In 2011, just one month before North Carolinian Chase Surles was scheduled to undergo brain surgery to remove a tumor, the then-21-year-old received a perfect gift — a new puppy, a four legged friend who would be there with Surles while the young man recovered.
A delighted Surles named the pup, a black Labrador Retriever, Max, looking forward to the many years he’d have with his new dog after making it through his brain surgery. Sure enough, Chase’s family says, Max played an integral role in helping Chase through such a difficult time. By caring for Chase and keeping the young man’s spirits up, Max helped nurse Chase back to health.
“I think he was instrumental in his healing, honestly,” Chase’s mother, Donna Surles, tells WRAL of Max. “I called him Chase’s therapy dog.”
But then, not long after Chase recovered, 9-month-old Max just disappeared. Devastated but determined to find his companion, Chase spent two long years searching for the missing Max, but the dog-hunt was certainly proving to be a challenge. The Surles hadn’t had a chance to get Max microchipped before he’d disappeared, and the puppy wasn’t even wearing his identification tags. Until very recently, there was no sign of what had happened to his beloved dog.
Then, as Chase’s girlfriend was surfing Facebook, she stumbled across a photograph of a black Lab on a veterinarian’s Facebook page. She could hardly believe what she was seeing — the dog looked exactly like Max.
Almostexactly, anyway — the dog in the photo resembled the old Max in nearly every way, except that this black Lab had three legs instead of four. So if the dog she was seeing was in fact Max, it was clear her boyfriend’s long lost dog had been through quite a serious ordeal.
As soon as Chase got a glimpse of the Facebook photo, he was sure it was Max. He contacted the veterinarian immediately to inquire about his dog. But in his excitement, Chase completely overlooked Max’s missing leg.
“Chase was asked to describe a distinguishing feature Max had,” Chase’s mother explains. “He pointed out the white patch on his chest because he had no idea Max was missing a leg.”
When Chase finally noticed that Max had lost one of his legs, he says he was shocked.
“I was speechless there for a few seconds,” he remembers, but nonetheless thrilled at the prospect of seeing his best friend again after so long.
What had happened to Max during the two years he was missing from the Surles family, including how Max became the three-legged dog he is now, is unclear.
“We don’t know what happened to the leg, but it was amputated professionally,” Donna Surles says.
After two long years, Chase was over the moon to see his dog again. And as for Max, the loyal Lab was happy to reunite with his person again. It was like no time had passed.
“We started playing fetch and [he was] just the same old Max, just like it was before,” Chase says. “He’s just missing one leg. You wouldn’t even notice, he was running so fast.”
The pair just celebrated their first Christmas together, a Christmas that would not have been possible had it not been for one very kind family. Chase learned a bit about Max’s whereabouts just weeks before their happy reunion. Max, who at that time was already missing his leg, showed up on a family’s doorstep. The family took him to the Lillington Veterinary Hospital, where staff there snapped some photos, hoping to locate Max’s owner. In the meantime, the family took great care of Max, for which Chase is eternally grateful.