Max Dickson didn’t know Kenny Moore II was an up-and-coming NFL player when they sat in a veterinarian’s waiting room praying together.

Dickson’s dog, Chica, was in emergency surgery that day, after being hit by a car. She had seen a squirrel and darted into the road in downtown Indianapolis a couple of days before Thanksgiving in 2017. Moore, then a rookie cornerback for the Indianapolis Colts, was driving the next car. He pulled over and stopped traffic.

“So many people had so many chances to stop and help this dog, but nobody knew what to do,” Moore said in a phone interview this week. “People wanted to leave the situation. When it was my time, I knew I had to act.”

Moore — who was then 22, around the same age as Dickson — helped the young man scoop up Chica and drove them to two veterinary clinics; the first wasn’t equipped to handle emergency surgery.

But Moore didn’t know Dickson’s backstory either. He didn’t learn about that until this week. All Dickson told him as they sped to the vet’s office was “this dog saved my life.”

Dickson spent much of his teenage years struggling with anxiety and self-esteem issues and even contemplating suicide, his father, London-based hedge fund executive Drew Dickson, wrote in a blog post this week.

“Imagine all the things you don’t want to have happen to your teenager. They happened to him,” the elder Dickson wrote. “. . . It was a living hell for Max. And honestly it was a living hell for us, too. There was nothing we could do about it. The most difficult thing for my wife and I to accept was that only Max could make the choices. It wasn’t up to us. We couldn’t save him. It was up to him if he was going to live, or going to die. As one of my best friends told me at the time, only Max could choose to live.”

Max Dickson found Chica as an eight-week-old stray while he was living in a hostel in Costa Rica in 2016, hoping a change of scenery could prompt a mental reset, according to his dad. He adopted the puppy and the two healed together: Dickson learned there was something in himself he could offer the world, and Chica found a companion who cared for her unconditionally.

Dickson moved to Indianapolis in 2017 to be near his paternal grandparents, having started to conquer his anxiety and depression with Chica by his side. One day on a walk, the dog spotted a squirrel across the street and ran into the road after it.

“Max runs out from out of nowhere in the middle of the road, and he cradles Chica,” Moore recalled. “It was like a movie, like watching someone die in front of you. I opened the passenger door and said: ‘Bro, get in. I’m going to drive you to the vet.’ ”

An hour later, after the two strangers had transported a yelping, suffering dog in the back seat, Dickson and Moore were left there in the waiting room as surgeons took Chica away. He left Dickson his phone number so he could check in on Chica. And before he left, he told him, “If you need a friend, if you need anyone to talk to, I’ll be your friend in Indy.”

Chica suffered a broken pelvis but made a full recovery over the next six months.

At some point weeks later, Dickson learned Moore was a professional football player. He had been cut by the New England Patriots two months earlier as a rookie out of Division II Valdosta State in Georgia, then claimed by the Colts in early September, a few weeks before encountering Moore.

Dickson moved away to Florida within the year for work, with more family members on his mom’s side close by in Georgia. But he and Moore stayed in touch, texting and calling back and forth. When the Colts played the Dolphins on Thanksgiving weekend the next year, Moore got Dickson tickets to the game, a 27-24 Indianapolis win, and they went out to dinner afterward to celebrate a year of friendship.

“We’re growing young men. We have a lot going on, but we’re there for each other,” Moore said.

When Moore signed a lucrative four-year contract extension with the Colts last week, one that made him one of the highest-paid slot cornerbacks in the NFL, Drew Dickson wrote his blog post to recognize Moore’s accomplishment and pass on a note of gratitude for helping his son, who is still doing well. The post quickly went viral.

“This guy Kenny, I want to reach out and give him the biggest hug he ever got,” Drew Dickson wrote. “I want to tell him that he is special. I want to thank him for saving Chica’s life. I want to thank him for saving my son’s.”

“When I read the story, I cried a little bit,” Moore said. “I didn’t know what people would think. I didn’t know the platform his dad would have. I’m just thankful I did the right thing. So many people had the chance to stop for the dog. I just know that I did something that I would want someone to do for me.

“I don’t think things happen by coincidence. His mom and dad being from Indiana and Georgia, me playing for Indy and being from Georgia. God puts things together for a reason, and it’s up to you to make the right choices.”

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