Maxwell Richardson

Last fall Max captured the hearts of many with the sad story of his early life, his escape from his ATRA mom on the very day of his surrender by his former owner, his months on the run in the wilds of Arkansas, and his eventual capture and progress toward re-socialization.  Three months after his adoption into our home we are happy to report Max continues to thrive in his structured and loving environment, and grows in self-confidence daily.

For the full affect of his transformation, we've included the descriptions about him, which appeared respectively in the October and November 2006 editions of AireMail, as well as a link at the end for you to read about Max's experiences since his adoption.

October 2006 AireMail:

Maxwell, Age: 1 or 2 years old, Sex: Male, Weight: 55 pounds, Location: Arkansas

Max's lack of socialization with humans started early in his young life and may have been due to his breeder who was in business to put out lots of puppies, not to give them quality lives with healthy interactions with the world. Max was described as a "loner" by his previous owner at 4 months, when he was adopted out. He chose to watch at a distance most human interactions and his initial reaction to new situations was shyness, with nervous movements (ears back, tail tucked tight) and the urge to flee. They described him to be a normal pup but any time new people came over, he hid. He was nervous to leave the house, reluctant to get into or out of a car or doorways, and views the (hair) brush as a new enemy. Max's family was not home much so Max was left alone a lot, which did not add to his need of humans.

Max was given to ATRA and his foster mom was immediately challenged as he escaped from his collar and took off. For two and a half months, Max ran the streets, showing up periodically to take nourishment that his foster mom conveniently left out for him at night. Max had no collar or tags and he did not know the people or the neighborhood as he just arrived that day. Foster mom left a trail of dog food on the roads leading to her front yard and once he started showing up every evening, she even managed to keep his monthly heartworm meds up to date by lacing his meat with his pill! It was hard not to laugh if he arrived out front and the food bowl was empty; he literally barked loud and often to announce his arrival. Foster mom fretted over his feral behavior but soon was able to tame him into eating nearby while she chatted to him from her front porch about the benefits of indoor living.

After a couple months, Max was not seen on a regular basis. Foster mom watched nightly for him. Finally, Max did not show up for almost a week and she worried something dreadful had happened to him or he had moved on. The last time she talked with him his eyes looked tired and weary of running.

One night after arriving home from work, she had a message. It was from a volunteer at the local shelter telling of a small, male Airedale they had in their shelter. It certainly looked like the Airedale from the poster that was tacked to their bulletin board. Frantically, she called the shelter and heard the words she had waited so long to hear: "We think we have Max."  After driving to the shelter and looking at the tired, dirty yet inquisitive dog from behind the chain link, she knew it was Max. He was immediately taken to her vet. He was no worse for wear.

November 2006 Aire Mail:

Maxwell needs a special home

Meet the new and improved Max! Max has now spent the last three months living with an animal behaviorist/trainer and lives with her family of dogs. She is someone who understands terriers - and he's finally being allowed to become one! She says he is working through his anxieties with her and has grown markedly in his ability to follow obedience commands - even now greets her with tail upright! 

Her assessment is that he is a very smart boy and, with some time and patience, will be a great companion for the right family. Ideally, Max needs an older family with a routine and not a lot of change who will allow him "his space" (in Max's words, "Mom, please don't hang out by the door when you want me to come in.") He does well with dogs and enjoys interacting with them, doesn't seem to have a strong prey drive so dog savvy cats may be fine. Max needs a strong, patient yet loving family that has time to work on his training. he continues to become more confident in his current surroundings, allowing his handler to lead him by collar. He does very well with routine and executes confidently, he "alarm" barks when he sees strangers, but then hides if they approach him. All in all, Max is learning every day and becomes more receptive to slow changes. He will need someone who is willing to go the distance with him as he continues to learn and grow, and, while he may never be the outgoing and exuberant 'dale that most of us know, we believe he will eventually learn how to enjoy a settled life with his forever family.

Mid November 2006:

We entered the picture already having two ATRA dales of our own.  You can read all about our trip to Arkansas to meet Max, and some of our adventures since at

We are so very thankful to Arkansas Coordinator Chris Bettis, behaviorist Gina Hudson and all the other AR volunteers who cared for Max in those first few harrowing months.  We know that it was through your collaborative efforts that he?s with us today and doing so well as a much-loved member of our fur pack.

Melinda and Steve Richardson


Should you have any comments on/or criticisms of this story or desire to contact its author, feel free to email  We always appreciate hearing from both uprights and downrights. Thanks for reading!