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Springer spaniel who helped his owner recover from depression attends Queen's garden party

She has hosted presidents, kings and princes.

But yesterday the Queen enjoyed the company of a really special VIP – that’s Very Important Pooch – when Max the spaniel joined her for a garden party at Buckingham Palace.

It’s unusual for a pet to be allowed through the palace gates, but then Max isn’t your average dog.

He even met the Duchess of Cambridge, who immediately bent down, despite her pink Alexander McQueen suit, to stroke his tummy.

Max’s owner, Kerry Irving, 54, from Keswick in Cumbria, overcame acute depression after a serious car accident to become a respected mental health campaigner.

Max’s owner, Kerry Irving, 54, from Keswick in Cumbria, overcame acute depression after a serious car accident to become a respected mental health campaigner 

He even met the Duchess of Cambridge, who immediately bent down, despite her pink Alexander McQueen suit, to stroke his tummy

He says his 11-year-old English springer spaniel saved his life.

In 2006, Mr Irving’s car was hit by a truck, leaving him with severe spinal injuries. Once active and outdoor-loving, he became virtually house-bound and suffered acute panic attacks.

On his rare forays outside the house, he would see Max, who belonged to a neighbour, and eventually asked if he could take him for a walk.

Joined by another spaniel, Paddy, Mr Irving began logging their adventures in the Cumbrian countryside, with the help of his wife, Angela. Now more than 81,000 people, as far afield as Japan and Brazil, follow their Facebook site called Max Out In The Lake District

‘There was something very special about him,’ he recalled and began pushing himself further and further each day.

‘Max gave me a reason to get up in the morning and something else to focus on, other than the pain.’

When the dog’s owner mentioned that they wanted to re-home him four years ago, Mr Irving jumped at the chance.

When Mr Irving was invited to Buckingham Palace to join the Queen for tea and sandwiches, alongside other community champions, it was clear that a special someone was missing. Pictured, with his wife Angela

‘He simply hasn’t left my side since,’ he said.

‘Max saved my life and I can never repay him for that.’

Joined by another spaniel, Paddy, Mr Irving began logging their adventures in the Cumbrian countryside, with the help of his wife, Angela. Now more than 81,000 people, as far afield as Japan and Brazil, follow their Facebook site called Max Out In The Lake District.

Max in a first class seat on train to Buckingham palace

Max now works as a registered therapy dog, fundraising for charity and has received a PDSA commendation for his work.

So when Mr Irving was invited to Buckingham Palace to join the Queen for tea and sandwiches, alongside other community champions, it was clear that a special someone was missing.

Fortunately the Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria, the Queen’s official representative in the region, obtained permission for him to go as his ‘plus one’ assistance dog, along with Angela, of course.

Max took the whole day in his stride – even when he got a tummy rub from Kate.

They were introduced to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge because of the royals’ interest in mental health. ‘Was it the fact that he wanted to go for a walk that made you want to as well?’ asked William.

They were introduced to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge because of the royals’ interest in mental health. ‘Was it the fact that he wanted to go for a walk that made you want to as well?’ asked William

Kate also chatted with Mr Irving about her brother, James Middleton, who this year wrote movingly in the Daily Mail about how his own dogs had helped him through a crippling bout of depression.

‘It makes such a difference, doesn’t it, the exercise and being outdoors,’ she remarked. ‘The connection dog lovers have with their animals is remarkable. It’s very therapeutic.’

William was so taken with Max, who he described as ‘remarkably relaxed’, that he even urged Mr Irving to let his companion enjoy a swim in the palace lake. ‘He’s allowed to go for a swim, definitely,’ he said, ‘just don’t chase the ducks!

‘It was so lovely to meet you. Enjoy your day.’

The experience so moved Mr Irving that he was in tears afterwards. ‘What a great guy, what a great guy,’ he said.

‘I think you can instinctively tell when someone has suffered the same issues as you. There is a connection,’ he added.

As for Max, he just lapped up the attention as well as a sneaky, and very posh, sandwich. 

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