tame cats and kittens that could be tamed. The rest were spayed or neutered. They set up a feeding station run by an elderly woman.
Now, two years later, she says the cat population is not noticeable and only four or five cats visit the feeding station regularly.
"So all you really need is one person to care, like I did, and Carson City could see an immediate improvement."
Collignon-Foley has this to add about feral cats:
"Contrary to your noting that they eat large numbers of birds, these cats ripped open cat food bags left outside, ate out of the dumpster, and caught mice in the large field between the two businesses. What ferals do is go for the easiest food source, and birds are not the easiest."
• Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. Contact him at 881-1221 or email@example.com.