Spirituality According to Max, A work in progress

“Therefore I say that man must travel in the way of God. Day by day he must endeavor to become better . . .”*

When I drive my car into the garage to park I align my right headlight on Max’s right paw.  That leaves just enough room for me to get out on the right side and my husband’s car to get in on the left side. But  I’m ahead of myself . . .

We live in a small 3 bedroom home – The bedroom I use for my home office  has glass french doors that open to the hall way.

I looked everywhere for a screen to put up blocking the view into the room for when guests stayed.  It had to be 4 panels wide and extra high for privacy.  My father would tackle anything.  So years before we adopted Max, Dad made the screen to my specifications (with the exception of  the frame’s legs not being quite the same height and needing a bit of propping.

The screen’s frame stayed folded up in the garage for many years until I decided to cover it with canvas.  It stayed folded up in the garage for several more  years until I decided to paint Max’s picture on it.

It stayed folded up in the garage for several more years until I lightly penciled in (which you can’t see in the pictures) some corrections to his anatomy, his fluffy facial hair, and planned to create some interest around the outside edge.  There it stayed folded up in the garage.

A few months ago I drive in to find the unfinished screen blocking the view of  garage “stuff”.  My husband had been decorating.  At first, I’m disturbed. Max lost all his fluffy facial & body hair before he passed.  The picture I’d not finished was a reminder of the last painful month of Max’s life.

Now it turns out my husband is a great decorator, who knew.  When I drive in or drive out I can smile at the silly picture I started years ago.

I’ve decided not to “finish” the screen painting – It will remain a work in progress, just like Max, to remind me every time I travel, driving in and driving out, we are all eternal works in progress.

*The full Baha’i quote:

“Therefore I say that man must travel in the way of God. Day by day he must endeavor to become better, his belief must increase and become firmer, his good qualities and his turning to God must be greater, the fire of his love must flame more brightly; then day by day he will make progress, for to stop advancing is the means of going back. The bird when he flies soars ever higher and higher, for as soon as he stops flying he will come down. Every day, in the morning”. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on the Journey of the Soul

If you missed the chapters I’ve written to date about Max here are the links (they need to be read in order):

Prologue & Epilogue
Chapter 1 – Instincts Rule
Chapter 2 – Love at First Lick
Chapter 3 – Chewsing Heaven
Chapter 4 – Unleashed
Chapter 5 – Our Little Angel
Chapter 6 – Favorite Flavors, Patience & Self Control
Chapter 7 – Love has No Bounds
 

Every Day is a New Year

DSCN0831As days pass it seems to have gotten harder, not having Max.  I try to hold tight to what he showed me every minute of every day and live my life just as he did:

Breathe it in right now

every day is a new year

 Gratitude and love

Spirituality According to Max, Chapter 6 – Favorite Flavors, Patience & Self Control

“God, verily, loveth those women and men who
show forth patience.”

Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 43

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23

P1010875

If you missed previous chapters here are the links (they do need to be read in order to understand the thread):

Prologue & Epilogue

Chapter 1 – Instincts Rule

Chapter 2 – Love at First Lick

Chapter 3 – Chewsing Heaven

Chapter 4 – Unleashed

Chapter 5 – Our Little Angel

My husband is examining the gouged edges of the breakfast table wicker chairs. “There are no scraps of wicker anywhere.  Can you believe he swallowed it!.  Maybe we should take him to the vet?”
“Max!  That’s what I’ve decided. Max!”  Figured I’d better find an acceptable name quickly before Homer found himself back at the animal shelter.  “Max? Are you sure you want to call him Max?” My husband is now thrown off guard by my sudden decision and appropriately distracted from the gouged wicker chairs.  Max goes over to give him a lick.

I am beginning to worry about this dog’s seemingly insatiable appetite for all things previously thought to be inedible.  Wanting to avert further “incidents” and to appease my husband before Max is dog-meat,  I buy a spray , an EXPENSIVE spray “guaranteed to stop animals from chewing . Bitter apple.  Can’t be more freshly organic than that.  Do not want to harm my sweet little angel, just protect him from indigestion.

 Since he had already developed a taste for wicker in the dog shelter I spray the wicker chairs first. Max eagerly runs over to see what I’m doing, licks the bitter apple cleanly off the wicker legs, looks up at me angelically with big brown eyes, gives me a lick or two, trots back to the couch to soften up the coverlet by sucking on the tattered edge.

I re-read the fine print on the Bitter Apple.  It says chewing, no mention of eating.  No listing of wicker chairs, throws and comforters (oh yes, forgot to mention pillow cases).  Not wanting to spend more money  I try what’s on hand – cayenne pepper . . . wasabi powder  . . . tabasco  . . .  Each flavor being more tasty than the next.  We put the chairs up on the table. Throw the throw, comforter and pillow cases to the dogs, so to speak.  And wait for signs of acid indigestion.

This is a dog who now has a proper name that reflects his personality – distinct but cute, short but sweet, unique and memorable, independent but loving and a gourmand not a gourmet.

So far, so good.  He hasn’t peed in the house once.

Spirituality According to Max, chapter 5 – Our Little Angel

“The meaning of ‘angels’ is the confirmations of God and His celestial powers. Likewise angels are blessed beings who have severed all ties with this nether world, have been released from the chains of self and the desires of the flesh, and anchored their hearts to the heavenly realms of the Lord. These are of the Kingdom, heavenly; these are of God, spiritual; these are revealers of God’s abounding grace; these are dawning-points of His spiritual bestowals.”

(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha – Baha’i)

max3

If you missed previous chapters here are the links (which need to be read in order to follow the story line):

Prologue & Epilogue

Chapter 1 – Instincts Rule

Chapter 2 – Love at First Lick

Chapter 3 – Chewsing Heaven

Chapter 4 – Unleashed

“We are truly blessed” I tell my Husband.  He hasn’t peed in the house once.  He has a great appetite and look how cute he is!”  Our little angel adoringly looks up at me  with big brown eyes. My husband is examining the gouged edge of the cover protecting the couch from doggie hair.  “There are no scraps of material anywhere.  Can you believe he swallowed it?.  Maybe we should take him to the vet?”

I look up at my husband trying to appear not the least bit concerned, ” He’s just a bit anxious. OF COURSE he would chew it up.  If you were the one who was rescued an hour before you were to die only to be imprisoned in a horrible enclosure without any companionship and now find yourself in strange surroundings, you would do the same.”  My husband looks at me like I’m nuts. Homer looks at me lovingly, nudging my hand for more petting.  (It’s obvious that human men just don’t get it).

The bigger more pressing issue is doing something about that name.  HOMER!  It’s stressing me out to think he has a name that simply doesn’t fit his personality.  This is my priority right now, NOT an old throw cover.

“Call him Butchie”, suggests my Dad. “That was the name of my first dog.”  “Dad, that has been the name of every dog you have ever had. We’re not calling him Butchie. Look at that sweet little angelic face.  Butchie is for a bulldog.”  My Dad looks at me like I’m nuts.

This is a dog who deserves a proper name that reflects his personality – distinct but cute, short but sweet, unique but memorable, independent but loving – a doggie name?  a human name?

I get a baby book of names.  I read the dictionary of names.  I poll friends, family, colleagues.  I ask strangers on the street what their dog’s name is.  I call out different names to see what he might respond to.  He tilts his head and looks angelically at me with big brown eyes at every name I try.  He’s so cute.

“Take a look at this,” my husband waves the gouged edges of our bed comforter at me.  “There are no scraps of material anywhere.  Can you believe he’s eaten it?”

Just remember that we are so blessed.  He hasn’t peed in the house once.  He has a great appetite and look how cute he is!”  My little angel proceeds to lick my face, my arms my neck in a display of doggie love.

 (Maybe Dad is right. There has been a lot of fabric “butchered” in his first week home.)

 

Spirituality According to Max, Chapter 4 – Unleashed

“Happiness or sorrow – whatever befalls you, walk on untouched, unattached.” Buddha (563 – 483 BC)

Max, 1998 – 2012

If you missed any parts here are the links:

Prologue & Epilogue

Chapter 1 – Instincts Rule

Chapter 2 – Love at First Lick

Chapter 3 – Chewsing Heaven

The ride home took a needed detour to the pet store.  Dog food – only the best, doggie treats – only the tastiest and a walking halter so as not to hurt his precious neck when in his exuberance he powerfully strains forward on the collar producing rather unsettling choking sounds.  Choking doesn’t seem to bother Homer  in the least (we’ve got to do something about that name) but my uproarious laughter is disappearing in concern that we’ll end up with a dog with brain damage from lack of oxygen due to choking.  I’m no longer worried about the shelter-lady taking him back.  Now I’m worried animal control will jail us for cruelty to animals.

In the pet store, it’s Homer who is now in heaven.  Careening down the aisles, with me in tow, he’s a sniffing snorting, choking blur of dog.  Ah, finally find the halters.  Red, green, black.  I choose blue as it nicely sets off the color of his coat.  Halter size is a bit harder.  The length of his body puts him in the big dog size, his weight and girth put him in medium and his short legs put him in the small dog category. A fitting is required. Bending over to try a halter on for size  he exuberantly licks my face, my neck, my arms, setting me off, once again, into laughing ecstasy.  When the halter comes anywhere near his head he ducks and lurches away surprising me with his determination not to put on anything that isn’t his idea.

“Here’s the plan,” I tell my husband, “I’ll get down on the floor and restrain him while you slip the halter on”.  What sounds like a totally sensible plan turns into a wrestling match with all three of us on the floor.  Bursting into even more laughter, signals Homer we’re here to play.  And now that we’re at his level it’s even more fun for him as he jumps on both of us, over and over and over. and over and over and . . .  it’s a battle to the finish, everyone trying to establish alpha status, on the floor, arms, legs and paws flailing wildly in the middle of the leash and halter aisle.

Homer wins. With our tails between our legs my husband pays for all of Homer’s loot (minus a halter) while I, hanging on for dear life,  zig-zagging, sniffing and choking go back to the car.  Round #2 of the fight for alpha status begins again, as we cram all squirming, lurching and licking 29 pounds of dog into the back seat.

My husband now joins my Dad, “Why did you pick this dog?”.  I throw him a darted look while trying to control Homer from jumping from the back seat into the front to lick me. This dog really loves me.

Stay tuned . . .for More of Max’s Most Marvelous Adventure

Links to all the current chapters (they do need to be read in order to follow the story thread):
Prologue & Epilogue
Chapter 1 – Instincts Rule
Chapter 2 – Love at First Lick
Chapter 3 – Chewsing Heaven
Chapter 4 – Unleashed
Chapter 5 – Our Little Angel
Chapter 6 – Favorite Flavors, Patience & Self Control
Chapter 7 – Love has no Bounds
 

Spirituality According to Max, Chapter 3 – Heavenly Chewsing

“Jesus said: If your leaders say to you “Look! The Kingdom is in the sky!” Then the birds will be there before you are. If they say that the Kingdom is in the sea, then the fish will be there before you are. Rather, the Kingdom is within you and it is outside of you.” The Gospel of Thomas

Prologue & Epilogue

Chapter 1 – Instinct Rules

Chapter 2 – Love at First Lick

 Next time back I bring my Dad, a dog lover to the max. We are not allowed to take Homer into the play enclosure.  Does this mean another family is getting him?  A family with more money, more education, a better zip code?

More barks and humps. Dad’s not the least bit impressed.

I ask the shelter lady, trying to sound very nonchalant (so she can’t detect any desperation),  if they’ve made a decision about my adopting Homer.

“We’ll CALL to let you know if you’ve been chosen, MIZ Westerfield”.  She’s annoyed.  “Thank you”, I feebly respond,  steeling myself against the pain of ultimate rejection,  “WHY are you picking this dog?” Dad asks, clearly puzzled by my choice.

Ten (do you hear 10!) full days after falling in love I get the call, Homer is mine. I yank my husband into the car and tear down to the shelter before they change their minds.

Homer is, as always, DELIGHTED to see me, licking my hands, my arms, my neck, my face as I bend down to leash him.  I’m half-listening to the shelter lady, “Homer’s very friendly but not quite disciplined on walks.” Homer and I are already half way out the door, neither of us taking any chances that the shelter lady changes her mind. AAAAAAAAAnd Homer’s in the lead,  zig-zagging all over the place at full throttle.  Drowning in delight, I laugh louder and louder  which signals Homer to run faster and faster.

My husband finds us careening all over the front parking lot, both of us with tongues hanging out.

“I asked the shelter volunteer if there was anything else to know about him that would be helpful”, my husband says, as we cram all squirming, lurching and licking 29 pounds of dog into the back seat. “She really hesitated when I asked and said they put a wicker chair in his enclosure to see how he’d respond – he chewed it up”

“OF COURSE he would chew it up, rescued an hour before he was to die only to be imprisoned in that horrible enclosure without any companionship!  I would do the same.”, I snap, while trying to control Homer from jumping from the back seat to the front to lick me. This dog really loves me. I AM IN HEAVEN.

Links to all the current chapters (they do need to be read in order to follow the story thread):
Prologue & Epilogue
Chapter 1 – Instincts Rule
Chapter 2 – Love at First Lick
Chapter 3 – Chewsing Heaven
Chapter 4 – Unleashed
Chapter 5 – Our Little Angel
Chapter 6 – Favorite Flavors, Patience & Self Control
Chapter 7 – Love has no Bounds
 

 

Spirituality According to Max, Chapter 2 – Love at First Lick.

“Love is the one means that ensureth true felicity both in this world and the next.”

`Abdu’l-Bahá (Haifa: Bahá’í World Centre, 1982), p. 27.

Max, 1989 -2012

Missed the beginning?  Click here:

Prologue & Epilogue

Chapter 1 – Instincts Rule

I haven’t a clue why I decided he was mine.   I just remember turning around, pointing to his enclosure –  “I want that one.”

“You sure?”  My husband’s a bit stunned.

(Small decisions, like what color to paint the wall, incubate in my mind for a long time.  Whereas, buying my first new car, purchasing a house, picking a dog  – these kind of decisions are generally impetuous, emotional  with no basis in logic or fact.)  

“Yes, That one.”  There was no turning back.

The shelter was closing.  If I wanted to adopt I had to return and take him into the play yard to see IF HE LIKED ME  . . . or not.   IF he responded positively THEN  I could then fill out an application to adopt which they would THEN review.

Now I’m getting nervousWhat if he doesn’t like me? What if the shelter volunteers don’t think I am a fit dog owner?  What if someone better comes along and gets him?

The next day he and I have our first face to face.  Literally.  To enter the  large fenced in play yard there’s a very high steep step.  He has very short legs.  I’m told to lift him up the step.  Eyeball to eyeball , he licks  my face and I laugh in delight.  The more I laugh the more he licks.  This dog LOVES me!

In the play yard it’s a variation of “the pillow or me” –  He runs to the fence, barking at something unseen (at least to me)  that needs to be barked at,  runs back to me, licks whatever part of my body he can reach before dashing back to the fence for more barking.  Back and forth, back and forth, he’s as possessed with barking at the fence as he was humping the pillow. I can’t stop laughing and he can’t stop running back and forth, barking and licking, licking and barking.  I was in love.

Apparently the shelter volunteer decided I passed the “likeably test”.  I was allowed to fill out an application to adopt. Now I’m nervous again. Answering questions like:

  • Do I allow pets to sleep with me?” – if I answer “No” they’ll think I’m not a cuddly person.  “Yes”, I don’t care about hygiene.
  • Are there other pets in the household?  No – he’ll be lonely.  Yes – he won’t  get as much attention as he needs.
  • How many hours a day am I at home?  If I’m always at home I’m not interesting enough person to merit adopting such a wonderful dog –  If I work, he’ll be neglected.   If I don’t work I have no means to support him . . . . .

Suddenly truth doesn’t matter. What matters is figuring out what they are looking for so they won’t give MY dog to someone else. Takes me forever to answer the application.  Finally I go with the truth.  I don’t like myself if I lie.  But the truth is I am more  fearful they’ll make home visits, find I lied and take him away.  My mind was crazed with love.

My heart sinks when they announce my application will be REVIEWED. (This is no “APPLICATION”.  This is a life review for top-level security clearance)    He’s scheduled for neutering at the end of the week.  Nothing will  be decided until then.

Would you tell me a bit about him?”  I ask hesitatingly not wanting them to think I’m nosey.

  • About 10 months old.
  • Picked up by Animal Control roaming the streets in a far away city.
  • No identification.
  • Put in a kill-shelter.
  • Rescued the day before he was to be euthanized.
  • Shelter volunteers  named  him Homer.

HOMER! ! !  Trying to keep a blank expression on my face so as not to upset the shelter volunteer,  my mind races.  (I can’t call him HOMER!  He doesn’t look like a Homer, act like a Homer.  Homer is a loser name.  No Homer I’m aware of has ever made it big, except Homer of the Illiad and the Oddysey – ay yi yi – painful flashbacks to struggling with the classics in college.  Homer isn’t quirky, lively and no respectable Homer would EVER hump a pillow.)

Little did I know then how classic  “Homer” really was.

Coming! Homer and the Wicker chair – the plot thickens

Links to all the current chapters (they do need to be read in order to follow the story thread):
Prologue & Epilogue
Chapter 1 – Instincts Rule
Chapter 2 – Love at First Lick
Chapter 3 – Chewsing Heaven
Chapter 4 – Unleashed
Chapter 5 – Our Little Angel
Chapter 6 – Favorite Flavors, Patience & Self Control
Chapter 7 – Love has no Bounds