Max getting ready to celebrate 1st birthday

- Time flies when you’re having fun, and we’ve been having the best time helping raise Max the Golden Retriever to become a service dog for a disabled veteran. It’s hard to believe, but Max is about to celebrate his first birthday, a special milestone that puts him one step closer to being paired with his veteran.

“Operation Max” was established last year when FOX 5 began a partnership with Canine Assistants, which is a non-profit organization based out of Milton, Georgia. They pair 75-100 dogs annually with people who have difficulty with mobility, epilepsy, Type 1 diabetes as well as dogs in pediatric hospitals and rehab centers.  

Max’s journey began on October 23, 2016, the day he was born! The Canine Assistants family welcomed Max and the rest of his siblings as part of the “American Hero” litter. All eight puppies were given patriotic names. Max was named in honor of former U.S. Senator Max Cleland, a disabled U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War.

Max began learning how to be a canine assistant at just 2-days-old through the Bond-Based Choice Teaching method, a philosophy based on social learning by building strong relationships with dogs via bond-building exercises.

Last November, a small team of FOX 5 employees went through hours-worth of training to have the skills necessary to properly teach Max. They have since worked very closely with Max’s Canine Assistants instructor, Kristen LaFevers.

PHOTOS: Galleries of Max

Max first met his FOX 5 foster family last December, when he was about 6-weeks-old. It was love at first sight!

On January 17, when he was 12-weeks-old, Max officially began his “job” at FOX 5 News. Every day since then, Max has been working hard with his FOX 5 foster team on age-appropriate skills.

Max’s core foster team consists of three FOX 5 employees, including Donna Bell, Katie Muse, and Susan Kicak. Donna works as an account executive in our sales department. Katie, a digital producer, and Susan, a producer for Good Day Atlanta, both work in the FOX 5 newsroom.

Max is learning to be in synch with whatever his person is doing, so he constantly stays by his fosters’ sides. He stays at the station during the day and then goes home with his fosters after work.

When he’s not at WAGA, Max goes on outings around town, such as shopping and running errands—all the tasks of daily life. He also appears every weekday morning on Good Day Atlanta, where we showcase Max’s journey and update our viewers on what he’s working on.

Max will most likely be paired with his recipient late next spring. In the meantime, he’ll be working hard on learning new skills, building on what he already knows, and maintaining loving bonds with his fosters. One day, he’ll form an even stronger bond with his veteran!

In honor of Max’s 1st birthday, we’re looking back at some of his milestones: 

LEARN MORE: Operation Max

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