Max likes to sniff the butts of other dogs. And I’m going to go ahead and embrace my inner 5-year-old and give that a good chuckle.
Sniffing butts is one of those classic things all dogs do. And I’ve always assumed there is a good, scientific reason they do it, though I’ve never taken the time to research it. Instead, I’ve just been content snickering whenever I see Max or any other dog sniffing each others’ butts.
It’s funny to me because it seems like such a weird, disgusting thing to do. It is very much outside what I would consider proper behavior. And yet, even in this bizarre practice, Max has been teaching me something significant.
When Max sniffs butts, he finds a way to value even the stinkiest, crappiest parts of other beings. And Max has taught me that I too can value people in that way, even if I am not literally sniffing butts.
Max has taught me that everyone has crappy parts of their lives, but also that everyone is worthy of getting to know beyond that crap. He has taught me not to turn my face away at the first sign of stink, but rather to push through it and show others that they are loved and accepted even with those stinky parts.
Moreover, Max does not sniff butts in order to judge. He does not search out the stink so that he can hold it against someone or point out how crappy that being has been. Rather, he understands very well that everyone has smelly parts (himself included) and that even those smelly parts can be valued.
Max has taught me to love and accept others not in spite of their stinkyness, but rather including it. This in not an easy thing to do, though. Those crappy parts of people are often very offensive. The terrible things we’ve thought or done cling to us in a way that can too easily define who we are. And it is easy to forget that the whole person is much more than that one crappy smell.
While Max sniffs butts, he does not stop there. He knows there is much more to the other being than the smelly parts. After sniffing the butt, Max moves around the other dog and recognizes the fullness of that being. He does not get caught up on one part.
Now, that does not mean that Max likes every dog. There are many times he decides he does not want to be around a certain dog. But he has taught me not to jump to judgment just because of one smelly thing I perceive on another. Rather, he has taught me to get to know and value the whole person and then decide how to interact or not.
And yet, it is hard to find a way to value the person without condoning any hatefulness that can easily arise out of the stink. But Max has taught me that often stinkyness is the result of a lot of crappy stuff that has happened to someone else, not necessarily the hateful, crappy actions of the person. And whatever the case may be, I will only know how better to relate to the person after valuing them and getting to know them for who they really are.
Finding value in crappy aspects of others is also hard because it makes me more aware of my own stinky parts. And it means that I have to find a way to value and accept myself not in spite of those things, but including them. And I have to trust that other people will smell more than just that stink on me.
So, thank you Max for loving and accepting me, even with my own stinkyness. And thank you for teaching me how to better encounter other peoples’ stinkyness in a way that values them for the full person they are. I may still snicker every time you sniff a butt, but I will also be encouraged and inspired to do that hard work in my own life.