Simple Things

Max has a keen knack for enjoying the simple things in life, like…

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Fresh air on the balcony

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A good meal and the occasional treat

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Fun toys

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Destroying fun toys

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A good belly rub

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A good head rub

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Chillin out on the nice cool tile

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Gazing out the window

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A refreshing walk

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The random scent of a bunny (and all the other smells outside)

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Just being outside

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An afternoon nap

A nice romp on the couch

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Wrestling

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And ultimately spending time with someone who loves him and whom he loves.

 

Thank you Max, for teaching me to enjoy the simple things in life and for enjoying them with me.

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Annoyance

Max does many little things that annoy me.  He often noses in to get attention when I’m busy with something else (including eating).  He incessantly begs for attention.  When on walks he often stops to smell things at every step, preventing us from getting anywhere quickly.

And as these things pile up throughout the day, they really get under my skin.  By supper time I’m ready to let him outside and have some peaceful time to myself.

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This was all put into perspective last week when he was gone. In his absence, I was surprised in many ways by what it felt like to live without him.

I was especially surprised that I did not even think about all those annoyances that usually fill and cloud my mind when he is around.  I did not remember how annoyed I often get when he bothers me for attention. Or how annoyed I am when I have to take him out at night after I’m already tired.

Instead I actually missed giving him attention and taking him out.

I think this was more than experiencing the maxim “absence makes the heart grow fonder” though.  It was a realization that the little things that can pile up and annoy me don’t have to. The problem is not Max being an annoying being, but rather me letting those little things get under my skin.

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By seeing our shared life from a new perspective, I realized that what really matters are all the ordinary things that increase the great bonds of affection between Max and me.  I shouldn’t let his unique doggy traits get in the way of that.

Rather, I must see and love Max for who he is, including all his eccentricities. All those things he does that annoy me are just him being his dog self. He does not intend to annoy me in doing them, nor does he hurt me – those would be separate matters entirely.

In this case, I can embrace those things he does unintentionally as expressions of himself or strain against them as perceived annoyances.  Only one of those options will help our relationship.  Only one of those options will bring either one of us peace.

And I think Shrek learns that lesson the hard way.  I just hope I learn it the easier way with Max’s kind tutelage.

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So thank you Max, for teaching me that we all have eccentricities and that while it is often tough to live with another person’s (or dog’s) quirks, I can choose to see those from the perspective of love and grace rather than annoyance.

Under the Hood

I spent three full days without Max this weekend as I took a trip out of town.

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Two of those days, however, were at home and Max’s presence was sorely missed (which was, in itself, a lesson).

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Nevertheless, I was not without a teacher. Max sent, unknowingly to me, a substitute – the thing I was around/with the most during that time – my car.

I have not had a name for my car, but thankfully over the weekend she got named. Without my input or permission several friends named her “Big Momma Bear.” I confess I did not put up a fight, and I guess the rule is: once named, always named.

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So, Big Momma Bear dutifully carried me across the state and back for some wonderfully fun times.  It was a lot of travel in a short amount of time, and honestly I was a little worried. Big Momma Bear is a little old and well traveled and has recently gone through some major operations, including getting a new radiator.

Nevertheless, she operated at peak performance…until I started out to pick Max up from the friend who was taking care of him.  I noticed the a/c get warm and looked down to see that pesky heat indicator all in the red again.

So, I pulled off the highway and let her cool down.  As I checked under the hood, it immediately struck me that I only check on Big Momma Bear and really get to know her when something goes wrong.

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And as I sat in the car waiting for her to cool down more, I realized that this pattern is a problem with all my relationships.  Too often I am not really present until something major happens – good or bad.  I expect things to run smoothly and to be there ready for me whenever I need them.

But that’s not how relationships work with any being – family, friend, pet, neighbor, car, enemy, etc. Big Momma Bear showed me that relationships take continual work.  I have to make the effort to check in regularly and really care about what is going on on the inside.

If I don’t stay invested, if I take the relationship for granted or treat the other entity as merely an object, it will not be a healthy relationship.  It may even explode in my face.

(Unfortunately, it has taken several issues under Big Momma Bear’s hood to awaken me to this reality, and for that I apologize.)

Knowing that what goes on under the hood matters is not enough, however – I have to actually know what is going on under the hood.  And it is important to know in order not just to prevent disaster, but rather to increase closeness, to grow in vulnerability, and to rejoice in a deeper way with all people.

So thank you Big Momma Bear, for teaching me about how relationships work and for showing me that we must take time to check in and know what is going on inside those around us so that we might maintain meaningful closeness.

…And thank you for taking me so many fun places and experiencing many wonderful journeys with me.

Consuming

Max has this bad habit of eating anything he comes across that does not smell like air.  So, I have to keep a close watch on him to make sure he does not go eat something he shouldn’t.

This is an all too accurate depiction of our walks (we alternate between who acts like Buddy)

But sometimes he is so determined or I am so distracted that he gets his tasty surprise. And fairly often it makes him sick.  He has a weak stomach anyway, but I really think that a lot of it has to do with him eating random stuff off the ground.

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I’d like to use this paragraph to make a meaningful, metaphorical turn, but I realize that I still need to learn this lesson along with Max – that we simply are not suppose to consume whatever random stuff we find.

It wasn’t as big a problem when I was in high school and college and my stomach could handle it, but now there are just more problems than it is worth.

But, I also can’t resist the turn. Max has taught me to watch what I consume, even the stuff that seems so appealing, like the enticing TV shows and music and gadgets that are lying around everywhere.

If I’m honest with myself, my physical acts of consuming are not the worst. My mind seems to be the most voraciously consumptive organ in my body, seeking out and taking in just about anything it can.

Don’t get me wrong – I like my shows and gadgets. And most of them are not really bad. In fact, I’ve found it very important and meaningful to relax in front of the TV (especially with other people), laughing and crying with made up characters in moving stories.  It not only can be restful, but also often awakens my imagination.

But sometimes, just being in that consumer mindset makes me sick.  My head is down looking for the next surprising treat that I fail to be fully aware of the beauty and life around me.

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I’d argue that the true root of life sickness lies not in overconsumption itself (though that is definitely a strong branch of the problem), but rather in not taking full advantage of opportunities because of some prevailing distraction (as Buddy so aptly proves to his dad in Elf) – even if that distraction is looking for the next treat.

Max has taught me that everything we consume has some effect on us – even the act of seeking things to consume.  Thus, it is important to refocus on what is really meaningful and valuable every once and a while. And this includes both the various media in which I indulge as well as the literal food I consume.

So, thank you Max, for teaching me not to eat whatever I find on the ground, and to refocus on what is really valuable so as not to get stuck consuming the latest treats and miss the joy of life all around me.