Thankful (ver. 2)

I believe that Max is a very thankful dog. While I don’t know all that goes on in his head, it is not hard to tell he is grateful when he comes running up with tail wagging or when he flashes his loving, puppy dog eyes.

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He is definitely thankful for food and walks and attention. And he is thankful for us finally getting out of bed in the morning after he has been whining for an hour.

I think he is thankful that I only dress him up in costume a couple of times a year.

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And in the spirit of the week, I’d like to share a few of the reasons I am thankful for Max.

I am thankful that Max stopped knocking over the trash can and eating out of it this year.

I am thankful that Max reminds me of how much I need to rake leaves by rolling around in them and then dragging them in all over the house.

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I am thankful that Max is remarkably chill. I am reminded of this fact every time we are around other more hyperactive dogs. Max hardly ever barks and never scratches at doors. I am thankful that even though he doesn’t really obey commands to stay or come, he does remember how to act reasonably civilized.

I am thankful that he at least waits an hour before destroying a new toy.

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I am thankful that Max loves people and that he is always eager to meet a new friend.

I am thankful for his “fierce” protection.

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I am thankful that Max enjoys evening walks, even when I don’t let him sniff every little thing.

I am thankful for all the laughs he gives us.

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I am thankful that he provides me so much material to think and write about.

I am thankful that on my really busy days, he reminds me to slow down and appreciate the moment.

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I am thankful that Max is authentically himself, and that he embraces me just as I am.

And, of course, I am thankful for his cute face.

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Max has taught me much about being thankful for the nice, good, fun things in life, but he has also taught me to try to enter all the other parts of life with a spirit of thankfulness.

So, Max, we are thankful for you. Thanks for being you and for being a part of our lives.

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Act Your Age

A little over a week ago, we celebrated Max’s 6th birthday. Happy birthday Max!

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To be honest, I thought it was his 5th birthday, and I would have stuck by that if Erin had not been sure I was wrong. After looking back at his earliest records, I was wrong, he is definitely 6.

It’s hard to believe because for a dog that age is starting to sound a little old. I certainly hope he has much longer to live, but for some reason 5 still sounds closer to puppy age and 6 is definitely in a different category.

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And yet, Max still acts as wild and crazy as he always has. Just yesterday we went out for a walk and when we got to the gate he was so hyper that he started making laps around the backyard. We still wrestle every now and then and he is just as fierce as ever.

I know that it is hard for me to see any changes because I live with him everyday. Any development is so gradual that it is often imperceptible. But also, I just can’t bring myself to call this guy mature…

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I don’t really know what it would look like for a dog to act its age at year 6, but I keep expecting for Max to start mellowing out. In fact, many days I eagerly hope he starts mellowing out so that he doesn’t freak out when we pass other dogs on walks. But in the same breath I am grateful that he is active and healthy and I hope he maintains that liveliness as long as possible.

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Max has taught me that it is really difficult to determine what it means for anyone to act their age. We were walking this week and we passed some people building a house. As we passed, a guy on the roof started doing a hilarious dance. It was a moment of sheer goofiness, but also complete authenticity. I thought, what is that grown man doing dancing like that? Then I laughed and thought, good for him.

Similarly, when I see Max do some of the weird things he does, I wonder what is that dog doing sleeping like that? Factoring in dog years, he’s quite a bit older than me now. But then I laugh and think, good for him.

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Max has revealed a sort of existential question I continue to think about more and more. What does it mean to act my age? I can’t stay out late at wedding receptions as long as I used to, but I also still do a lot of stuff late at night and I like to make goofy videos. I am definitely still very young, but at what point does the switch flip to feeling and acting a different age?

And then Max teaches me that acting my age is ultimately about being authentically me. Acting my age is much less about acting, and much more about being myself. In a way, it is impossible not to act my age, because I am who I am.

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Now, I want to be clear that such authenticity doesn’t mean anything goes. There is certainly maturity that develops over my whole life. And there are societal and moral values that I must continue to uphold. But really, those don’t change just because of age. Respect of others, promotion of justice, and compassionate love are involved in being any age. Authenticity is no pass for gross misconduct toward other people.

And yet, true authenticity is key to acting my age. Max reminds me that I shouldn’t put on a mask trying to present myself differently just because I am older. Acting my age is about continual growth – developing the ways I can live more and more in loving, just relation with all people. But it also means I do that in an authentic way.

So thank you Max for acting your age – being authentically you at all times. I look forward to growing with you year after year and learning more from you as you get older and wiser. I may still laugh at some of the weird things you do, but I also think, good for you for being you.