Max the Collie mix

When Sue McDonald, a physical therapist assistant from Bailey, Colorado, set out to adopt a dog, she wanted a calm and low-key adult Collie. In November 2013, she came home with what she thought was a 1-year-old Collie mix named Max. She quickly learned that he was energetic, puppylike and entirely unlike any of the Collies she had owned before. In fact, she’s not even sure he is a Collie mix.

But even though he doesn’t behave like she expected him to, McDonald still loves Max and appreciates his sweet demeanor. Plus, the youthful pup brings out the playful side in McDonald's 10-year-old Collie.

We caught up with McDonald to hear more about her pup’s heartwarming rescue story.

Q: Can you tell us how you rescued Max?

A: I lost one of my Collies to cancer and was ready for a new dog. I wanted to go to a rescue because I didn't want to get a puppy. I work full-time. I found Southwest Collie Rescue in El Paso, Texas, and they had Max there. I applied to adopt him, and his foster family sent some videos. I live outside of Denver and ended up driving to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and they met me there with him. He is not a Collie. Not even close. They thought he was, but now that I've had him a few months, he's got a different temperament from a Collie. But he's very sweet and brings a lot of joy to my life. So it's a good thing.

Q: What breed do you think he is?

A: Well, I've been working with a trainer because he's very high-energy. Much more than I'm used to in a Collie. The trainer thinks he's a Belgian Tervuren mix, which is a rare breed. When I looked it up on the Internet, the pictures do look very similar to him. I think he might have a little Collie in him. There may be some Sheltie. But he's definitely a different species than my Collies. But he's a good boy. He's a lot of fun — just more energy than I knew I was getting into.

Q: Do you know anything about his life before you found him?

A: He was found wandering the streets of El Paso. They thought he was 1 to 2 years old. I don't know. When I took him to my vet, she said he was young because he doesn't have any tartar on his teeth. And he acts like a puppy with the biting and the chewing and the playfulness. So I would say he's no more than a year old.

They put him in a shelter, and somebody who was familiar with the Collie rescue in El Paso saw him and called [the rescue], and they came. The rescue put him in a foster home, and they put him on their website. He was lucky he didn't get euthanized in the shelter. A Collie lover came through and thought, "Oh, that's a Collie!" So he got a pass out of there. 

Q: What was he like when you first brought him home?

A: Well, I have another dog here. I have a 10-year-old female Collie. Max was kind of hard on her with his playful puppiness. But she put him in line right away. They're buddies. I didn't know she liked to play because my other dog was a couple of years older than her, and they never played together. She loves playing with her rope toy. I just didn't know she had it in her until he came along. It's fun to see. When I come home at night, she picks up the rope toy and is like, "Hey, let's go." 

Q: You had a doggy shower for Max. Can you tell us about it? How did you come up with the idea?

A: I didn't [come up with the idea]. My co-workers, they saw me suffer with the loss of my other dog. I was getting a new dog, so they gave us all these presents and bags of stuff. Just showered us with gifts for the new dog, which is really sweet. They were like, "We're going to have a doggy shower." They just had some food, and [Max] wasn't there because we were at work. But I took the picture [of Max with his gifts] to send to all the people who gave us stuff for the doggy shower so they could see how much he enjoys the stuff he got.

We've had a couple more since then for people who have new puppies. It's kind of a tradition now at work. 

Q: What have you been working on with your trainer?

A: He's terrible on a leash. He had no idea how to walk on a leash. He must never have been on one. He pulls and gets very excited when he sees wildlife. We live in the mountains, so there's a lot of it. He definitely gets excited seeing other dogs. The trainer works with me a couple of times, and then she takes him on her own to the dog park. So he's getting very socialized to other dogs. And we're learning how to keep his manners on the leash. He's doing really well. He's getting to where I can distract him with food if we see another dog coming. That's much preferred to the usual pulling and screaming and barking and just turning himself inside out, which is what he's been doing. 

Q: What do you love most about Max?

A: I love that he's so affectionate and cuddly. He's a very sweet, friendly and happy boy. 

You never know what you're going to get with a rescue dog. He wasn't what I expected, but he has turned out to be something that I can really learn a lot from. And I appreciate that. He has given me a lot.