Inspiration

Max is an inspiration to me.

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That may be obvious given the fact that this whole blog is filled with lessons, insights, and new ideas I have gained from living with him. Max teaches me and reminds me how best to uphold my values. He helps me see the world differently when I feel stuck. By watching him and encountering life with him, I think of new ways to interact with others and my brain is sparked to find new connections between things.

You could say Max’s inspiration has enlightened my mind.

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And that is not all. Max has also inspired me to live more authentically and courageously. In all the tough and happy times I have gone through, Max has been fully present with me. His joy, openness, and hospitality have nurtured me. And I have felt the warmth of the inspiration he has offered through his enduring commitment to me.

Max has truly touched my heart and helped fan the flame of compassionate living.

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But, as much as I love Max, the point of this post is not to be overly sappy. I hope to share what he has taught me about inspiration itself, which goes even beyond head and heart.

At the root of it all, Max is an inspiration in the true sense of the word: he in-spires. He breathes new life into me. This notion of inspiration goes beyond enlightenment or encouragement to include enlivening.

Through his loving companionship and true appreciation for life, Max reminds me of the value of the gift of existence. From his eagerness to explore on walks outside to his contentment laying in a beam of afternoon sunlight, Max rejuvenates my sense of peace and wonder. And through his constant reminder to consider others over self shown in his own selfless acts, Max leads me out to the true source of new life found in giving of myself to others, and thus my soul is refreshed.

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I am wary of over-exaggerating Max’s influence on my life – I mean, he does eat his own poop on occasion – but I am confident in my assessment, because Max has taught me that inspiration does not just come from grand, exalted places. In addition to inspiring me directly, Max has taught me that inspiration can come from everyday things like the way plants and insects grow and live together in a garden, or a moment of stillness in the middle of a chaotic week, or a smile or kind word from a stranger.

All of these and many other ordinary things are sources of great insight, encouragement, and new life. Max has taught me to be more and more aware of all that inspiration around me and to breathe it in deeply.

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And he has taught me that the fullness of my life is connected to all others around me. Hopefully when I am inspired by Max or anything else, I can then breathe that fullness of life back out into other places that may need a little more inspiration.

So thank you Max for teaching me that inspiration impacts the mind, heart, and soul. And thank you for offering me that fullness of inspiration.

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Dig It

Max is a pretty weird dog in that he doesn’t like swimming in water, won’t play fetch, prefers human attention over other dogs, and does not dig in the yard. At least (for that last one) until recently.

Last month, Max started digging little holes in the backyard. It came out of nowhere and I honestly thought he didn’t even know how to dig or that digging is a thing dogs tend to do.

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It really took me by surprise, and then I got mad and told him to stop. Since then, I have not seen any new holes, but that also could be because the weather is ridiculously hot now and Max does not want to be outside any more than he has to be.

Still, Max’s short foray into digging has made me really consider how well I do or do not know him. I don’t question that we have a bond and I recognize that I can typically predict his behavior, just as I am sure he can predict mine. But Max taught me that there is still some mystery hiding just below his surface.

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And often that mystery is frustrating, because I really want to know what’s going on with him (both in a good, helpful way and a not-so-good, prying, unnecessarily curious way). I too am tempted to dig. I want to find some way to uncover Max’s motivations and know without any shadow of doubt what makes him feel and behave the way he does.

I recognize my fear of uncertainty in that desire. Maybe it comes from wanting to control things or maybe it comes from discomfort with change, especially sudden unexplained change. Regardless, it is a gut reaction through which I seek to uncover something that is not really my business, or even worse it is a reaction through which I seek to impose my own desire on the matter.

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Then I remember scolding Max for digging and wonder if I should heed that advice myself. Max may confuse, frustrate, or even baffle me sometimes, but in doing so he reminds me that relationships are not equations to be solved or experiments to be dissected or forces to be controlled. Rather, Max has taught me that relationships are mysteries to be appreciated and explored.

To be sure, I am all about honesty and authenticity in even the most superficial of relationships, and Max consistently teaches me how to be and express myself openly and fully. He reminds me not to conceal or deceive by being transparently present in all he does. But it this moment of digging, he also taught me that I can’t claw my way into understanding someone completely. There are certainly layers to people which can be wonderful to uncover and explore, but a frantic disturbance only leaves fatigue and a dirty mess.

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Maybe that exploration is less like digging for information or certainty, and more like appreciating the deeper and deeper layers of connection we can share and develop as we live life together.

Maybe that exploration is less like exerting my control or insecurity on another, and more like embracing the reality that we are not simplistic and can consistently expand the ways we value one another.

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In that sense, I certainly dig Max and the many other important people in my life. I may not completely understand everyone or the things they do, but I dig the mysterious fullness of who we all are, and the way we can learn more and more about one another every day, even without unnecessarily digging into things.

So, thank you Max for teaching me the real value of exploring and appreciating the complex nature of our relationships with others. Please don’t dig any more holes in the yard, and know that I dig you even when I don’t understand you.

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.