Support

Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “Max is lucky to have me around – what would he do without me?”  When, in reality, I should be asking, “What would I do without him?”

Back in December, Dallas got hit by a pretty bad ice storm. At least bad enough to keep me cooped up with Max for two days straight.  If I’ve proven I learn a lot from him the few hours I spend with him each day, this was a doozy.

One thing that stood out, though, came from our walks over the icy tundra surrounding my apartment.  Most of the ice was easy to walk on, but as ice is want to be, some of it was very slippery.  Yet, between Max’s excitement, my daring attitude, and both our reckless behavior, we ventured boldly out.

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And we did pretty well. I only bit it bad once, falling flat on my back. Max slipped a few times too, but it didn’t phase him a bit.

Then we got to a particularly steep incline and my two feet did not provide me the steadiness I needed to climb it.  As I struggled and slipped back down, Max deftly ascended the hill.  Since the leash attached us, he pulled me to my feet, but I kept him from going all the way up.  Nevertheless, we forged a new path somewhat around the hill, relying heavily on his sturdy four-footedness.

I depended on that sturdiness more and more throughout our walks. Max was my stability when I started to lose control.

And I think I offered him something too.  While less sturdy on two feet, I was more dexterous. I could move around the slipperiest ice to support him when he unknowingly barged on through. Not to mention I have hands that helped us hold onto poles and signs as we passed other difficult places and that opened the door to allow us to go outside at all.

So, we supported each other, and continue to do so, both on and off the ice

Adventure...

Adventure…

 

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…everywhere

ok, are we done with this photo shoot yet?

ok, are we done with this photo shoot yet?

I thank you Max, for teaching me that we all need support as we venture on across life’s slippery spots. We need support even in the easy times. And we need to give support to others. It is not a matter of strong and weak, blessed and not blessed, privileged or not.  Rather, Max has taught me that there is a need of support that transcends those distinctions.

Because the support is what made the journey meaningful, fun, and worthwhile.  I could have walked all that way myself and played in the snow alone.  I may have sustained a few more bruises and it may have taken me longer, but I could have done it and then proudly say I made it through, I have proven myself, I am the ice master! (Ok, I might have said that last one anyway!)

But where would that get me? And who would care?

Max taught me that support is about strength, but also about something so much more.  I can be strong by myself, but support adds that little extra something that pushes me beyond merely overcoming difficult situations to experiencing love in those situations.

That day on the ice, Max and I made lasting memories to cherish and share. We experienced our vulnerabilities and proved that together we can (not overcome them, but) live happily with them and be joyful and love (not despite them, but) because of them.

And for those not in a sappy mood:

Thank you Max, for not only teaching me about support, but also for supporting me.

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Stank Breath

Max, like many dogs, has stank breath. And most of the time it’s real bad.  Especially on nights when I dry him off from the rain and he yawns big right in my face as I inhale.  Whew.

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I even had to buy him some special treats that are supposed to help with bad breath. Jury’s still out on those, but regardless I am tempted to get some sort of air freshener installed in his mouth.

But even in those moments when he is right up in my face huffing his nasty breath all in my nose, I see that it is unfair to classify him only by his stank breath.  I look into his eyes and see his innocence and realize that stank breath is not something he can control (though he could pick up fewer special surprises on our walks…).

Moreover, I watch him play and enjoy life and keep me company and realize that there is so much more to him than the stank breath.  His joy and beauty and love are what really define the kind of dog he is.

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So, despite the stank breath, I love him anyway. And he has taught me that we can and should love the stank breath people in our lives.  Those who are different from us or who annoy us or who literally also have stank breath (I suddenly vividly recall a barber from my childhood who not only had terrible breath, but apparently poor eyesight also, causing him to get as close to my face as he could while cutting my hair).

It may be harder to get to know them and get close to them, but they are beautiful and wonderful too.  And there’s so much more to them than that one uncomfortable quirk.

And I bet more often than not, I (and you) are that stank breath person. Sometimes you just can’t help it – you were born a certain way or something happened to you. You can eat a whole case of tic tacs and sometimes you still got stank breath.  But that doesn’t impact your value or personality, so why should it have any negative effect in others.

We are all stank breath people in one way or another. And we are all so much more than that too.

(a song for every season)

Thank you Max, for teaching me to love the stank breath people, including myself.

But for what it’s worth, Max, you might want to look over these tips.

Fascination

I am fascinated by this new method of sitting on the couch…

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But, more to the point, Max and I have now walked every path surrounding our apartment many, many times. I am glad there are many options, but after several months we have exhausted any new places in walking distance.

And that bothers me because I really like new adventures. I like seeing new places and doing new things. About the only thing I could do everyday is watch the sunset and drink jasmine green tea.

Yet, I still have to walk Max and there’s only so far we can go.

But Max has a different outlook on these walks.  No matter how many times we walk by the same patch of grass or the same tree, he is endlessly fascinated by it.  So much so that I often have to drag him away.

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How can he have such wonder at something so mundane? How can the same thing, day after day, still capture his attention?

As I thought more about how he gives himself over to such fascination, I began to realize that there is always new beauty and new adventure in every moment, in every blade of grass or tiny snowflake.

You don’t have to go to Hogwarts to find magic, for it pervades the world.  You don’t have to travel to the Lonely Mountain to find adventure – it bubbles up throughout Middle Earth, even in the Shire. (Though don’t get me wrong, if I had the chance to go to Hogwarts or the Lonely Mountain, I wouldn’t hesitate.)

Moreover, Max has helped me realize that fascination keeps us from being arrested in our routines. We may still do the same things, but they have the potential to be interesting in new ways everyday.  And because things fascinate us, we explore their intricacies, which leads to inspiration and innovation.  For without a fascination with the key of D flat major would we ever have gotten…

(Or, fill in with whatever great composition you prefer.)

Instead of trudging along or blindly pushing past meaningful people, events, and things, fascination leads us further up and further in!

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So thank you Max for not only being fascinating, but also teaching me to take notice of what is around me, to allow fascination to rise within me.  Thank you for teaching me to look for and expect the wonder, beauty, and life that is everywhere in this world we inhabit – especially in the paths I walk everyday.

Patient Presence

I’ve often wondered what makes dogs seem so happy.

At least some dogs.

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But Max is overwhelmingly happy looking. So, I asked him why.

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And he actually answered, though it took me a little while to understand his answer.

He lay down on the couch with a toy in his mouth and stared at me.  (Sometimes the most revealing answers are not statements at all.)

So, I thought about what in Max’s life is so different from mine that joy always prevails over despair or worry or anger?  What does he do that I do not?

I am a dreamer, so I make lots of plans. I understand many of those plans will never come to fruition, but I still expect most of them to happen, whether in my job or personal life. But many times it feels more like a fight to get things going.  I plan and plan and plan and then fight to get the plans working and then wear myself out and get frustrated when things don’t work out.

So, Max, what am I doing wrong?

I saw in that moment of lying and waiting a disposition that naturally allows for more joy and less frustration.  Max is present in a way that I have not been.  He looks for opportunities to emerge and enjoys them when they happen.  He may still expect certain things, like evening walks, dinner, and loving affection, but he waits patiently for those opportunities and then takes advantage of them.

He has a patient presence that allows him to perceive opportunities.

That is what I have been lacking.  That is what all my unswerving planning has blinded me from.

So, it’s not about lowering or annihilating expectations.  It’s not about ceasing to plan things – that still has to happen.  But it is about allowing room to observe, to be aware of the opportunities already going on, to lift my eyes up from carving my plans in stone to see which mountain I am walking up, to see the beautiful world of possibilities around me, to be present.

Thank you Max, for teaching me to be patiently present.