Kindly consider…

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Kindness is something that’s not easy to define, yet somehow everyone knows when someone is being kind… or unkind.

As Christians, we’re called to do two things… love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbour as ourselves. According to the Bible, “There are no commands more important than these” (Mark 12:30-31 NCV).

Kindness is at the very heart of love, perhaps emphasized by the fact that there’s an actual word that ties the two together… loving-kindness.

The extent to which we are kind conveys the extent to which we love.

Being kind comes at a price. It requires going out of our way for someone else, and that will always cost our time, energy, or resources… sometimes all three.

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This past week, my husband and I went out of our way to do something we really didn’t want to do but something that we felt was important to do for someone close to us. Quite honestly, it didn’t feel the greatest… or even very comfortable. We don’t know if it made a difference, and we may never know. But regardless, it was the right thing to do. The kind thing to do.

The thing about kindness is that it’s what you do whether anyone notices or not. Whether it’s appreciated or not. Whether you’re given recognition for it or not. Because true kindness is never self-serving or self-important.

An act of kindness can be something as small as sending someone an encouraging note. Or helping someone carry their groceries. Or holding a door open for a senior. The options are limitless. We just need eyes to see opportunities because they’re literally all around us.

What’s the payoff?

Kind people are happier. People who focus on others are always much happier than people who focus on themselves.

The bottom line is that kindness is a necessary stop on the road to joy.

Seriously?

Yeah, kinda…

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For the love of…

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The past couple of weeks have been really good in some respects but really tough in others. Tough enough that my last post for April is only happening on the first day of May.

The details are unimportant but, for more than a year, I’ve had an ongoing challenge with certain people who don’t love me. I’m pretty sure they don’t even like me. My recent discouragement has come from thinking that the tide had finally turned only to discover than I’m somehow farther from shore than ever before.

If I could avoid them, I would but, in this case, it’s neither practical nor possible. So, I have to deal with being actively disliked pretty much every day, and to say it’s not easy is an understatement. I pray a lot that the situation will change but only God knows if it will.

So far, He isn’t saying.

There’s a cost to love… even when it’s reciprocated. It costs us time, energy, commitment, and sacrifice. It costs the same things when it isn’t reciprocated.

It just feels worse.

But, if I consider the alternative, history shows that hate comes at the highest cost of all… our souls. Hate breeds nothing but more hate. If you don’t believe me, just check the news everyday. You’ll find far more reports about hate than about love because love is hard and it doesn’t come naturally. It’s no coincidence that when people choose to love instead of hate, they often end up on Oprah because that reaction is not our human nature.

My own situation alternately upsets, frustrates, discourages, and angers me. It depends on the day, and sometimes the moment. But, I continually remind myself that I can’t live there. I need to choose to rise above my emotions, and be loving.

No matter what.

Period.

That means extending kindness, showing an interest in them, praying for them, and treating them like I treat everyone else. Treating them the same as I would if they were being lovable.

But, let me be clear about one thing… loving others doesn’t mean being a pushover or a doormat. It doesn’t mean putting ourselves in harm’s way or living with abuse. It’s important to set boundaries for another’s behaviour towards us. When those boundaries aren’t respected, sometimes we have to put distance between us and them… both physically and emotionally. Sometimes for awhile and sometimes for forever.

I wish I had this ‘love’ thing down pat but the past couple of weeks have shown me that I have a lot of room to grow. Truth be told, I will always have a lot of room to grow but I sincerely hope the learning curve won’t always be quite so steep.

I know I’ve only been on The Joy Journey since the beginning of April but focusing on love these past few weeks – both the successes and the challenges – has helped me feel more joyful in general.

So, gotta love that…

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Loving-kindness…

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A number of years ago, I attended a motivational business seminar where I had the opportunity to participate in the following exercise. The room divided into groups of three, one of whom was chosen to be ‘the tree’… standing with their arms extended out to the side, like branches. When the seminar leader gave the cue, the remaining two members of each group took an arm and tried to push it down to the person’s side as they made positive statements about them.

You’re a great person. You’re really nice. You’re a hard worker. You make people happy. You have a great sense of humor. You’re kind.

When the seminar leader instructed everyone to stop, we discovered that not one group had been able to push down the arms of the people with their arms extended.

The second part of the exercise was identical, with the exception of the statements verbalized. As group members tried to push down the arms of the other member in their group, they instead made negative statements about them.

You did a terrible job. You never do anything right. No one likes you. You’ll never be able to do that. We don’t want you in our group.

The result was surprising. Everyone’s arms folded like a deck of cards. Not one person was able to keep their arms extended in the face of negative input.

The people and the methods were the same in both exercises. The only thing that varied was the words that were spoken. The lesson was unmistakeable. Our words have the power to either build others up or to tear them down.

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I thought of that exercise again recently with the challenge I’ve been having trying to incorporate one 35 minute daily walk into Charlie’s life (our 19 month old purebred British bulldog). The main challenge has been that Charlie doesn’t want to walk. He doesn’t even want to leave the property. If he could talk, I’m sure he would point out that British bulldogs are physically built to excel at naps, not walks. And I don’t think he appreciates my rationale that one short walk a day still leaves him with 23 1/2 hours a day for napping.

So, each walk has started like this. I put Charlie on the leash… we go out the door and down the steps. Charlie thinks he’s going for a pee but then, at some point, realizes that was only ‘Phase 1’ of the outing. I start walking toward the end of the driveway but then Charlie puts the brakes on… basically plants his feet and becomes a 49 pound stone. So, I brace the leash across the front of my legs while continuing to slowly walk forward until he eventually has no choice but to follow. This pattern continues for many blocks until Charlie suddenly shakes off his protestations, and inexplicably walks beautifully beside me for the rest of the walk.

I can attest to the fact that I’ve tried everything to get Charlie to be less resistant for the first part of his walk. My theory that he would remember his walk from the previous day, and that it would motivate him to eventually walk willingly right from the beginning never took flight. Instead, each day was like Groundhog Day, with practice becoming permanent.

But I recently came up with the idea to praise Charlie the minute he walked – particularly near the beginning of our outing when the walking didn’t tend to go so well. Now, even if Charlie drags his feet, as long as he’s walking, it counts as walking… and I instantly praise him. Good boy, Charlie. If he plants his feet the next moment, I say nothing except ‘Come’ and just keep moving ahead until he has no choice but to follow. I’ve wanted Charlie to associate praise with the action of walking, and have hoped it would prove to be motivating.

Guess what? It’s working!

Until I tried this little experiment, I never said anything positive OR negative to Charlie on our walks… just mostly things like ‘Come’ or ‘Yes, you’re going to walk’ (the latter quite possibly through gritted teeth). But, something as simple as giving words of praise for something that genuinely merits praise has made all the difference.

I can’t say that Charlie is 100% onboard with his walks just yet. He still plants his feet in the driveway when he realizes that we plan to actually leave the property but his resistance doesn’t continue too far beyond that anymore when, not so long ago, it was a battle of wills for literally many blocks.

It made me think of the word ‘loving-kindness’… meaning tenderness and consideration toward others. I think there are many ways we can show loving-kindness to those around us – including the Charlie’s in our lives – but one of the most powerful ways is through our words. Of course, extending loving-kindness through our words means nothing unless our actions back them up but I truly believe there’s nothing quite like our words to build others up in a way that few other things can.

Don’t let on to Charlie but I think our daily walk has become the highlight of his day. I know it’s become the highlight of mine…

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Love list…

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It can be easy to take the things we love – and the people we love – for granted so I decided to pay special attention to both this past week. That exercise made me wonder why I ever let life overshadow love…

Here is a glimpse of my love list…

  • My husband and I celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary a couple of days ago. We had dinner at the historical ranche house where our wedding had taken place, and where Mike had proposed six months before that. We loved reminiscing and just celebrating us in the place that holds so many great memories of our love story…
  • Emily turned 17 the day before our anniversary, and her wish was to celebrate by having both sides of the family over for dinner. It was somewhat daunting to consider feeding 22 people – especially just days after having had surgery – but it was worth it to see how happy both Emily and my hubby were with how the evening had gone…
  • Lately, I’ve tried to be more intentional about being connected to friends and family. It means a lot when people take the time to send an e-mail, message, text, or phone call my way – or do something equally thoughtful – and I want to be that kind of person too. As much as I think I do reasonably well in this respect, my goal is to do better, because nothing communicates love quite like our actions…
  • The more I strive to know God and to love God, the more I find I’m able to love others. Hopefully, somewhere in that process, I also become more lovable to others…
  • Great food always rates some love. This past week… stellar sturgeon for our anniversary dinner, fall-off-the bone ribs for Emily’s party, delish salads made by my husband’s mom and sister, and to-die-for giant cupcakes from a bakery aptly called ‘Crave’. Yum…
  • I’ve been loving the great weather that Calgary has had since the end of January. I’m originally from the east coast where winters are epic – both in cold and in snowfall. But, even by west coast standards, the weather has been quite ‘un’Canadian, with above seasonal temperatures and virtually no snow. I’ve even been almost warm enough most days (with an emphasis on ‘almost’), which is saying something, given I tend to get a chill on a breezy day in the summer…
  • Our quirky British bulldog puppy, Charlie, inspires love just by being Charlie…
  • I’ve been loving an app for my Kindle from our local library that allows me to download and read countless books for free (and who doesn’t love free…). My favorite guilt-free part of that pleasure are the books I start and decide to return (because they really aren’t my cup of tea) – and I can do it for FREE. I still love to physically read a good book every now and then but, for the most part, bye bye paperbacks…
  • I used to tell people that I have a black thumb, as evidenced by the historical failure of plants to thrive under my care. But, since assuming the care for my husband’s many plants after getting married, I’ve surprisingly had more successes than failures. So, I recently extended my efforts from indoor to outdoor, cleaning up our numerous flower beds (all home to perennials) and trimming back umpteen bushes and trees. It was a much bigger job than I had anticipated – and one that involved a lot of ‘bs’ (blood and sweat…) – but the outcome more than made up for the effort. It was a  vivid reminder that the people we love – and the things we love – generally need considerable effort on our part in order to get the best result.

One final thing that impressed itself on me this past week was how much more joy I felt simply by focusing on what I loved about people, places, and things. It’s amazing how easy it can be to lose sight of the fact that, even when it’s tough to focus on what’s good, making a conscious effort to do just that always inspires far more positive feelings than when we focus on what’s not so good.

Just one more thing to love…

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For the love of Charlie…

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I don’t know about you but I find it’s hardest to love people who are hard to love. People who are hard to like. People who are unkind to me. It’s something I’ve struggled with over the past couple of years in particular, in no small part because there are people in close proximity to me who have fallen into that category.

It makes me think about our 19 month old purebred British bulldog, Charlie… who loves everyone and everything… people, dogs, cats, birds, insects, you name it. If it’s alive, he loves it.

Since Charlie has always been such a loving dog, we didn’t think twice about volunteering to look after another dog… an older Portuguese Water dog named Lottie. Charlie was enthralled to have ‘company’ and immediately decided they were ‘best buds’. Anything Lottie did, Charlie did. If she walked down the hall, Charlie was walking right behind her, matching her pace. If she laid down, he laid down. If she got up and moved to a new place, Charlie got up and moved too. So cute… but not for long. It quickly became evident that Lottie didn’t have the same ‘lovin’ feeling towards Charlie as he had towards her.

Maybe she thought his ‘love’ seemed suspiciously like ‘stalking’. Maybe she was getting crotchety in her advancing age. Or maybe she just didn’t care for a certain British bulldog. Regardless, she let her displeasure be known. She barked at Charlie… lunged at Charlie… and even bit Charlie on a couple of occasions. The more he didn’t ‘get’ it… the more pronounced her actions became. It got to the point where she would lose it if she entered a room and even set eyes on him (who we were keeping in a different space as much as possible at that point). Lottie went out of her way to communicate that she wanted nothing to do with Charlie… a fact that truly seemed to perplex him.

No matter how extreme Lottie’s actions or reactions were, Charlie never once retaliated. Never once barked, bit, growled, or lunged. He loved Lottie even though she was being less than lovable and certainly less than kind toward him.

Right from the time he was born, it has been Charlie’s practice to exhibit loving behavior toward others. In fact, when we were considering which puppy to adopt, Charlie stood out from the rest because he just took whatever abuse the other dogs heaped on him… including lunging, snarling, and biting.

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Charlie’s example reminds me of some truths that I need to apply more consistently in my life, starting today:

  1. If someone doesn’t love you, love them anyway.
  2. Be yourself even if someone doesn’t appreciate who you are.
  3. Know who you are and be that person. Not everyone will like you but that’s ok. You can still love them.
  4. It’s possible to love people you don’t particularly like. Consider your immediate and extended family, and I suspect you’ll come up with at least one person who falls into that category.
  5. Your attitude doesn’t depend on someone else. No one can take away your joy unless you let them.
  6. Love should be unconditional. That’s what we hope for from others so why should we give anything less.
  7. Love is a feeling but it’s also a choice. Choosing to love inspires us to feel more loving which, in turn, increases our joy.
  8. Not everyone can handle ‘full-on’ Charlie (which is why our dogsitting days are a thing of the past…).

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Missing Max…

Easter holds a great deal of significance to me as a Christian because it commemorates Jesus’s death and resurrection.  But, last year, Easter unexpectedly took on an additional significance.

On the first Easter, Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday, and rose from the dead on Easter Monday.  He went from death to life.

Last Easter, my dog Max became suddenly and severely ill on Good Friday, and had to be put to sleep on Easter Monday.  He went from life to death.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot once before that weekend did he show any signs of the massive intestinal tumor that would claim his life.  He had even been given a clean bill of health by a veterinarian at his annual check-up just a few weeks prior.

Max entered my life just as unexpectedly as he left it.  The decision to adopt a dog from a rescue shelter was made on a whim right after Christmas in 2009.  There were only five dogs in the shelter that day but it was love at first sight for me.  But, even though I knew there was something very special about the dog I named Max, it took me a long time to fully let  my guard down with him.

I had been given a beagle for my thirteenth birthday that I had named Sue.  Our family wasn’t able to keep her very long, in part because the three of us kids were allergic to her.  We found her a good home outside the city but she was struck and killed by a car shortly after giving birth to her first litter.

Max & Me - August 201035 years later, I finally had another dog but my answer this time was to not get too attached.  I loved my dog but I kept him at arms length.  And he knew it.  But, slowly but surely he went to work at breaking down my defences.

I had Max for a total of 2 years, 3 months and 6 days but it was a full year before my guard fully dropped.  Max’s death totally devastated me but my main regret is that it took me so long to love him to the ‘max’.  It was time wasted.

It seems to me that we should just love unreservedly, without thought for the future, because we will never know the future until we get there anyway.

I really believe that Max was my guardian angel.  He was my best friend when I was isolated from family, friends, and civilization.  And, his sudden passing became the inspiration for radical, necessary, and overdue change in my life just two months later.

By how Max lived his life, he showed me how important it is to:

  • always make time for hugs
  • do things with the people you love, even if they’re doing nothing at all
  • stay connected to the people you love, even if it’s just a nose bump to their hand or back of their knee
  • have fun every day
  • see the humor in life, even and especially at your own expense
  • be kind and gentle
  • be friendly with everyone you meet, even if they’re not always friendly in return
  • love lavishly
  • live with abandon
  • always save the yolk for last

This Easter, and every Easter, I’ll be missing my Max to the ‘max’.

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Wanted: male companionship. Humans need not apply…

Ok, I’ll admit it.  I’m suffering from serious dog envy.  I miss my precious puppy dog so much.  Four months and 19 days after his sudden passing from intestinal cancer this past Easter Monday, and I want another dog now more than ever.  I know I can never replace Max but I have a great desire to celebrate his life and all the joy he brought me by providing another rescue dog with a loving, caring, and stable home.

Yesterday afternoon, I took a walk at a huge park near home and happened upon two different dogs in the off leash area.  The first dog was a golden haired cross between a lab and a golden retriever.  He was following behind his owners but as I approached, I swear he flashed me a smile before venturing over and sniffing my hand.  He gave my left kneecap a welcoming lick as I leaned over and pet him ever so tenderly.  I heard one of his owners say, “Awwwww”.  After a couple of moments, I pried myself away and started walking up the trail but, even though his owners kept calling him to come, “Pacer” didn’t move a muscle and instead stared at me intently as I moved progressively farther away.  If I thought I had the slightest possibility of successfully hoisting his sizable girth off the ground, my instinct would have been to ‘make tracks’ with Pacer.

Further up the trail, I happened upon an older gentleman who was walking a full-sized husky.  Max had been a combination husky, shepherd, lab so I asked if the dog was friendly.  “Too friendly” was the response.  Boy, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’d used that exact phrase to describe my Max.  I decided that huskies must be inherently social.

As soon as I started petting the dog, he moved to stand in front of me sideways and then leaned into me heavily in that oh-so-familiar way Max used to.  I was enthralled.  I reluctantly extricated myself and continued on with my walk, making a conscious effort not to look back this time.  If that dog had stared longingly after me too, I may well have snapped and crossed the line into the shadowy world of ‘dognapping’.  And we all know there’s nothing more logical than to stuff a mid to large sized dog into the confines of a tiny bachelor apartment.

The way I see it, I have three options:  keep Max’s memory alive by remembering how quirky, loving, funny, and kind he was; keep going for walks where I can have random meetings with other great dogs; or volunteer at either the Humane Society or the Animal Rescue Society so I can make a difference in the lives of these wonderful dogs until the day I have a pet friendly place to bring a new dog home.  Thankfully, I don’t have to choose.  All three options are more than possible, and highly probable.

So, who are the front runners if I were able to bring a new dog home today?  The list changes from day to day as dogs come and go through adoption but a 5 year old Shepherd/Cross named Charley is currently high on the list.  The other main contender is a dog named Petey, a special needs dog, who had a leg amputated after being found wandering with a badly injured and severely infected leg.

Dogs like Charley and Petey, who’ve had a pretty rough start, appeal to me the most.  Max had a pretty rough start but, in the two short years we had him, we gave him as smooth a finish as any dog could hope for.  To be able to give this gift to yet another dog is high on my list of things to do.

So, it goes without saying that some day, some way, some how, another dog will join Max on my list of “main men”.  It will truly be a dogged pursuit.

I get by with a little help from my friends…

Over the past three weeks, my life has changed dramatically.  On June 15th, I left an 11 year abusive marriage by packing my small car with clothes and and a few personal possessions,  and driving 2720 km across three provinces to move to a city where I didn’t have a place to live… or a job… or even family.

Some truly remarkable things have happened since then.  On my first day here, I was phoned for an interview for a job I’d been hoping to get, and was hired for the position just one week later.  I also found a furnished place to live in a bachelor apartment central to the city (and in my price range!), that was available for July 1st, when the vacancy rate was less than 1% .  And I found a good family doctor in a city well known for it’s lack of regular medical providers.

But, challenges have also happened along the way.  I got into a car accident on my second day here.  My first accident in 14 years.  I don’t move to full-time hours at work until September so the bills keep piling up.  Not to mention that the cost of changing everything from one province to another is surprisingly expensive.  There’s also the complicated fallout of dealing with the end of an 11 year marriage, plus all the glitches that keep popping up, necessitating that I troubleshoot a seemingly never ending list of problems.

So, what makes all the difference?  I can attest to the fact that it’s friends.  My son (who’s grown) is one of my closest friends.  He challenges me, prays for me, supports and encourages me, and is there for me no matter what.  He’s a wonderful son and friend.  I have other friends who have been quick to ask what they can do to help or to ask how they can pray for me.  Some friends have stepped up to the plate that I never expected while others that I did expect have been conspicuously absent.

But, I have one friend who goes way above and beyond to support, encourage, challenge, inspire, and just be there for me.  Her level of commitment to our friendship never fails to blow me away.  Not a day goes by where she doesn’t send me several texts, or inspiring quotes by e-mail and Facebook, to boost my spirits and build me up.  She’s like my own personal cheerleader, and I don’t what I would do without her.  She’s shown me amazing friendship in action, and I’m so blessed and thankful to have her in my life.

Life is always going to happen… whether we like it or not.  That’s what makes true friendship all the more important.  You may think you know who your friends are.  But have the bottom drop out of your world, and I guarantee you’ll find out who your true friends are.

Letter to an Extraordinary Dog

My dearest puppy dog, Max,

I remember so well the first day I set eyes on you.  It was at the rescue shelter in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario on Dec. 28, 2009. There were only five dogs in the shelter that day, and you were in the very last cage, sitting with your ears pinned back and your little green stuffed animal in your mouth.  There was something about you that I immediately fell in love with.  I know it sounds strange but I could tell by your eyes that you were a very special dog.  But, the sign one of the staff pinned to your cage while I was standing there suggested otherwise.  It said, “Returned… too much”.  In fact, you’d had three failed adoptions since you’d been picked up as a stray by the dog catcher.  It should have scared me off but it didn’t.

I never expected to get a dog that Christmas, however, two days earlier, Antonio had announced to his staff that he would be coming home with a dog.  He didn’t know how… just that it would happen.

When we’d talked about a dog, we’d always agreed that we’d get a young pug, female, and spaded.  You were an older husky, shepherd, lab mix, who eventually grew to be 80 lbs, male, and not neutered.  You were an ‘anti’-pug… but I couldn’t get you out of my mind.

When we returned to the shelter the next day, you were alone in the yard, standing by the fence, silently watching us approach.  I crouched down by the fence to look you in the eye and you responded by lowering your head to the bottom of the fence, pushing your nose underneath as far as you could, and licking my hand.  I wept.  It was official. You were ours. The shelter had named you ‘Bullet’, for the vertical, bullet shaped marking on your forehead, but I impulsively knighted you Max.  I had no idea how fitting that name would turn out to be.

3 1/2 months after we adopted you, my Dad died, and we put you into a boarding kennel in the Sault for a few days while we flew east for the funeral.  We were surprised when the girl at the front desk recognized you.  You looked healthier, happier, and heavier than she remembered but she was certain you were the dog she had nicknamed ‘Bolt’. Since you had been a stray, this was the first information we had received about you other than the veterinarian’s estimate of your age. We learned that you’d been owned by an alcoholic who had mistreated you, and that you would routinely pull a ‘Houdini’, getting out of your collar, and making a run for it.  Somehow you always returned.  On one such occasion, the girl from the shelter had taken you in for a few days but you eventually bolted from there too.

We were shocked to learn that French was your native ‘tongue’, which explained a lot of the communication hurdles we encountered in the beginning.  I can only imagine what it must have been like for you… escaping from your abusive owner for the final time, being adopted by your fourth family in two months, taken to a new community four hours away, and then spoken to in an entirely foreign language.

But I was right that you were a very special dog.  You never barked, never went near the garbage, never got into anything, and never destroyed anything.  You were unbelievably careful and gentle whenever we you would take a treat from us and, despite your abusive past, you were unfailingly kind and gentle to everyone and everything.

Our biggest challenge was training you to walk beside us properly on a leash.  The progress was slow but sure, and the whole community watched, noticed, and cheered you on.  We walked you three times a day, and you became famous in town.  Everyone thought you were a puppy because you had such a puppy-like quality about you.  They thought you were beautiful, with a beautiful personality, and you were.  You were a truly beautiful dog.

It was a rare day that you didn’t make us laugh, whether it was the Elvis curl of your lip when we were playing hide and seek, the way you would bounce down the hallway when we were playing with you, your happy dance and showgirl wiggle when you knew we were going for a walk, or your unbridled elation when we would give you a special treat, like a Dentabone or an egg.  I loved how we would stand side by side when Antonio left for work and, as soon as the door closed behind him, we would look at each other for a moment and then you would literally skedaddle down the hall ahead of me to the livingroom, where you would retrieve your beloved cow puppet (complete with a clicker for mooing noises) and we would play tug of war or chase the cow.

I loved how you would jump up on your couch all excited for a cuddle.  I loved how you would routinely bump my hand, leg, or back of my knee with your nose while we were walking, for no other reason than to connect.  I loved watching your crooked run when we would walk through the trails in the woods during the winter and you were off leash.  I loved how I would round a corner in the trail to find you stopped ahead, silently watching to make sure I was keeping up.  I loved your crazy, mental run you would sometimes do to let off steam.  And I loved how, if I stopped to pet a dog, you would silently but unmistakeably position yourself between us, in a passively possessive move reserved for only me.

I loved how, if I put something special in with your food, you would start to eat and then stop, come over and bump my hand with your nose to say thanks and then go back to finish, I loved how you sometimes would walk into the middle of the yard and then fall to the ground as if you’d been shot, writhe around like a crazy dog, and then stop and tilt your head backwards to see if I was watching.  I loved how much you loved the car, always stopping at the beginning and end of a walk to flip your nose at the back door, in the hopes of an inpromptu drive.  I loved all the times you’d move up from the backseat to perch on the console between the two front seats, looking out the windshield, pretending you were a human.

But, what I loved most of all was how much you loved to be with us.  Your favorite thing was to be with us, no matter what we were doing.  In the beginning, you were so wary of hugs and cuddles but I persisted with them nonetheless.  Before long, you would seek them out.  I soon added kisses to your cheeks.  I especially loved how you would completely collapse against me with all your body weight and just enjoy the companionship and joy of being pet.

I loved how you could read our moods, and the many ways you found to cheer us up.  It was impossible to be mad at you for any length of time because you would totally charm your way out of it.  My favorite memory was one day near the end of March, when we picked Antonio up from work in the car immediately after your walk.  I was recounting your transgressions, and you leaned forward and started licking the snow from my hat.  It was the first time you’d ever done such a thing, and it completely disarmed me.  Antonio and I dissolved into laughter, you bumped my arm with your nose and, just like that, we’d made up.

There’s so much more I could say but, like all good things, this letter must come to an end.  Like all good things, our time together had to come to an end.  But, like many good things, we never saw the end coming.  You became so ill on Good Friday and we were certain it was temporary.  After all, you were only 7.  But, when Antonio took you for a short walk that morning and you laid down on the street – on your side no less – and Antono had to carry you the 2 blocks home, we worried even more.  We were so relieved when we finally found a vet who would take you in on Easter Sunday.

I’ll never forget Easter Monday afternoon, when the veterinarian called our cellphone and asked how soon we could get to her office.  I’ll never forget looking at the x-rays where the barium showed the huge intestinal mass that was crowding your intestines to the back half of your body.  Food couldn’t stay in and waste couldn’t come out.  And I’ll never forget the realization that you weren’t going to be ok, that you weren’t going to be coming home, and there wasn’t anything more we could do.  My heart broke in two at that moment.  I felt indescribable pain and sorrow.  Devastation is an inadequate word to explain the heartbreak.

2 years, 3 months, and 6 days.  That’s all the time we had with you.  But, I thank God that we had even that much time together.  I thank God for what you taught me about loving life, unconditional love, joy, kindness, and humor.  I thank God that the first 5 years of your life might have been hell but that we were entrusted with the gift of giving you as much Heaven on earth as we could for the time remaining.

In your beauty, you were Sir Max and, in your zest and love for life, you were ‘Max’imum velocity.  You truly lived life to the max.  I will never forget you, and what an extraordinary dog you were.  You’ve left a Max sized hole in our lives, but Heaven is richer for our loss.  I love you, my puppy dog.  xoxoxo