I used to say that the number of good teachers that I’ve had, I could count on one hand. There was Miss Kirby from the second grade who taught me that reading opens a door to the world. There was Mr. Opland, our school band, chorus and music teacher who taught me to sing and play some of the world’s most beautiful music, even though I lacked the natural talent to be great. There was Miss Heath, my high school English teacher and drama coach who taught me about passion and gave me the will to try things outside my comfort zone. There was Mr. Morowitz, my journalism teacher who taught me that good writing could ease someone’s pain or inspire someone else to action. There was Eugene Lyons, my college theatre professor who taught me that remaining silent to injustice was unfair to myself. These were the teachers who truly inspired me and who made an indelible mark on my future.
But that was when I was only counting the teachers I had in school. Once I realized that every person and every situation had the opportunity to teach me something, my roster of good teachers grew considerably. Many of those teachers came in unexpected forms-the bankruptcy of the company I was working for, a 4-year-old girl in my son’s preschool class, Russian-born comedian, Yakov Smirnoff and our dog, Max.
Max, was a seven-month-old Airedale Terrier, we adopted from the local humane society as a companion for our female Airedale, Bernie. When we helped Max pass 11 years later, I looked for books to help ease the grief of our family and that would especially speak to our 10-year old son. What I found were either chapter books or young reader picture books. Instead I decided to write a story which remembered the major episodes of Max’s life paired with the lessons we learned from him.
Over the years, when a friend’s dogs would pass, I would often share the typewritten manuscript. The manuscript got passed around so much that it became (pardon the pun) dog-eared. Afterwards, the response was always the same, “You should publish this.” It took me six years to finally find the design style, book format and time to do it and the result is my book, “Life to the Max: Maxims for a Great Life by a Dog named Max.”
What I wanted to accomplish with my book was to provide not only a vehicle for dog lovers to deal with the loss of a much-loved family pet, but also to give families a means to talk about important life issues-disappointment, adoption, friendship, love, family, illness and death. It also deals with the importance of a positive attitude when dealing with life’s challenges. Even though it deals with the important stuff of life, it really is a joyous romp. It provides a gateway for remembrance, reflection and inspiration.
I also think it gives people of all ages an opportunity to appreciate what we learn from the experiences we have in life and to recognize the value of the teachers who come into our lives-no matter in what form they present themselves. What we come to realize is that teachers are all around us. The trick is whether or not we choose to learn from them.