She advocates for the restoration of historic homes, but old houses aren’t the only thing HGTV’s Nicole Curtis is passionate about saving. Her two dogs, Max and Lucy, were once in need of rescue too.
“My life has changed since they were brought home,” says the Rehab Addict host who lives by the motto “old houses, old people, old dogs.”
Her shepherd mix, Max, is an old dog now, but he came into Nicole’s life when he was just a pup and her oldest child — Ethan, now 19 years old — was a little boy. At the time, Nicole shared her life with her late Yorkie, Polly, but her son had a different type of canine companion in mind.
“He had this stuffed dog — this stuffed German Shepherd — that he got at FAO Schwartz his first time in New York, and he’d named it Max,” Nicole recalls.
The real-life Max wasn’t found in a shop, but rather in a Michigan animal shelter that happened to have a puppy the day Nicole called. The single mother had been imagining a 10 or 15 pound terrier mix as the ideal dog for Ethan, but arrived to find a 25-pound pup named Eddie waiting for her family.
“About an hour later, Eddie was Max and he headed home with us,” Nicole remembers.
Now a decade removed from shelter life, 65-pound Max is still a puppy in some ways, but has matured in others. At first he was protective of Ethan to a fault, and it took about a year of training after adoption before the pup was accepting of guests and other dogs. By the time the family moved to Minneapolis, Max was ready to help Ethan — then an only child — with the transition, often serving as an icebreaker during trips to the park.
Nicole felt the urge to adopt again in 2013 while attending a charity auction for Secondhand Hounds. The Curtis household had been down to one dog since her Yorkie’s death, and Nicole volunteered to hold a 6-month-old Brussels Griffon mix, Lucy, during the evening of dinner and cocktails.
“She was just so cuddly, and I had gone through almost a year without Polly, so I sat with her for about an hour. I kept telling myself, ‘I’m not getting another dog. I don’t need another dog, I don’t want another dog.’ And then after an hour of sitting with her, I was like, this is my new dog,” Nicole recalls.
“Needless to say, when bidding started my paddle stayed up until she was mine to keep forever.”
Once home, Lucy did not endear herself to Max as quickly. Much like the houses on Nicole’s show, the relationship between the two dogs was a long-term project. These days, the once adversarial pair can be found sleeping together, but Nicole says individually they are still works in progress.
“They’re not perfect. Lucy — we call her the queen of secret peeing,” she explains, adding that Max is prone to accidents of a different kind, ones that have resulted in some big vet bills.
“Every time we turn around, it’s something else. I recommend dog insurance.”
Over the years Nicole has nursed Max through episodes of crate rest after various injuries, but also helped him through the emotional pain and depression that came when his beloved Ethan grew up and moved out.
“You have to be patient and understanding with your pets because they really do have all those emotions that we do.”
The busy TV host credits her dogs with repaying the favor.
“They have been my comfort through some pretty rough days,” explains Nicole, who has restored historic homes in Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio, welcomed her second son and written a book — Better Than New: Lessons I’ve Learned From Saving Old Homes (and How They Saved Me) — all since Rehab Addict’s television debut in 2010.
The whirlwind career has meant a lot of traveling. Lucy is a frequent flyer, often accompanying Nicole, while Max is happy to stay with Ethan during extended trips.
Nicole suggests anyone thinking of getting a dog look to local shelters and rescues first. Some rescue dogs might be fixer-uppers, but a forever home is the best kind of canine rehab.