Max is a pretty hairy guy. He so graciously reminds me of that fact every spring and summer as he sheds his hair all over the house. And somehow, even after shedding so much hair, he has loads of it that stays with him.

At this point in the summer, I am much less bothered by the hair he sheds than I am by what happens with the hair he keeps. Because the weather is pretty nice, Max enjoys being outside in the yard, rolling around, and exploring any sights or smells of other squirrel or bird friends. As he does all of that, especially the rolling around, he tends to get matts in his fur.


But those matts are not even the worst part. Also at this time of year in our yard, plants that I believe are called “cleavers” or galium aparine are growing like crazy. They grow up fast and spread like wildfire all along our fence, right where Max likes to sniff around.

And that would be just fine, except that these plants have little seeds with hooked hairs that tend to cleave to anything they touch, and Max has his significant furry coat. Even when I actually try to stay on top of things and pull up those plants, Max finds a way to rub up against them and get the seeds all throughout his coat.


Even at that point, it would not be a problem if Max had opposable thumbs. But he does not. And his attempts to pull the seeds out with his teeth only makes things slobberier and more tangled.

The annual struggle with managing the plants and all the seeds in Max’s coat typically takes a good deal of time. But Max has taught me that it is necessary.


Max has taught me that cleavers happen, the stuff he and I brush up against throughout the day sometimes sticks to us. And often what sticks to us is not all that helpful. It causes tangles and for Max those tangles quickly turn into matts of hair (often with one of those little seeds at the center) that grow more and more uncomfortable.

Max’s cleavers may be more visible, but he has taught me to be more aware of my own less visible ones. Those negative messages I scroll across on social media that do nothing but make me mad and spiteful, those messages I see and hear in other media that I am not working enough or successful enough, those fears and worries that spring up like weeds and cleave to me until I give into the ever increasing entanglement of self-doubt or anxiousness or despair.

Max has taught me that those cleavers can make a real mess and that they can spring up quickly just about anywhere. He has even taught me that often we may not be able to remove them easily by ourselves. But he has also taught me that they can be dealt with.


Max helped me realize that the best solution to those cleavers is being around others who care enough to help brush them out. I am grateful that I can provide that for Max and that he continues to remind me of the importance of having a community that can help, even if all that community can do is sit with the tangled mess and slowly work those cleavers out.

But Max has also taught me that it doesn’t take any elaborate training to get them out. Since we all know what it is like to have those cleavers, we know how to sympathize and help. All I need is to bear witness to the tangles and then set aside some time to work through them. And that is exactly what a caring community can offer.


At the end of the day, Max has taught me that even with the cleavers, the yard is still full of wonder and beauty. He certainly does not avoid going outside just so he doesn’t get the cleavers. In fact, I think he has the confidence to run and play out there in part because he knows he has a community here that will take care of him if he were to get too tangled. That trust provides him not only security and untangling help, but also the freedom to be himself fully. And through that, Max inspires me that if I have a community that can help me deal with the cleavers that may spring up all around, then it is still worth it to explore and roll around in the grass and venture out into wild places.

So thank you Max for teaching me not only about the reality of that which cleaves and leaves us all tangled, but more importantly about the value of community that can help with the untangling and provide the assurance for a life of freedom and adventure.

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!


Max here again, hehe! Patrick could only distract me for so long, because I’ve got plenty more to say…


But today I must be very humble. I have to admit that Patrick does quite a bit for me.

Now, I would do all these things for myself if I could – I have the motivation. But it really comes down to the fact that he has thumbs and I do not. He is tall, and I am not (though I am much taller than that Chihuahua!). He can read maps and drive a car, and I cannot.


I have many limits, which means I cannot refill my water bowl, or open the door to go outside, or drive to cool places that have fun lakes. Patrick tries to make me think I cannot feed myself either, and though I cannot refill my food dish, I do sneak some tasty bites of things I find for myself on walks. (I think it annoys him, but come on – I gotta do something for myself, and it is just too tempting.)

And so I am very grateful for Patrick. He has taught me how to still live fully with these limits and he is there for me when I need that helping hand.


When I get down on myself for the fact that I cannot do many of the things I want to do for myself, Patrick supports me and shows me that I have many other gifts, like running much faster than him, sniffing out things and hearing things that he doesn’t see coming, and being compassionately present in joyful and troubled times. Patrick has taught me that while the limits are a real part of who I am, they do not fully define me. He has shown me that I have some wonderful gifts and that even in my limits there is some beauty in how I can depend on him and others.


Ultimately, he has taught me not to disparage these limits, but rather to appreciate how they draw us together. Because we are gifted in such drastically different ways, when we act together we can engage the world in a much more holistic way. And our dependence upon one another only strengthens bonds of care and love. Patrick has taught me that such dependence itself is far from a limit, but rather a wonderful strength that gives our lives more meaning.


And Patrick has taught me that we all have limits. He can’t seem to smell or hear much of anything, so I always have to keep a look out for what is around us. He does have a pretty good sense of adventure, but often he is too cautious and needs that extra tug to explore what is around the next bend. And he depends on my companionship in fun and troubling times.

So, thank you Patrick for teaching me that my limits are not such a bad thing when they are complemented by our mutual dependence. Thank you for trusting me and depending on me and allowing me to do the same with you.

Forgiveness is hard

Max has a problem. He eats things he shouldn’t, particularly poop.

Perhaps I am forcing my human point of view onto natural animal actions, but I just can’t come up with any good reason to let him eat other animals’ poop.

And Max’s problem has only gotten worse over the past several months. Every time we go outside he tries his hardest to eat as much poop as possible.


Usually he is on a leash, so I can control the intake. I don’t like doing it, but I have to keep pulling him away and stopping to yell at him when I have lost focus and he steals a chance to grab a bite. (After all this, there is no way he can think that action is acceptable.)

But sometimes we go to a little dog park and I let him off leash. Every time I think, maybe he will just play, maybe other dogs will distract him, maybe he will be too eager to chase a ball. And every time I am wrong.


Just yesterday when we were at the dog park he completely ignored the other dog who wanted to play so he could roam around and find all the nasty treats laying around. After following him around for several minutes and pulling him away when he went in for the bite, I finally had enough and we left.

On the way back I was frustrated. I was frustrated with Max, who is a good dog overall, because no matter what I do or say in this matter he disobeys me. And I was frustrated with the people who don’t clean up after their pets. There are even little bags and bins provided! At least Max’s behavior can be explained away by natural instinct.


But as we continued walking, I realized that in addition to researching new ways to prevent a dog from eating poop, I had to forgive Max. And as much as I hated to admit it, I had to forgive the people who don’t clean up after their pets.

When I held onto that anger it only hurt my relationship with Max more. A part of me didn’t even want to be around him for a while.

Don’t get me wrong, I will continue to be angry about the whole poop eating situation, and I think that is good and natural. But I also learned that forgiveness is necessary for me to deal with the situation in a worthwhile, loving way.


And Max has taught me that forgiveness is not a once and done thing. I have to forgive him for trying to eat poop every time. But that’s what makes it such a powerful force in our relationship.

I choose to forgive Max over and over again despite what he has done and is doing. I choose to love him even with his continual disobedient behavior. Granted Max’s behavior does not harm or effect me directly, in which case forgiveness would be much harder yet also much more meaningful. Still, these little forgivenesses are also important in sustaining and enriching our relationship on a daily basis.

And this is not purely a let it go or shake it off sentiment. I don’t forget or look past what he has done and I don’t ignore the negative emotions that arise in me. Yet, in spite of all that, I choose to love Max, over and over and over.

So thank you Max for teaching me that forgiveness (to whatever degree it must be extended) is hard, but worth it, especially when it must be extended over and over. Thank you for teaching me that despite my frustration, I can still choose powerful ways to sustain our trust and love.


Max went to the vet this week and we found out he is mostly healthy, except his ears. He has a nasty infection (which the vet so graciously let me see through his little earscope thing…). This means two things. First, I now know the signs for doggy ear infection, even though Max was a champ at covering up the fact that something very wrong and painful was going on in his head.

Second, he has to take some medicines.


Max likes many things. One thing he absolutely does not like is medicine, particularly pills. I literally have to shove his heart worm pills down his throat each month.

But I really don’t blame him because I do not like medicine either. I am grateful for allergy medicine, especially after moving back to the place where my allergies are notoriously bad. It’s really tough to make it through a day without those meds. But I will wait as long as possible when sick to take anything, even if I know it will help.

I guess I just don’t trust the medicine. Or maybe I am too prideful and hold on to the belief that my body can take care of itself. I don’t need help from anyone else.  Even if I’m miserable, I can manage on my own.

Maybe that is what Max thinks too. He’s a tough dog and can carry on. 


Regardless, now that Max has to take a lot of medicine for his own good and I have to literally force feed it to him, it has made me realize how silly my own pridefulness is.

Max has taught me that I have to trust and depend on others. I cannot always do things all on my own and I do not always know what is best for myself. It is good to rely on others, or at least heed their counsel, whether I am sick or healthy.

I may still be wary of medicine and resist taking it (and I know Max will do the same), but I think we are now both more grateful for the people in our lives in whom we can trust and who seek to sweeten our lives by being there for us.

So thank you Max for teaching me to swallow my pride.  Thank you for teaching me that I cannot and should not do things all on my own, but rather I should trust those around me to help me follow wise guidance, even if it be in the form of a nasty pill.