Max has started being more insistent about eating at a certain time of the day. It’s like he knows it is the time for his food and has to let us all know too. He’s always done something like that, but for some reason it seems more pronounced now. I guess we got in a steady enough pattern of feeding that he is confident he knows when it needs to happen.


Max has a lot of patterns of life – eating, walking, sleeping. And taking care of him is another one put upon my life. It’s a good pattern, and one I am happy to incorporate, but still an additional rhythm to weave in.

Max has me thinking about patterns a lot more right now.


I recognize that I got out of the habit of blogging about Max the past month or so. It was completely unintentional. In fact, I think I just got out of the practice of attending to any lessons Max might be teaching me. I didn’t forget about him or anything, I just got out of the pattern of considering those great truths he was trying to impart.

Max taught me that it is easy to get out of life patterns, as good or helpful or fun as they may be. It is easy to let the busyness of life wash out any rhythms that are not necessary. And sometimes a lot goes missing when those patterns fade away.

Max and I used to walk every morning. It was tough to wake up and go out when it was cold or rainy, but we did it, every day. And it was actually a really good start to the day. It was refreshing and my body appreciated the movement. Many things contributed to the interruption of that pattern, but regardless I see how easy it is to get out of even good practices.


But Max has also taught me that sometimes the pattern needs interrupting.

I didn’t train Max as a puppy or have to go through all the bad stuff that come with that part of dog life. But I still have had to encourage him out of bad habits like jumping on people who visit because he is so excited, lunging and barking at other dogs on walks, slowly creeping into the kitchen while cooking so he can snag whatever falls (we are still working on that one).


Max has taught me that there are many troubling patterns and those need to be dealt with.

Part of my absence here has been the overwhelming distraction of terrible patterns that keep emerging in our world: patterns of hate and discrimination, patterns of violence and lack of real concern, patterns of blame and shame. These are patterns of school shootings, racism and sexism, demeaning and hating immigrants and those who identify as LGBTQ. The intensity and devastation of these patterns makes me think anything I say here is superfluous. They have the tendency to overwhelm and silence me.

But Max has taught me that I must break my tendency toward retreat and silence and apathy in order to seek to break the patterns of hate that are still woven into the world around me. He has taught me that any bad habit or behavior has to be called out directly and unwaveringly.

And Max has taught me that it can’t stop there. I also have to work long and hard to establish good patterns in their place. The good rhythms have to follow right along behind in order to make a real change. He has shown me that it takes a long time to consistently develop good behavior to replace what has been chaotic or erratic. And those better practices of love and welcome and acceptance have to start with me.


It is not quick or easy work to recover past good habits or to change current bad ones, but when patterns have such a big impact on life, there is no choice but to attend to and deal with them so that my life might bend toward a new and better order of things.

Thank you Max, for making me more aware of the patterns in my life – those that are missing and those that need to be changed. And thank you for giving me at least a little hope that the patterns of my life might make a difference.

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.


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)!


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.


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.


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.