MAX, PADDY AND HARRY
Pooch pals became a social media sensation as their antics helped people struggling with their mental health during lockdown.
Kerry Irving credits springer spaniel Max with saving his life when the effects of a serious road accident left him suffering depression and feeling suicidal.
Before the accident, Kerry loved to run, walk, cycle and swim in the great outdoors. But significant injury and crippling pain prevented him from getting back on his bike and he faced a long period of rehabilitation.
“Before I met Max my life was very different,” he says. “I was very outdoorsy, loved cycling, walking, swimming, camping. I lived for the outdoors. Then a truck ran into the back of my car and that changed my life forever.
“After my accident and being housebound for two years, I started to suffer from severe depression. My doctor suggested maybe walking would be a good way of changing my habits and getting back outside.”
He followed his doctor's advice and when his wife asked him to nip out for a pint of milk, Kerry met Max, his neighbour's dog, who he instantly connected with.
Kerry, who lives in the Lake District town of Keswick, says: “One day my wife sent me out for a pint of milk, which was a huge thing for me. Max lived round the corner from us and I knew straight away he was a special dog.
“I saw Max's nose sticking through the railing of a gate.I stopped to say hello because I'd had spaniels when I was younger. He looked at me and straight away there was a connection.
"Stuck in a yard, it was as if he was saying, 'My life's pretty rubbish and yours doesn't look much better'.
"For me, it was a tiny glimmer of what life could become again. I looked at him and he looked at me, the bond was formed and off we went. We started our adventures from there.”
He adopted Max seven years ago and slowly but surely, Kerry found the strength to get back out in the world again.
Springers Paddy, four, and Harry, two, joined the clan more recently and now Kerry has a trio of dogs who help him face life everyday.
“All three of my dogs are heroes but Max is my life saver and he’s the one who got me outdoors,” says Kerry
“And without Max we wouldn’t be here today. Initially it was confidence, being able to go out with a dog was really good for me. If someone sees you with a dog they smile and stop and speak.
“That’s imperative for someone with depression, having someone there to listen.”
Recognising how his walks with the dogs had helped his own wellbeing, Kerry decided to to help others struggling with their mental health by filming their adventures and sharing them online.
Since he started four years ago, Max, Paddy and Harry now have 144,000 followers on Facebook.
During lockdown, the films took on a new importance, helping and inspiring those struggling with isolation and helping to raise awareness of people battling depression.
Kerry has also written an inspiring book about how his dogs help him every day, called Max the Miracle Dog: The Heart-warming Tale of a Life-saving Friendship.
Last month Kerry asked followers to support them in their mission to climb the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, selling more than 40,000 tickets for an online raffle, and helping to raise a total of £100,000 for the PDSA.
Kerry is thrilled his loyal pooches have won this award. He says: “Like my dogs, it means everything in the world to me.”