Max is a Dog

Yes, Max is a dog. He may try to fool me sometimes by acting like a model, but he is definitely a dog.

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This week included national dog day and I got to celebrate Max’s species with many other people by posting and looking through dog pictures online. Maybe not the celebration Max would most prefer, since it didn’t involve any food and he doesn’t understand pictures or the internet, but it gave me a reason to think about Max and why he matters so much to me…

Then he came up and slobbered all over me, because he is a dog. He made some weird noises while licking himself and pestered me until I took him outside to walk, because he is a dog.

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On the walk he tried to sniff everything and pee on most things, because he is a dog. When he saw a rabbit, he forgot everything (including the leash around his neck attached to my arm) and sprinted after it, because he is a dog.

Then he ate something nasty he found on the ground while I wasn’t paying attention, because he is a dog.

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Sometimes it is hard to understand Max’s behavior (and I don’t even have to deal with the bad puppy stuff). I find myself thinking, “Why won’t you just learn not to eat that gross stuff you find outside,” or “Can’t you see I’m tired and don’t want to play,” or “Do you really have to shred that toy and leave all the scraps all over the floor?” I too often try to treat Max like a person and expect him to live just like me.

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Then Max reminds me that he is a dog. He does dog things, which make no sense to me as a human. But I shouldn’t get overly upset about it nor try to change him and make him act like not a dog.

Rather, I should appreciate his doggyness, even when it is hard. It is easy to appreciate his joyful presence, loyal companionship, friendly demeanor, and contagious fun-loving spirit. But his doggyness extends beyond just those positive qualities and I am to love and accept him in all his weird doggy ways, just as I am to love and accept other people in all their weird peopley ways.

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Max innocently expresses himself according to his biological makeup. And it is a complex mixture of all sorts of weird stuff. But that is what makes him interesting and unique and a being worth posting pictures of online. Sometimes it is tough, but embracing him as a big, hairy, bundle of energy is really the only way to embrace him and honor him as the dog he is.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/bcvideo/1.0/iframe/embed.html?videoId=100000003386942&playerType=embed

(apparently I can’t embed this video, but it is still well worth watching)

So, thank you Max for teaching me that we all are complex, complicated beings. And thank you for helping me understand how to love you as the dog you are: smelly, slobbery, curious, energetic, and sometimes downright gross.

Too Cool For School

Over the past couple years, Max has been a pioneer of summer style. He has pushed the fashion limits to previously unknown horizons and has ushered in a new era of class. As summer break draws to a close this week and school is about to begin, I present to you Max’s exclusive guide for how to look too cool for school.

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Pharrell is not the only leader in pup-rock hat fashion. Grab a rockin’ hat to convey your chill, stylish mood.

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This provoking piece of fashion reexamines what it means to be leashed to our responsibilities. Are you really free to bark up any tree you want? Free to try these new styles? What’s holding you back? Are you the master of your own leash?

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It’s been doggone hot this summer, but no need to cool down unstylishly. Just cover yourself with mud, you’ll look pawsitively beautiful!

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Don’t want to get muddy? Not worried about modesty? You can also keep cool by going minimalist and showing your beautifur body just how it is.

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It’ll be ruff going without some cool footwear. Max stomps out fashion furpaws with his hip socks and sandals.

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And as we all get back to school or to whatever hairy business we find ourselves in, there’s no reason to be un-pup-fessional. Tie up your worries with a subtle, classy expression of yourself.

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So, from ear to paw, Max has you covered for all your back to school style needs. Try one! Try them all! And retrieve envious stares and glowing compliments from all your friends!

Change

Max and I just moved to a new apartment. It has been a stressful process, but also an exciting one. And I learned that in many ways, Max does not deal well with change.

Max’s uneasiness was amplified because the moving process drug out over a couple of weeks. I slowly packed things up until there was one tiny maze through my apartment to get anywhere. Max could tell something was going on but he didn’t know what.

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I could see the anticipation turn quickly into anxiety as Max continued to live in an unresolved state. He did not know what was happening and was not getting any answers.

Max taught me that my own stress was centered in trying to live in that unresolved state. I wanted to move and get everything situated so that I could get on with things, but since my life couldn’t pause for that transition, I had to plow ahead bit by bit and deal with the piles of boxes.

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Max’s uncertainty persisted even when we finally made the move over. When I came back home from work the first day in the new place, he stuck to me like glue for most of the evening. The poor guy just couldn’t figure it all out and was trapped in a state of uncertainty and unfamiliarity.

But eventually he calmed down and he taught me several very important things about dealing with change and uncertainty.

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First, Max taught me that it is normal to feel uncomfortable with change. The stress and worry are natural because even the little changes can make a big impact. However, he also taught me that I need not stay in a perpetual state of stress. Change is exciting and can bring growth when it is encountered in certain ways.

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So, Max also taught me that the best way to move past the stress and worry is to find solace by seeking comfort in a friend. Max depended on my presence much more than normal to assure himself that things were going to be all right.

This lesson struck me because I think I often seek solace in trying to cling to whatever familiarity I had before a change. The times I’ve moved I have looked back from where I came and tried to be comforted by those memories rather than depending on a loved one to help me be more comfortable in the place I am now. But Max has taught me that the best way to deal with change is to face the unfamiliar head on accompanied by a friend on whom you can depend.

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FInally, Max taught me again to look at new opportunities as adventures to be explored. I know I have a heart set on adventure and exploration, as does Max, but we both were a little timid that first day after the move. It is scary going into a new place and being the stranger. But after the first day here, we decided to embrace the unknown with an attitude ready to learn more about it rather than fear it.

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While Max taught me that it is normal to be worried by change, he also taught me how to deal with it in a more hopeful and meaningful way.

So thank you Max for making this move with me and for teaching me how to deal with change. Thank you for being my companion and helping relieve some of my stress. And thank you for already embarking on an exciting new adventure with me.

Wonder

Max seems to have either a really good imagination or he is very easily entertained.

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He does not have many toys, because I’m a mean ole human. In fact, I think most if not all of his toys were given to him as gifts from other people.

But he does like to play with the few toys he has. They come in handy when I am too tired to play with him myself.

Right now he is really into a pink plush bunny that was a new gift this summer. He carries it around and chews on it and rolls around with it all over the place. I often even find it in my bathroom.

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I know that he understands it is not alive, but sometimes he plays with it as if it was. I don’t know if dogs have imaginations, but Max is at least creative enough to find a wealth of entertainment from a simple toy.

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Similarly, we have met several dogs at dog parks who are endlessly excited by balls or water jets. All these dogs are able to tap into some child-like creative playfulness that I often find lacking in my interaction with the world. They are able to experience very ordinary things in quite extraordinary ways.

Max, along with those other dogs, has taught me to look at things in a new light. He has taught me that I can either think of things as ordinary, bland, and boring or I can allow my imagination to take over and see greater possibilities for even the seemingly ordinary, bland, and boring things.

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It is hard to make the shift to imagination and wonder especially when I get into a routine of checking off tasks and making sure I get through my list of responsibilities. But Max has taught me that even in these busy times and mundane activities, I can look for ways that the world around me is beautiful and exciting and filled with wonder. I can pause and look around and try to be more aware of the pink bunnies in my own life.

So thank you Max for teaching me to engage my sense of wonder. Thank you for teaching me to open my mind to the possibilities.

Check Up

Max went to the vet today for his yearly check up. He seemed to be a mix of excited to go somewhere and see new people, but also anxious to be in a fairly unfamiliar place. And then relieved to find a very cool floor in the middle of a very hot day.

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But he had nothing to worry about. Everything looked good and he had even lost 4 lbs since last year. I was a little worried about his ears because last year he had a bad infection, but even those were perfect. He is a healthy dog!

Through this process of check up, Max taught me how important regular care is. The vet is a wonderful thing to have, but the vet’s job is to fix problems (and to a degree prevent them). The more important thing is daily working toward health so that, like this visit, the doctor does not have to fix anything that is wrong.

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This ongoing, daily work is hard and I am not always good at it. Whether it is my car or plants or animals or myself, I often don’t work on things until it is too late. I’ll be honest that this week leading up to the check up, I made sure Max got a little more exercise than normal and that we actually used the ear cleaner we should be using every week.

We live busy lives and it is easy to forget about or put off every little thing we can do to be healthier every day. It is easy to forget how each daily action impacts our lives in subtle, but important ways.

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Max taught me that every little walk, bath, and administering of medicine is important, even if it seems mundane at the time. The check up could have been very different if we neglected some regular healthy activities. And it could have been different if we spent even more time exercising (the doctor still wants him to lose a few more pounds).

These daily actions add up to a lifelong process that not only prevents illness (baring any accidents), but more importantly, makes us better and healthier. We have an option each day to grow one direction or another. The yearly check up is great and helpful, but it cannot propel us toward better forms of living – only daily effort can do that.

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Max taught me that perhaps it is our daily practice of good living that makes the biggest impact on ourselves and others. We could spend a full day or week doing good, healthy things, and it would make a difference. But true change in our lives and world comes from regular attention and the continual work toward something better.

So, thank you Max for living a good, healthy life with me. And thank you for teaching me that every little thing matters as we work daily to become healthier and better creatures.

P.S. Also good, but quite explicit at the end: