Max has a problem. He eats things he shouldn’t, particularly poop.
Perhaps I am forcing my human point of view onto natural animal actions, but I just can’t come up with any good reason to let him eat other animals’ poop.
And Max’s problem has only gotten worse over the past several months. Every time we go outside he tries his hardest to eat as much poop as possible.
Usually he is on a leash, so I can control the intake. I don’t like doing it, but I have to keep pulling him away and stopping to yell at him when I have lost focus and he steals a chance to grab a bite. (After all this, there is no way he can think that action is acceptable.)
But sometimes we go to a little dog park and I let him off leash. Every time I think, maybe he will just play, maybe other dogs will distract him, maybe he will be too eager to chase a ball. And every time I am wrong.
Just yesterday when we were at the dog park he completely ignored the other dog who wanted to play so he could roam around and find all the nasty treats laying around. After following him around for several minutes and pulling him away when he went in for the bite, I finally had enough and we left.
On the way back I was frustrated. I was frustrated with Max, who is a good dog overall, because no matter what I do or say in this matter he disobeys me. And I was frustrated with the people who don’t clean up after their pets. There are even little bags and bins provided! At least Max’s behavior can be explained away by natural instinct.
But as we continued walking, I realized that in addition to researching new ways to prevent a dog from eating poop, I had to forgive Max. And as much as I hated to admit it, I had to forgive the people who don’t clean up after their pets.
When I held onto that anger it only hurt my relationship with Max more. A part of me didn’t even want to be around him for a while.
Don’t get me wrong, I will continue to be angry about the whole poop eating situation, and I think that is good and natural. But I also learned that forgiveness is necessary for me to deal with the situation in a worthwhile, loving way.
And Max has taught me that forgiveness is not a once and done thing. I have to forgive him for trying to eat poop every time. But that’s what makes it such a powerful force in our relationship.
I choose to forgive Max over and over again despite what he has done and is doing. I choose to love him even with his continual disobedient behavior. Granted Max’s behavior does not harm or effect me directly, in which case forgiveness would be much harder yet also much more meaningful. Still, these little forgivenesses are also important in sustaining and enriching our relationship on a daily basis.
And this is not purely a let it go or shake it off sentiment. I don’t forget or look past what he has done and I don’t ignore the negative emotions that arise in me. Yet, in spite of all that, I choose to love Max, over and over and over.
So thank you Max for teaching me that forgiveness (to whatever degree it must be extended) is hard, but worth it, especially when it must be extended over and over. Thank you for teaching me that despite my frustration, I can still choose powerful ways to sustain our trust and love.