10 min read

Sick Puppy Finds The Perfect Dad — And Now They're Healing Together

“Before Max, I had no idea of the depth of love, emotional support and companionship that a dog could bring.”

Jason A. Bradford, a 44-year-old, self-employed massage therapist and holistic healer with his own company, Body, Mind & Spirit Works, was in a really bad place a few months ago. 

man and puppy heal together
Jason A. Bradford

Between malnutrition, high fevers and other ailments, Bradford’s body was going through a lot. He needed a lot of medicine and rest, and couldn’t eat any solid food for weeks at a time. During a sleepy visit back to Facebook after being offline for a while, Bradford saw a post from a woman about a dog she was fostering. He then found himself getting dressed and preparing to go see this dog.

Jason A. Bradford

“I was weak and disoriented, but my instincts took over and I rallied to get dressed and bike over to meet him immediately,” Bradford told The Dodo. “I had been mulling over the idea of a cat to keep me company better than my fish tanks could, but a dog has never been on my mind. This was purely instinct, no logic whatsoever.”

Jason A. Bradford

Bradford fell in love with the tiny dog when he first met him. According to Bradford, the dog fit in one hand. “He seemed healthy and cared for, despite having survived parvo, and had been quite ill for several months.” For those unfamiliar with parvo — or parvovirus — it’s a contagious, viral illness that ravages the puppies and dogs unfortunate enough to contract it.

Jason A. Bradford

According to PetMD, about 70 percent of dogs survive parvo. However, the prognosis is much lower for puppies because their immune systems have not finished developing. A puppy really has to fight an incredible battle to survive parvo. The dog in Bradford’s hands, for example, was 5 months old at the time and weighed only 2 pounds, Bradford said.

Jason A. Bradford

Bradford said he knew right then, deep down, for no reason he could understand at the moment, that he wanted this dog to be part of his family. The foster sent word back to ACCT Philly, the region’s largest animal care and control service provider, for which she was fostering the dog. While he waited, Bradford said he couldn’t stop thinking about the dog.

Jason A. Bradford

After Bradford’s adoption was finalized, he took the dog, whom he named Maximus LaRue (Max for short), home with him. During the first week, Bradford had to use eyedrops to keep Max hydrated. Max had only recently started eating solid food and thus was fairly weak most of the time, which mirrored the journey of Bradford, who was only beginning to eat solid food again himself after a month.

Jason A. Bradford

Max, like Bradford, was still healing from his illness. The virus that Max battled is typically fatal for puppies. The little guy was hospitalized at the age of 1 month old and was never guaranteed a tomorrow. Bradford said, knowing this, it makes each “first time” for Max a special occasion. “He was too little and weak to be outside or do much his first couple weeks, and he was quarantined so he wasn’t allowed to play with other dogs,” he said. 

Jason A. Bradford

That all changed when Bradford brought Max over to his friend Chloe, who lived a block away, to meet her dog. “He’d met a few [dogs], but [only] from the bag on my shoulder and not actually on the ground playing,” he said. “So when he was finally able to mingle with other pups, I ... let [Max and Chloe’s dog] loose in the backyard. It was so special to watch him interact inquisitively with another dog for the first time in his life. It brought tears to my eyes to watch him be a dog … with another dog!”

Jason A. Bradford

Bradford explained that, very quickly, he started to feel that the two were in sync. “I began to notice that if I drank water … so would he. And if I could muster the energy to prepare food … he would eat his.”

Jason A. Bradford

Bradford recognized that a dog like Max needed a little extra care. Animals like Max are often passed over and/or euthanized in shelters because they’re thought of as too much work. Bradford wasn’t bothered, though. In fact, he said he could constantly feel Max’s love and gratitude, like Max knew and understood his own physical condition and how Bradford was helping him. 

Jason A. Bradford

“He’s quite relaxed for a small dog and his breed, likely a result of being so ill and in a hospital for three months, and all he has is love for everyone and everything,” Bradford said. “He’s truly comfortable with anyone, but of course barely leaves my side if I’m in sight. In the past couple weeks, as I’ve been on bed rest, he has learned how to jump from a box, to the chair and 3 feet across onto the bed.”

Jason A. Bradford

That’s not to say there weren’t challenges. “I’d have to say the biggest hurdle I’ve faced with caring for Max is also the best gift. I’d been sick for weeks before getting him … [and] so I got even weaker after taking him,” he said. 

Jason A. Bradford

Bradford said it was Max who kept him from falling apart during their journey to better health. “There were days I was in so much pain or so weak I couldn’t get out of bed but to care for him it was mandatory,” Bradford said. “A couple times while bent over in pain it was his nibbles on my ears that gave me the strength to get up and take him out, or make myself something to eat. Max’s needs took precedence over my condition and together we’ve been recovering.”

Jason A. Bradford

“Before Max, I had no idea of the depth of love, emotional support and companionship that a dog could bring,” he continued. “It was not until I, myself, went through a challenging experience and needed support, that I was able to understand how healing an animal like this could be.”

Jason A. Bradford
To support more animals like Max, please donate to ACCT Philly.