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Meet Max ...the cute dog that collects smiles; KELLY WILLIAMS MEETS NORTH WALES' MOST STROKED POOCH AND HIS OWNER) WHO BRING HAPPINESS TO HOSPITAL WARDS.

WITH his cute fluffy looks and placid personality, Max is a precious pooch with a very special talent.

The Samoyed and his owner Paul Alexander tour the wards of North Wales hospitals collecting smiles.

The pair can be spotted spreading joy to patients but Max and Paul's labour of love was borne out of personal tragedy.

A volunteer with Therapy Dogs Nationwide, Mr Alexander spends 36 hours a week "making people's days."

Arguably the most stroked pooch in the region, Max's role is to be his usual cute and cuddly self.

Mr Alexander became a dog handler two years ago after his wife passed away.

The 78-year-old from Anglesey said: "I've had dogs on and off, different breeds all my life, but I've never had a dog like Max.

"When my wife and I lost a golden retriever, we said we'd never have another because it hurts too much when they go.

"But she must have had an inkling something wasn't quite right with her health because she told me she wanted me to get another dog.

"Max was the result and within five months, my wife wasn't with me anymore."

After losing his wife to cancer, Mr Alexander said he and Max spent many months cruising a small boat around Anglesey.

"I didn't know what to do with myself," the pensioner said.

"I hadn't been able to spend much time with Max while my wife was gradually fading away with the big C, but I found him to be extremely placid. He loved nature, loved birds and loved people.

"While I was reinforcing loneliness out at sea, I just happened to go on the internet and I saw a person in a | Max even has Betsi ID dreadful state with a dog beside them that was nearly as bad as they were.

"The dog could hardly move, but it was a therapy dog and when they interviewed the person, it was most moving to hear their comments about how they felt having a living thing so close to them again.

tdtwt a card "I just thought, what a lovely thing to be able to do and wondered if Max could do it, so I got in touch with Therapy Dogs Nationwide and after they assessed him, they asked if we'd volunteer.

"Max is a natural, he absolutely loves it, I keep hold of his lead and he does the rest."

lh wav " Equipped with a little bag filled with treats, a comb, some tissues and a second lead, Mr Alexander visits 11 wards across Betsi Cadwaladr's three hospitals, Ysbyty Gwynedd, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and Wrexham Maelor Hospital.

wG WMr Alexander, who said he and his pet have a close bond, said Max loves his job.

On the children's ward at Ysbyty Gwynedd last week, youngsters were gathered around eight-year-old Max giving him cuddles.

Among them was Cassie Roberts, 10, from Amlwch who was due to have an operation on her broken finger.

Her dad, Mike said: "Cassie was really upset worrying about the operation.

"She was in tears just before Max came in and as soon as she saw him, her worries just melted away.

"Max was a lovely distraction and I think it's a brilliant idea that he visits the children's ward."

Carina Roberts, health play specialist at the ward said: "Max comes to visit us once every two weeks on the children's ward, it's such a joy to see the children's faces when he walks through the doors.

"Max helps to calm and relax the helps distract the children from their illnesses, making him a valuable member of our team.

"He certainly makes their stay on the ward much more enjoyable."

Mr Alexander says he never fails to be surprised by Max's animal magic.

"People see me and sometimes say: 'are you collecting' and I say, yes, I collect smiles and Max gets very many.

"Putting smiles on people's faces is what I get out of it. It's nice

when they thank me and tell me they look forward to us coming in.

"If you can change people's lives for the better, make someone's day or even just an hour, it can be something very worthwhile."

For more information about Therapy Dogs Nationwide, visit www.therapydogsnationwide.org or call 07840 994 003.
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 27, 2017
Words:715
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