If you give a dog some food…

If you give a dog some food,
he’s going to ask for more food.

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When you don’t give him the food
he’ll probably search for it himself.

When he can’t find any, he’ll look at you like you’re the worst.

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Then he’ll want to go outside
to see if he can find any
free, discarded food.

When he gets outside
he might notice lots of tasty smells.

So he’ll probably look high and low
for anything that is edible.

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When he’s finished looking for anything to eat…
Wait, he’ll never finish that search.

He’ll keep searching.

He might get carried away and
lose his head trying to find food.

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He may even end up eating some grass!

When he’s done,
he’ll probably want to take a nap.

You won’t have to do anything for him,
the world is his bed.

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He’ll walk around,
crash wherever he can,
and be asleep in no time.

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He’ll probably ask you to rub his belly.

So you’ll rub his belly for a little while,
and he’ll ask you to scratch behind his ears.

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When he sees you’re close to him
he’ll get so excited that he’ll want to get up
and play. He’ll ask for a toy.

He’ll play tug.

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When the game is finished,
he’ll want to run around.

Then he’ll want to go outside
and walk around some more.

Which means he’ll need his leash.

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He’ll go outside and remember
all the yummy smells.

Smelling all the yummy smells
will remind him that he’s hungry.

So, he’ll ask to go back inside.

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And chances are, if he asks to go back inside,
he’s going to want a bowl of food when he gets there.

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The Unknown

A couple of weeks ago, when Max and I were walking through the snow, we came across something new to Max. Two snowmen sat happily right by the sidewalk. Max had no clue what to make of them. First he backed away a little while intently staring at them, then he stood in eager expectation. Eventually, he crept close to them, sniffing in overdrive.

He stood there sniffing the tree branch arm for a while before I started to pull him away. Yet, even as he was being dragged off, I could tell he was still very curious. He had not yet figured out what that new creation was and wanted to investigate more.

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During the rest of our walks that week, Max continued to slow down and stare at the snowmen whenever we passed by. He still did not know what to make of them, but he had a determined, cautious curiosity.

Max has acted the same way before when we walked close by some cows. One day the cows had come right next to the fence and Max could see and probably smell them. New sights and smells captured his attention and he paused, waiting to gain some better understanding of what the thing was.

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So, I began to notice a pattern in how Max approaches the unknown. He slows down, but I don’t think it is because he is scared. Rather, he gives it solemn attention and tries to glean as much as he can about that unknown thing. Then he slowly approaches, cautiously finding out more and more about it.

This approach is quite different from what is often my reaction. Granted the unknowns I face are a little different from snowmen and cows. The unknowns in my life are far more often the next step in the future of my career or personal life, the uncertainty of whether something I’ve planned will succeed, or a new development that I haven’t had to work through before.

I am the opposite of reckless, so sometimes when I am faced with these unknowns I freeze. Not Max’s attentive pause in which he tries to figure out the situation, but a full on freeze where I either try to ignore the new thing or become immediately overwhelmed with not knowing where to begin.

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Whenever I finally get unfrozen, I don’t approach the unknown until I have it all figured out. I don’t have Max’s courage to ease into it, and since I can’t figure it all out if I don’t approach, I sometimes stay stuck.

Whereas Max stays calm and approaches with a healthy curiosity, I sometimes get anxious and treat the unknown as some opposing force or task to be conquered or overcome. Rather than treating it as an opportunity for me to grow and learn, I treat it as a test of my worth or an obstacle to full living.

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But Max has taught me to approach the unknown things in my life in a healthier way. He has shown me the value of treating these situations cautiously, but also eagerly. He has taught me to embrace the unknown as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than become anxious and fearful.

Max has taught me that even when I have no clue what to make of something, I should neither run away from it nor be overwhelmed by it. Rather, I should take the little steps necessary for getting to know it so that I may enhance my understanding by embracing another part of this complex, interesting, sometimes weird, sometimes cool, sometimes hard, sometimes awe-inspiring life.

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So thank you Max for teaching me how better to approach the unknowns in my life. Thank you for your cautious courage and eager curiosity that inspire and challenge me.

Sometimes you just gotta sit and stare (version 2)

Often, Max just sits and stares.

I’ve noticed it more lately because we have both been stuck at home more often with all the snow and ice.

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The first version of this observation had to do with a response to the overwhelming amount of tragic events occurring in the world. That is unfortunately still very true, but I see another element to Max’s sitting and staring now.

When I join Max, I find the practice to be quite peaceful and healing. When we sit and stare we let our minds wander and rest, something that happens far too infrequently in my busy life.

I am often coming and going rapidly for work or personal matters and it never seems to stop. There is never a reprieve or a perfect time to get away from it all.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my job and I like to be busy, and I even get restless very very easily. But staying on the move is tiresome especially when event bleeds into event and there is no time for a breather in between.

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Then, the snow and ice fell and I was stuck in the apartment for several days the past two weeks. I still had plenty to do, but I also had a little more time to observe Max and see the benefits of a life at rest.

And I joined him in his sitting and staring and let my mind relax. In fact, I’ve been able to intentionally set some time aside everyday to push aside responsibilities and duties and just sit and stare and be.

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Max has taught me that sometimes I just have to sit and stare. Sometimes my mind needs a break. Sometimes my mind needs the freedom to explore things in new ways. And most of the time that does not naturally happen.

Max has taught me that I need to allow myself the time to wander through thoughts and experience the peacefulness of the moment.

Sometimes I have to buckle down and get things done, but that is surprisingly much easier than taking time to sit and not worry about things. Sometimes I need to sit back and know that things will be ok and that I am not defined by all the things I get done.

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And sometimes I need just to be present, resting with my friend.

So thank you Max for sitting and staring with me. Thank you for teaching me the importance of resting my mind and wandering through peacefulness.