Teach a Young Dog Old, Good Tricks

Max is not an old dog. And I am not trying to teach him any new tricks right now (though I bet he could handle a few when he’s five or ten years older). But at the start of this new year, Max has taught me that a young dog can relearn good, previously known habits.

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For Max, this has meant re-learning little things I have let slip over the past couple of years. For instance, Max knows how to stay right beside me and not roam aimlessly as we walk around the neighborhood. Though I’ve never been good at enforcing that skill, I realized it might be a good idea when he almost walked right in front of a bicycler on a shared trail the other day. So now, Max is relearning the habit of walking right by my side – and he’s actually doing a very good job of it (most of the time)!

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In this process, Max has taught me that I don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel every year in trying to learn and do new things. I certainly enjoy learning new tricks and developing new habits, and often find value in that process. But sometimes, I just need to revisit old, good habits that I have let fall by the wayside.

Max has taught me that it is easy to let little things slip. It is easy to keep sacrificing that time of rest and rejuvenation until I don’t even remember it being a part of my day or week. It is easy to lose touch with old friends after forgetting to communicate for several months. It is easy to stop exercising during a busy season and then find out that the busy season is all seasons. It is easy to forget to be thankful for the little things and to take relationships for granted.

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And Max has taught me that it is not always easy to pick back up old, good habits. In some cases it takes just as long to relearn them as it does to learn a new habit. Max has taught me that it takes consistency and intentionality. Every time we go out now, I have to be focused on re-teaching him to walk in the right way.

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Nevertheless, Max has taught me that it is worthwhile for me to reexamine my life and see what good habits have been neglected. He has taught me that instead of piling on a bunch of new resolutions, maybe I should try to really ingrain those good habits that were forsaken. Sure there are also current habits I should lose and new habits worth learning, but for at least a little while I can focus on digging back up those treasures I lost along the way.

So, thank you Max, for teaching me that though it may take a lot of time and effort, it can be powerful and meaningful to reexamine my life and recapture some of my old, good habits. And thank you for working hard to reinstate some of your good behavior.

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