Why We Can’t Have Nice Things (ver. 2)

Back at Christmas, Max got a new lightsaber toy. Although he was very excited about it, he clearly did not know how to use it. You’re going to cut your tongue out if you don’t hold it by the handle, you crazy dog!


Well, either he did not know how to use it, or he has some impressive, impenetrable force chew skills that he was showing off.

He continued not to know how to actually use the toy, forcing me to take it from him and show him the right way to hold it. I did this over and over again and even when he would get it right for a little bit, it did not last long.


I soon realized that not only did he not understand how to properly use this toy as an entertaining prop, but also he had a much more sinister ploy in mind.

Max became completely consumed by the dark side. Maybe he was already far gone, but he demonstrated his sith tendencies as he began to shred the amazing toy. At first I tried to stop the destruction, but as it went on day after day, I resigned myself to sadness. I convinced myself that Max would never have the patience to learn a choreographed lightsaber fight with me, but also that he did not really appreciate the toy as he should.


The unraveling started out fairly slow, and then it eventually went beyond hope.


And yet, while I mourned the loss of this cool toy, Max taught me something important about having such “nice things.”

Max taught me that while I may have really good, cool ideas about how something should go – like a lightsaber toting dog, I by no means have the only good idea. In fact, my idea may completely miss the mark. Whereas I wanted the lightsaber to be a funny, entertaining prop, Max realized it for what it really is – a dog toy. And Max used this dog toy as he saw fit.


Max taught me that sometimes I need to let go of my ideas so that things can happen the way they should. If I had insisted on the lightsaber being a pristine prop, Max would not have enjoyed it nearly as much and it would have failed as a dog toy (though, I also wouldn’t have to pick up as many little blue strings every week). He taught me that maybe a dog knows how to use a dog toy better than a human does.

And he’s taught me to be more aware of this concept in other areas of my life. I so often want to step in and make things go a certain way in work and other parts of life. And sometimes that is my role or responsibility. But sometimes I’m just trying to make nice things out of dog toys. Sometimes I am exerting undue influence on something completely outside of my expertise or interest (aka white male syndrome).


Max is a dog who knows best how to enjoy his own toys, and life is better when I celebrate that instead of trying to continually force him to adhere to certain expectations. Max taught me that maybe we can’t have nice things, but maybe we can have more trust and freedom and joy.

So thank you Max for teaching me that sometimes we can’t have nice things, and maybe that’s ok. Thank you for teaching me that my way and understanding of things is not the only way and is often not the best. And of course, may the force be with you, even on the fifth!


Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

After apologizing to Max last week for forgetting his birthday, I finally gave him a new toy that I had been saving. It was a plush penguin (and I use the past tense very intentionally).


Needless to say, he enjoyed it immensely. And in the first couple hours he had already torn off the nose and was pulling the stuffing out of the head. The toy wasn’t even stuffed all the way through – just in the head. But somehow he found the one way to make the biggest mess with that toy possible.

This tends to be the way he treats all his toys. Even tug toys that seem very sturdy come apart much more quickly than I’d expect. Max takes some strange pleasure in ripping things to shreds.


I am very glad that he is obedient enough to shred mostly his own toys, and not my belongings. If I leave out empty bags that had food in them while he is home alone, those usually get destroyed too, but he has never chewed up any actual belongings.

Still, I can’t help but think – was that really worth it? Did you really have to destroy that brand new toy? This is why we can’t have nice things.

But in tearing up the toys, Max also keeps me grounded and teaches me that maybe having nice things is not the best goal in life. Maybe a better goal is enjoying what we have. Max is like the little brother who takes the G.I. Joe out of the packaging to actually play with it, instead of leaving it in the packaging so that it will retain the highest value. But I think there is a lot of value in playing with those things the way they are meant to be played.


Max also does something else with his newly destroyed toys that is weird to me. As he is pulling the stuffing out of the penguin’s head, he often stops, looks at me, and then brings it to me and drops it in my lap. I, of course, want nothing to do with that slobbery toy anymore, but Max wants to share the joy.

Max has taught me that one of the true joys in this life is not having nice things, and it is not even centered on what he has at all. Rather, it is enjoying what he has with the people he cares about.

And Max has taught me that things are not for admiring, but rather they are tools to create joy and goodness in the world. And that understanding means that it can be a very valuable experience to give up something I treasure to someone else who could benefit more from it, even if that person does not use the thing in the right way.


While we may not be able to have nice things, we can have a robust relationship and experience some joyful fun with whatever we do have, especially when we don’t get hung up with the value of the item and instead pay more attention to what is really valuable in life.

So, thank you Max for teaching me that there are many things more important that having nice things. And thank you for wanting to share those not nice things with me.

If you give a dog some food…

If you give a dog some food,
he’s going to ask for more food.


When you don’t give him the food
he’ll probably search for it himself.

When he can’t find any, he’ll look at you like you’re the worst.


Then he’ll want to go outside
to see if he can find any
free, discarded food.

When he gets outside
he might notice lots of tasty smells.

So he’ll probably look high and low
for anything that is edible.


When he’s finished looking for anything to eat…
Wait, he’ll never finish that search.

He’ll keep searching.

He might get carried away and
lose his head trying to find food.


He may even end up eating some grass!

When he’s done,
he’ll probably want to take a nap.

You won’t have to do anything for him,
the world is his bed.


He’ll walk around,
crash wherever he can,
and be asleep in no time.


He’ll probably ask you to rub his belly.

So you’ll rub his belly for a little while,
and he’ll ask you to scratch behind his ears.


When he sees you’re close to him
he’ll get so excited that he’ll want to get up
and play. He’ll ask for a toy.

He’ll play tug.


When the game is finished,
he’ll want to run around.

Then he’ll want to go outside
and walk around some more.

Which means he’ll need his leash.


He’ll go outside and remember
all the yummy smells.

Smelling all the yummy smells
will remind him that he’s hungry.

So, he’ll ask to go back inside.


And chances are, if he asks to go back inside,
he’s going to want a bowl of food when he gets there.