Max acts like he is a tough dog. And he often is. He takes slips on the stairs or ice and people stepping on his paws or tail like a champ.
But sometimes his toughness is a façade, masking a deeper pain.
Earlier this week, when I was out of the house, Max ate a lot of the sweet goodies people had given me for the holidays. Unfortunately, many of these treats were covered with chocolate. When I came home, Max greeted me as normal and I did not know anything was wrong until I saw the empty plate and shredded wrappings around the kitchen.
I paid close attention to Max over the next hour or so, trying to figure out how sick he was. I could tell he was a little lethargic, but we went on a walk and he behaved mostly normally. Since he had not vomited and did not seem like he was in pain, I decided to wait it out.
But, as he continued to lie around I got more worried. He wasn’t showing symptoms of pain, but I could tell he wasn’t quite a hundred percent either.
As I sat with him, I remembered back to the summer when I found out he had an ear infection. I had no clue that he was in pain until I took him to the vet for a regular check up. Perhaps it was mostly me not knowing what signs to look for, but Max is an expert at not showing pain and generally remains as happy as he can be.
So, with memories of how Max masks his discomfort, I decided to act. After rushing to the store and getting some chemicals, I took him outside and made him throw up a lot of chocolate.
He was clearly better after that purge and by the next day he had regained his normal energy, sort of.
Yet, reflecting on the ordeal made me realize how dangerous it is to hide such pain, in whatever forms it is manifest. And I further realized that Max and I are far too similar on this matter – we are both experts at pushing through things and acting like all is good.
Max taught me that this hiding of pain is harmful. Even if it is meant to ease the worry of others around us, such masking really only prolongs the pain and provides a way not to deal with it.
And Max taught me that it is often in moments of deepest vulnerability that we put up our most resilient masks of independence.
Perhaps the tougher thing to do is to let down the guard and let someone else know what is really going on inside. Perhaps the tougher thing to do is to admit the illusion of independence and be open to the loving care of others. Perhaps the tougher thing to do is open up the wounds so that they can fully heal.
So thank you Max for teaching me that putting on a mask of toughness is neither the tough thing to do, nor the most beneficial. Thank you for teaching me to be more open and vulnerable, willing to depend on others so that we may all grow and heal together.
P.S. Max, I’d sure rather know the next time you need serious help. 🙂