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  • By Lt. Tim McMillan

How I Learned to Max(imize) Life


This is Max. For over five years I was a K9-handler and he was my partner.

When he retired he came home to live with me and my family. A week after my youngest son was born, Max died suddenly from a stroke. Honestly, this was devastating for me, because for years, Max had been the only stability I had in my life. Through all of my mid-twenties, and the growing pains involved in maturing and finally meeting someone special that makes you want to settle down and start a family, Max was the only constant I had. I was so upset… I thought, "Now! Now you die on me! You've seen me at my worst, and now that I'm headed towards my best of being a husband and father, and NOW you leave me!" His death made the local news, and a couple of days after his passing, I received a box of letters in the mail from an elementary school class, from a town in North-Central Georgia, that had heard about his passing. I remember being really, struck by the fact that, these children, at a school I didn't know, from a town I'd never been, had made sympathy cards for me.

Then the next day I received a letter in the mail from a woman issuing me her condolences. She was from Arizona, and her father was an FBI agent who had been shot and killed in the line of duty, years ago. She heard Max’s story on the news and she had taken the time to write me a letter to say she was sorry for my loss. However, it wasn’t until a day later, when I found myself in the drive-thru line while at work, did I really understand what Max meant.


That night, while patiently waiting for my fast food, a person who was leaving the restaurant came up to my window and said “Will you let that officer who just lost his K9 know, I’m sorry and I will be thinking and praying for him.” I just stared at her for a moment and simply said, “Yes ma’m I’ll let him know.” I never told her that officer was actually me.

But at that exact moment I got it. This whole time I thought Max was just my K9. He was my dog that had got me through my hard times. But he wasn’t just a dog. He was more than that.

Max represented everything we aren’t as human beings, but want to be.

Max was loyal and loving to me, beyond reproach. He forgave me, even when I had lost my temper and yelled at him. Max would have run towards danger without hesitation to save me. Something no person can truly say they could do, without at least a second thought. To Max, happiness wasn’t a big house, or fancy car. To Max, happiness was just being close to me.

Max enjoyed the absolute simplest things in life. Something we as human’s find very hard to do. It was then that I realized, Max was something to other people as well because of what he represented. I also realized, Max hadn’t left me the moment I got my life together. Rather Max’s job was to get me to the point I got my life together and then he was done.

In essence, he said “ok man I got you this far, it’s all yours now.” So in the end, Max’s death wasn’t as tragic as I had originally thought it was. Rather, Max’s final selfless act for me was giving up his life, so I could appreciate my own life more, by striving to be more like Max.


Truth be told, Max’s death was my awakening. Max’s death was the instant I chose to look at life a completely different way. I truly believe I was a pretty good officer before his death. However, after his death I wanted to wake-up each day doing more.

My entire life has been made up of so many coincidences and happenstances that seem so random at the time. However, it is later that I suddenly realize, they were never coincidences or random act at all. Max was one of those huge happenstances, that I can now look back and say thank you Max. In the end, Max truly never was just a dog. He was so much more.

I hope every single person is as fortunate to have their own “Max” in their life.

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