Adventures

Lately, Max has been very eager to go on new adventures. I have to be careful when opening the back door, because he has developed a habit of sneaking out past me, sprinting to the car, and then sitting behind the car expecting to go somewhere with me.

Even when I am on my way somewhere else, he will persistently sit behind the car so that I cannot get out of the driveway. He seems committed to keeping me home or going with me. (It’s cute until he lays down and literally has to be dragged back in the house…)

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While Max has always liked going new places, he has not always like the car. It still takes me by surprise when he is ready to jump in the back even before I open the door. Moreover, many of the trips he actually gets to take are not that rewarding, often ending either at the vet or with a bath.

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And yet last week Max got a true adventure. We loaded up and went out to a fun 3k walk with dogs and humans on the other side of town. Max was thrilled to step out of the car onto new ground, to walk across sidewalks with new smells, and to gaze out at the city from a new angle.

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The adventure was hot and an unnecessary hassle, but Max taught me how exciting and important it is to get out of our little corner of the world and experience something new. Where we live now, it is easy to walk just about anywhere we need to go. Such proximity is wonderful and I love the sense of groundedness I feel being so physically close to the neighborhood. But the major downside to this arrangement is that we can get more secluded from all that is going on just a couple miles away.

And so Max has taught me to wait eagerly for opportunities and to take the initiative to experience a different corner of the world. Even when it is not convenient, Max has taught me the value of interacting with people I normally wouldn’t in a neighborhood I sometimes forget is close by.

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Max has reminded me of the importance of stretching out to new neighborhoods with an attitude of openness and excitement to learn something new from them. It is easy to get into a trap of only going to new places in order to find a quick spectacle to cherish. And yet, I don’t think that is what Max is doing. Max gets excited about such adventures because of the natural beauty of diversity. He has taught me to go into these adventures intentionally breathing in the fullness of the place and allowing it to impact me for the better. It’s a skill to develop, but one we are starting to practice more.

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Max has taught me the value of breaking routine and breaking through unintentional boundaries to get a fresh perspective on myself and the world around me. He has taught me that while the fenced-in backyard is safe and provides its own sense of value, it doesn’t fulfill that part of us that needs connection with other places and people.

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And ultimately Max has taught me that such new adventures require running out the door with hopeful excitement, interrupting the normal flow of my life, and being open to taking in all the new things I can learn from being in a new place.

So, thank you Max for being so eager to go on new adventures. Thank you for pulling me out of the routine of my life and teaching me to be open to all the new experiences around us. I hope that our adventures allow us to authentically grow and connect with the world and with one another, and that there is no shortage of them.

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Change

Max and I just moved to a new apartment. It has been a stressful process, but also an exciting one. And I learned that in many ways, Max does not deal well with change.

Max’s uneasiness was amplified because the moving process drug out over a couple of weeks. I slowly packed things up until there was one tiny maze through my apartment to get anywhere. Max could tell something was going on but he didn’t know what.

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I could see the anticipation turn quickly into anxiety as Max continued to live in an unresolved state. He did not know what was happening and was not getting any answers.

Max taught me that my own stress was centered in trying to live in that unresolved state. I wanted to move and get everything situated so that I could get on with things, but since my life couldn’t pause for that transition, I had to plow ahead bit by bit and deal with the piles of boxes.

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Max’s uncertainty persisted even when we finally made the move over. When I came back home from work the first day in the new place, he stuck to me like glue for most of the evening. The poor guy just couldn’t figure it all out and was trapped in a state of uncertainty and unfamiliarity.

But eventually he calmed down and he taught me several very important things about dealing with change and uncertainty.

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First, Max taught me that it is normal to feel uncomfortable with change. The stress and worry are natural because even the little changes can make a big impact. However, he also taught me that I need not stay in a perpetual state of stress. Change is exciting and can bring growth when it is encountered in certain ways.

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So, Max also taught me that the best way to move past the stress and worry is to find solace by seeking comfort in a friend. Max depended on my presence much more than normal to assure himself that things were going to be all right.

This lesson struck me because I think I often seek solace in trying to cling to whatever familiarity I had before a change. The times I’ve moved I have looked back from where I came and tried to be comforted by those memories rather than depending on a loved one to help me be more comfortable in the place I am now. But Max has taught me that the best way to deal with change is to face the unfamiliar head on accompanied by a friend on whom you can depend.

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FInally, Max taught me again to look at new opportunities as adventures to be explored. I know I have a heart set on adventure and exploration, as does Max, but we both were a little timid that first day after the move. It is scary going into a new place and being the stranger. But after the first day here, we decided to embrace the unknown with an attitude ready to learn more about it rather than fear it.

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While Max taught me that it is normal to be worried by change, he also taught me how to deal with it in a more hopeful and meaningful way.

So thank you Max for making this move with me and for teaching me how to deal with change. Thank you for being my companion and helping relieve some of my stress. And thank you for already embarking on an exciting new adventure with me.

Dreaming Big

Max really wants to chase rabbits.

And there are so many rabbits out this year that we usually see two or three a day. They seem to be getting bolder too, because they are not hopping away as quickly and are venturing closer to roads and sidewalks.

No rabbits in here?

No rabbits in here?

As we walk by, Max becomes very alert then dashes toward the rabbit. Sometimes he even hops around straining against the leash trying to pull me on his hunt.

While I have occasionally run along with him, I have never let him freely chase them (you’re welcome rabbits). I honestly don’t even know what he would do if he got one, and I doubt he would know either.

Either way, his desire to chase and/or catch the rabbits will remain a dream, an ever out-of-reach goal.

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But Max does not give up on that goal, however many times he fails.

And he has taught me that it is worthwhile to maintain those lofty dreams. He has shown me that it makes no sense to give up on such a goal – he may actually attain it someday, and it doesn’t hurt him to keep trying, even if he fails.

Moreover, he has shown me that the goal is important (whether or not he attains it) because it provides much needed excitement, newness, and challenge to his daily routine. He can too easily fulfill his goal of peeing on every bush he passes (at least until I get fed up with his moseying around). While this minor goal does make him excited every time, he also needs bigger dreams that inspire him to journey to new places in new ways.

I reckon his dreams of chasing rabbits are sometimes even very literal. His sleep is often interrupted by muffled yips and twitching legs that I imagine are signs of him living out that excitement of the chase in whatever version of doggy dream imagination his brain can handle.

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But I think the most important lesson I have learned from Max’s big dream is that he does not let it distract him from making the most of his daily activities. Yes, he would love to chase some rabbits and he jumps at any opportunity that passes. But when I pull him back to the normal path with boring, static bushes and grass, he maintains a healthy level of attentiveness and interest in the plain walk itself.

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He does not despair for not getting to chase the rabbits, but he also does not despair that his whole life is not a rabbit chase. He maintains his big dream without trying to escape into endless sleep in pursuit of it.

So, thank you Max for teaching me to stay steadfast in my big dreams, even when I may never achieve them. Thank you for teaching me to find a way for those dreams to bring excitement to my daily walk. And thank you for teaching me not to become overly absorbed in that dream so as to miss the beauty of the rest of the ordinary journey.

Routine

Max and I have a pretty established daily routine at this point.  Everyday is a similar rhythm of walking, feeding, playing, walking, feeding, playing…

And yet, Max seems to be endlessly excited about it. It is as if each time we are discovering or experiencing something truly new. Maybe he absolutely loves the routine or maybe he is able to look past the structure of the day and discover something new within the activities.

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I, on the other hand, often get bogged down by routine. Whether it is the routine of living with Max (which does take out a lot of spontaneity from my life since I have to come back and take care of him at certain times of the day) or the routine of work, it seems my life is smothered by endlessly repeating cycles of activities.

Granted, my work is often not routine, and even this week has been refreshingly chaotic, but through most of the year it tends to settle into a structured progression of tasks. While this is often for the best since I have to plan regularly scheduled weekly events and the routine of tasks throughout the week allows me to plan efficiently, it can begin to feel rather mundane.

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But I am still struck by how Max, who has an even stricter routine than my own, can not only refrain from being bored in it, but can even find joy.

Max has taught me that even in going to similar places at similar times to do similar things for similar reasons every day, he can still experience an exciting newness.

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And I think it is because Max is attuned to the details of dirt where exciting little things happen behind a thin veil of brown, boring mundaneness.

Max takes the time to really explore the nuances of his surroundings no matter how routinely he experiences them. And so Max is immersed in the exciting newness of the world – a newness that breaks into all structures.

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Max walks the same paths each day but seeks new ways to walk them, new smells to smell, new sights to see. He eats the same food everyday but, through what I believe is a high level of gratitude, encounters it with renewed appreciation and a joy for the life and satisfaction it brings him. And he plays in the same place with the same person each day, but finds new adventure in those moments and new ways to share and experience love.

So thank you Max for teaching me how to find newness in routine. Thank you for teaching me to be attuned to the details of dirt so that I might begin to transform my perception of the mundane to discover the exciting little bits of newness all around me.

Inviting

Max is always excited and ready for whatever comes next. He bolts down and up the stairs, eagerly anticipating going out or coming in – especially if he perceives we are going to do something special, like go for a ride in the car or eat dinner.

But lately I have noticed something else he consistently does when rushing to the next exciting thing. He stops and looks back at me.  I notice this most as we come back in from a walk. He runs up the stairs but then almost always stops on the last step and looks back, making sure I am coming along too.

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Even if it only lasts a split second

Even if it only lasts a split second

I interpret this action to mean that he really wants to share with me whatever experience is awaiting us at the top of the stairs.  I guess it could also be that he realizes he cannot get his own food, but I like to think he’s just being a good friend.

I know dogs are social by nature, so this is not unique to Max, but I have still learned a significant lesson from Max’s behavior.  Max has taught me to turn around and invite others to join me.

I enjoy doing things alone, and being in large social settings exhausts me. But with Max’s reminder I see the value in community, the value in inviting others to join me in fun adventures or meaningful work.

Such an inviting attitude makes the activity much more enjoyable and meaningful by means of creating new memories that many can share. But it also changes me for the better. It makes me more welcoming and caring, more attentive to others around me.  It breaks me out of self-absorption and attunes my eyes and heart to the others with whom I share my life.

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Yes, there are times when I need to go lay out on the balcony alone, but when an opportunity arises to invite other along in my life, Max has taught me that I need not pass that by.

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Not only does Max exhibit an attitude of excitement, but he also proves that such excitement is heightened when others are invited along.  He is not merely ready for whatever comes next, he is ready for others to join him in whatever comes next.

So thank you Max, for inviting me to join you in your life’s adventure. And thank you for teaching me to cultivate an inviting attitude and welcoming presence in my own life.