Canine Diem

Max and I have been stuck at home more often than normal this week on account of the ice and snow. And since Max is sadly not very snuggly, we’ve had to find some other activities to occupy our time.

Thankfully, Max loves the snow. He gets so excited to get out and run around on it that he often pulls me slip-sliding along behind him.

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And because there are few other people or cars out, we are usually able to go to an open space where I let him off his leash so that he can really have fun.

In these moments Max demonstrates what it means to make the most of an opportunity. He seizes the moment and has as much fun as he possibly can. He doesn’t get let off leash much because of where we live, so he goes all out when he does get to run free.

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And in doing so, Max has taught me the importance of making the most of any opportunity, even if it is a cold, snowy, wet one. I enjoy the snow too, but it is easy to get bummed about missed opportunities of seeing friends because of things outside of my control. Then there’s Max, frolicking and having a grand time in circumstances that are literally causing a mess, and I am caught up in his joy.

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But I also realize that Max is not just seizing moments when big important things are at stake. These are everyday things of running around and enjoying his life. Granted he doesn’t get off leash much outside, but his joy and dedication to making the most of any situation is consistently evident.

Max has taught me to see each moment as an opportunity to experience life in a joyfully free manner, whether that is running crazily through snow, resting warm at home, or just breathing in the fresh air of any given day. He has taught me to seize the moment – both those big important ones that change my life, but also the little ones that impact me in a more mundane way.

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And he has shown me that in seizing each of these everyday moments I create a life of fullness in which joy and meaning are realized regularly. In sun, snow, busyness, or stillness there is a moment to be seized.

So thank you Max for teaching me to appreciate every moment and to make the most of them. And thank you for teaching me not to wait for the perfect weather or circumstances to look for and create meaning in my life.

Bath Time

Max got a bath yesterday, and it was long overdue. He was very smelly and my hands would get dirty after petting his fur.

Max does not like baths. In fact, he does not like water much at all. He’s just weird that way.

So, it was a struggle to get him in the bath. We’ve done it just enough that he knew it was coming and refused to come into the bathroom. Then, when I came over to him he went limp. I’ll at least give him credit for being smart enough to know how to make the process the most difficult.

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But once I finally carried him into the tub, he gave in and was very compliant. Granted he wanted to be done about halfway through and I had to bar his escape, but he seemed to know there was no use fighting anymore.

In all this Max taught me that it is much easier to let ourselves live with our filth than to find ways to cleanse ourselves from it.

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This filth is a mixture of the things I’ve done wrong and the extensive wrong in the world which effects me everyday. Just as Max’s dirtiness comes from his own decision to roll around in the dirt and from the rain that falls on him or the dirt that is kicked up when he walks, so I experience dirt that is both within and beyond my control.

And sometimes I even go to great lengths to hold onto that filth. I convince myself that that filth is a true part of me and that my life is incomplete without it. Or I think that it is mine to bear – that I brought it into the world and it is my responsibility to take care of it.

But I still know it is filth and that it can be harmful to my own health and others’.

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While Max helped me realize that it is much easier to hold onto this filth than to be cleaned, he also taught me a couple of important things about getting clean.

First, it involves paying attention to friends and people around you who see the filth and destruction and tell you (hopefully lovingly) that you need to do something.

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Next, it involves a letting go. If Max had kept jumping out of the tub, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything – he had to let go and accept that he could be cleaned. He had to turn toward the good and healthy things that would replace the dirty unhealthiness.

He also taught me that baths are needed regularly. I don’t think he or I really want to get dirty, but it happens and therefore we have to let go and turn toward cleanliness again and again.

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Finally, when Max was done with the bath he was full of life and energy. That energy showed me that there is something about shedding the dirtiness that makes me feel more whole and rejuvenated. There is freedom in letting go of the destructive habits, the negative thoughts about self and others, the evil and hate from the world that seeps in and begins to direct thinking and action, the things we are ashamed of that paralyze us against acting in better ways.

So thank you Max for finally giving in to the bath. And thank you for teaching me more about my reluctance to be cleaned and the rejuvenating newness that comes from letting go of the dirt that builds up in my life.

How do you know?

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
How do you know
If your dog loves you?

You pet him and feed him
And take him on walks,
But don’t know what he thinks
Cause he never can talk.

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Does he love you or not?
Does he know that you care
Or just tolerate your presence
With dispassionate stares?

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What brings him true joy?
He sure loves treats and food,
And when rubbing his belly
He knows it feels good.

But does he know why?
Can he understand
The reason behind
Your gratuitous hands?

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How is love shown?
How do you know?
What really lasts?
What really grows?

When you walk in the door
He greets you with glee,
And follows you around
Always right at your knee.

You live and you learn
And adapt to each other-
Day in and day out
You seem more like close brothers.

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Do you know that he cares
And looks after with longing
When you leave everyday
From your place of belonging?

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There’s comfort that’s felt
When you’re in the same room,
And compassion conveyed
When you share joy and gloom.

It’s the littlest things
That pack the most punch,
When through daily shared life
You gain more than a hunch

That the looks and the hugs
And the listening ears prove
A caring, patient presence
Can clarify love.

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You do tell him you love him
And you know that it matters-
These words of a promise
That make doubtful fears scatter-

But the words are just signs
Of what’s felt in between,
Because love can be shared
Without saying a thing.

Sometimes You Just Gotta Have Jelly Legs

Max is wonderful at receiving love. Whenever I start petting him his legs seem to immediately turn to jelly and he collapses so that I can rub his belly and he can enjoy to the full extent my loving attention.

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It is a joy to watch him surrender to that expression of love, fully embrace it, and become overwhelmed by it.

And this response has become very instructive for me. Max has taught me not to be too guarded. He has taught me that when it comes to giving and receiving love, vulnerability is important. Sometimes, we just have to open ourselves up and accept another person’s care.

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Max has taught me the true joy of receiving love in such an open, honest way and that it is a wonderful thing to allow that love to knock me off my feet. It is wonderful to be overwhelmed by that love so that it fills up my heart and soul.

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Max has taught me that in a world where there is hate and strife and loneliness that cuts us down and brings us to our knees that there is still hope of a love that knocks us on our back. He has taught me to be attuned to that love and expect it around every corner.

As I’ve mentioned, I have been overwhelmed by many things, but Max has taught me that at least one of those things can be the powerful, life-embracing force of love.

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Max has taught me that in this life, sometimes you just gotta have jelly legs. Sometimes you just gotta surrender to the people around who give you love. Sometimes you just gotta be vulnerable to those who care and accept their love.

But not always, because sometimes you gotta give that love. Sometimes you gotta overwhelm someone else with love. And I’ve found that when I give that love to Max and he collapses in joy, I can’t help but follow him and feed off that emotion.

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So thank you Max for teaching me to be vulnerable and to accept the love given me. Thank you for teaching me to participate in the overwhelming power of love, either surrendering to it or lavishly giving it out.