Max does not get treats very often, but on Thursday I gave him a Thanksgiving gift that I hoped would be an emblem of my thanks for him. It was a rather big bone.

And by big bone, I mean about 12 inches long. It took Max 2 hours to finish (which is actually slower than his previous records). He scarfs down treats as if they were going to get up and walk away if he lets up for even the briefest of seconds. Max clearly enjoys treats.


Max also enjoys the handful of other people in his life that give him treats, whether that is my friends and family or neighbors whose houses we walk by. There is one neighbor in particular who always gives Max a handful of dog biscuits anytime she sees us come by. Max has even learned to stop and wait outside her house as long as I will let him, hoping she will come out.


I really appreciate her expression of care, but the first time she offered I refused. I was focused on the walk and I do try to limit the amount of treats Max eats. After walking around the block, though, I regretted turning her offer away. I know it disappointed Max, and I figure it disappointed her too.

I didn’t intend for any hurt feelings, but I naturally get into a more serious mode and forget about the value of treats and the small tokens of happiness. And it is not just with Max. I easily get bogged down with news and the weighty concerns of the world any given week. I see such importance in addressing those concerns and I find myself fairly at home in that tragic space, so that I often forget to embrace the fun, sillier side of things.


And then there is Max, munching on a bone in simple delight, and his presence teaches me to embrace the lighter side of things. He even pushes me to be content with more treats than I think are necessary.

So, now, anytime we walk by our neighbor and she offers treats, we stop. I still don’t love how many she gives, but I am thankful for her expression of light-hearted care and I am thankful for a moment of simple happiness.


And I try to remember to give Max treats on various occasions, especially since I know how much they brighten his day. He may devour them in a moment, but he shows me that even if the moment of happiness is fleeting, it is worth experiencing.

I still don’t buy into the whole “treat yourself” model of living, but Max has taught me that simple joys can make a world of difference in someone’s day and that an eager pursuit of those joys is not a bad thing. He has taught me that the weighty concerns of life are worth considering and addressing, but so are the simple pleasures.

So, thank you Max for appreciating the treats in life and teaching me, at least occasionally, to do the same. Thank you for showing me the difference simple joys can make in this world, especially in the lives of those who give and receive them.

What’s Going On Here?

Max is either clueless, curious, creative, or comedic. Whichever is the case, I love him very much, but I often look around the house and find him in some rather strange situations. I look and laugh, then he notices and reflects the joy I express. I never know what is going on in his head in these moments, but appreciate it all the same.

Here are some of my favorites:


How did you even get in that pawsition?!



I guess it’s just a dog-hug-coffee-table kind of world now…



Should he stay or should he go now?



Is he pawndering the art or retrieving some distant memory?



Whatever is going on here, Max certainly chewses his own style and path.



Max, are you comfurtable enough?



Max, are you comfurtable at all?



Max…how is that comfutable?!



I see, I see, you’re a yoga mutt…clever.



Now that is a real downward dog…

Whatever is going on, Max certainly does his own thing. Maybe he is all four – curious, clueless, creative, and comedic, or maybe he’s just a cool, confusing canine. Regardless, I am sure he has also looked over to me at times and wondered, “What is going on with him?” I know I too have my clueless, curious, creative, and comedic moments too, intentional or not. And I’m grateful that Max still sees the best in me anyway.

So thank you Max for being yourself and bringing some (confusing) joy to my life. You do you and I’ll keep wondering.


Either Max is a naturally happy dog, or he has an uncanny ability to smile for the camera. I find his goofy smiles pretty infectious, and I hope you do to.


Of course, Max has the golden standard of smiles.



He’s no rock-weiler, but he charms all the fans with that (s)waggin’ smile.



Sweet dreams are made of…cheese!



But sometimes, his smiles are pawsitively creepy…



Clap along if you feel like a room without a ruff ruff!



Sometimes, his smile is a little too fur-rocious,



But he’s never hesitant to turn that frown upside down.



…mutt as well have a good time!



Must. Max-imize. Smiles.



And at the end of the day, he’s always looking quite fetching.

Thank you Max for your smiles – they brighten my day. I hope you keep smiling and bringing more and more joy to this world, at least until the day we can all smile as authentically as you.

P.S. This also pairs nicely with Jay-Z’s “Smile”, for those who have Tidal or other access to it.

Lovin’ – Doggy Style

It seems like every week I am reminded how crazy and tragic this world is. I continue to look for ways to process what all is going on and learn how better to respond, but I recognize that I still don’t have anything super profound to say in the wake of the turmoil in our world. And sadly Max cannot teach me anything directly about how to respond to deep, systemic inequality and unjust killing. I think if he could understand those realities, he would have something really good to teach.

And yet, during the past couple of weeks I have come across this quote from a monk who lived a very long time ago. Abba Xanthias said, “A dog is better than I am, for he has love and he does not judge.”


I have been struck by how true that statement is and how often Max has taught me that lesson. Max truly loves everyone he comes across no matter what.

Several weeks ago, Max and I spent the weekend with a bunch of new friends, human and canine alike. At this retreat, Max demonstrated how great he is at warmly welcoming people into his life. He went up to everyone, doing his best to share his love and joy. And he’s really good at such behavior because he acts that way with everyone in his life.


Max breaks boundaries between himself and others with a joyous openness. He does not hesitate or discriminate. He has love and does not judge. It takes a lot to be around him and not know that he wants to be a part of your life.


I like to say and think that I love everyone, but I have a long way to go to even reach the level of non-judgmental love that Max demonstrates. I naturally and quickly judge whether someone is worthy of my love and time, unlike Max who freely offers his loving presence to everyone. I often wait until people prove that I should love them, instead of working from the assumption that all people do deserve love no matter what they’ve done, an assumption that Max (if dogs even make assumptions) must surely operate from.

Ultimately, Max goes into every situation looking for ways to give and share love and I am sure that if he had his way, his normal routine would be broken wide open in order to interact with more and more creatures in that way.


Max has taught me that loving non-judgmentally is possible, as long as I work on being more open and receptive to everyone I meet. Moreover, he has taught me that it means going out of my normal routine and seeking out new opportunities to show others love. He has taught me that it means being quick to accept others and long in getting to know them.


I look forward to observing Max over the next several weeks and learning more specifically how he cultivates that disposition of non-judgmental love and how he lives it out in specific ways.

So thank you Max for continually teaching me how to better love all people. And thank you for pushing me to love in the non-judgmental way you do.

Happy Holidays!

I can be a little grinchy sometimes…

But Max continually teaches me to endure the not so pleasant moments and to look for the little joys in life.

He is my guide into opportunities in which my heart can be enlarged and my faithful companion as we journey into a world full of wonder not only during this holiday season, but everyday.


Thank you Max, for teaching me to embrace the unexpected joys in life and in so doing, allow my heart to be full of ever increasing love.

And happy holidays from both of us!!!

Sometimes You Just Gotta Jump in a Lake

This weekend I took Max out to my grandma’s lake cabin. I wondered in many ways how he would act, since I planned on letting him off the leash a lot. He would have all day to run around like he’s always dreamed of doing.

One thing I did not expect was to see him jumping in the actual lake. Yes, he is a Golden Retriever and should jump in water just about any chance he can get, but he’s also a weird dog. I have seen him get in only one other source of water and that was after a long hike on a hot day. Otherwise, he always tries to avoid water. He will not get in the fun water feature areas in dog parks we’ve visited and he walks as far away from yard sprinklers as possible. And, of course, he hates getting wet in the bath.

So, it was to my utter surprise that after briefly sniffing around the yard, he took off straight into the lake. It wasn’t hot and I didn’t lure him in, he just did what I’ve never seen him do before.


And he had the time of his life! He would jump in and come back out to run around, then jump in again at another spot.


He swam pretty far out (and it was good to find out that he does have some impressive swimming stamina for never doing it), and explored all the tall water grass.


And I just stood in amazement as my normally overly cautious dog ran and swam around with unrestrained zest. In that moment he taught me that sometimes you just gotta jump in a lake. You gotta throw caution to the wind and have some fun. You gotta seize those moments that bring new vitality to what you do.

And as I observed (and got splattered with muddy water as he came over to me to shake off), I also learned how infectious such life-affirming activity can be. Even in just watching Max, I felt I was sharing in his unbounded joy. It refreshed my soul to see him having so much fun and being the dog he was created to be.


Max taught me the importance of diving into opportunities that are life giving, whether that is purely having fun, helping serve or being in someone’s life, or a wonderful mix of the two. I am often too hesitant and try to think through how best to engage these opportunities so that I am most efficient. But Max demonstrated that I should jump in and immerse myself in the excitement of life.


Granted, there is also a need for times to chill out on the porch and recuperate. Max had a healthy mix of swimming and lying out in the cool autumn air. Sometimes you gotta relax, but sometimes you just gotta jump in the lake.

So, thank you Max for spending some restful time with me at the lake. Thank you for sharing with me your zest for life and thank you for teaching me about seizing opportunities for rejuvenating joy.

Companion – a hopeful post

It’s been a rough week with too many tragedies on every level – local, national, worldwide.

And again I find it hard not to despair. I find it hard to hold on to any hope that life and peace and joy will win out in the day to day workings of the world.

Then I come home and am greeted by the embodiment of life and peace and joy. Max is with me and comforts me.


He doesn’t say anything to me or do anything for me. He is just present, and that does more for my consolation than anything else.

I tend to prefer to be alone, especially when dealing with difficult things. In fact, it was a little over a year ago when I was especially depressed and sought the solace of solitude. While there was some healing in that solitude, I found it all too easy to be sucked back into the despair that things would never get better, that joy had been defeated.

Then, while crumpled on the ground in my room, Max came barging in. He sat with me. He probably tried to sit on me too, but at least he was near. That’s all he did and somehow it began to break my tight grip on my despair. His presence did not bring me to a joyful state, but it gave me something else to hold onto.


Rather than my own self-loathing and confusion, I was able to take hold of another and to know that he is there with me, no matter what.

Rather than fix my problems (something he clearly couldn’t do, not because he is a dog, but rather because no one could), he gave me hope. He gave me assurance that whatever the situation, there are others who walk beside me, through the pain and into renewal.


I wish I wasn’t reminded of this time in my life so often, but I am ever grateful for Max’s presence at that time. And I am grateful that he taught me this important way hope is manifest in our difficult lives and tragic world.

Max taught me that healing starts with cleaning the dirt out of the wound, not with stitching it up. He taught me that hope is not a realization of fullness of joy, but rather a letting go of despair.

And Max taught me to be with others. In these tragic times my soul will not be easily or quickly repaired, but by encountering the loving presence of others it will be cleansed of the filth that infects it with despondent anguish. My soul is embraced by the presence of communal love and support and thus does not fall to pieces.


Max’s companionship gives me the strength and courage to stand and face the pain and sadness and not be pulled under by it. Max taught me that neither I nor anyone is alone in this.

So thank you Max for being a loving companion, especially in the difficult times in this life. Thank you for showing me that hope is no less than a warm, fuzzy hug.