Max and I like to wrestle every now and then. He’s a wily opponent, and although I always win, he’s got a couple tricks up his sleeve and sometimes surprises me.
When we were wrestling more frequently I realized that he is a quick learner. Because I am a human, I wrestle very differently than a dog would. I don’t use my mouth or teeth much and I rely on my arms and hands a lot more. And as time went on, I began noticing that Max used his legs and paws more often. He would try to pin my arms or body with his legs and would sometimes even act like he was swatting at me.
Sure, I’m probably romanticizing what Max was doing in thinking he was learning a human style of wrestling, but I do think to some degree he was imitating me.
Because he also seems to imitate me in several other ways.
Max, like any dog (or really any being with whom someone is in close contact), is a keen observer. He knows when it is time to go outside or to eat. He knows when I am getting ready for bed. In these patterns, Max imitates my rhythm of life.
Max imitates my excitement and curiosity, whether on walks or in the apartment. He imitates my cautiousness in some new situations. I even think Max imitates my friendliness when around other people. (Though he does not imitate my timidity in most social interactions).
Maybe this is just Max being sympathetic in the way dogs are, but through it, he has taught me that the way I live is noticeable. To some degree, the other people in my life, especially younger people, are picking up on how I act, and in some cases imitating me.
If Max is reflecting even a small part of what I do, then others, who actually understand what I am doing, are likely to reflect even more. Thus, Max has taught me that what I say and do impact far more than just myself or even him. And my bad habits are just as noticeable as my good habits.
And he has also taught me that I am most likely imitating several other people. Though the development of this imitation can often be unconscious, Max has taught me to examine my actions more closely in order to find out where they are coming from and to make sure that what I am imitating is actually worthwhile.
But ultimately, Max has taught me to be more aware of the example I set, because my crafty opponent might copy my super secret wrestling moves.
So thank you Max for teaching me that any part of my life can be observed and imitated. Thank you for teaching me to be more mindful of my example. And thank you for letting me win our wrestling matches.