Life to the Max: Back on the Aire!

October 13th, 2010 by Robin Reynolds

It’s been a while since I wrote my blog and I apologize to my faithful followers for my absence. Like most of you, I have had a lot on my mind and by the time I left for a short vacation this summer, I was simply exhausted by trying to do too much in too little time. I needed some time to decide what ideas I was going to pursue and which projects I would need to let go.

As I have in the past, I looked to my dogs for inspiration. In their world, their priorities are simple, driven by single-minded needs: “Let’s play!” “Give me a belly rub!” “Feed me!” They are not preoccupied by complex emotions, family dynamics or office politics. Their purpose is pure and singular.  Still, they too have their occasional distractions—“Squirrel!”—but they are quick to refocus on their original intent. Of course, we humans will always experience more drama in our lives. It is simply our nature. But if we follow the wisdom that comes from the end of the leash, we also will realize that whatever challenges we are facing at the moment are just a “Squirrel!” and we can either choose to get caught up in analyzing the chase or simply let it pass and then return to what really gives our lives joy and meaning.

Besides my family, what gives me joy and meaning is when I can help others celebrate life’s everyday moments, promote healthy grieving and help animal rescue. The way I have done that is through the creation of my book Life to the Max: Maxims for a Great Life by a Dog named Max.

Since we launched our book at the end of 2007, we have been trying to raise awareness and funds for animal rescue and in particular, Airedale Terrier rescue. We donate 25% of our sales on our website to help rescue and we have done well.  But because we are small, we have had an uphill battle for awareness and distribution. What’s more, I’ve come to understand that in the book industry, a book has the life of a gnat and it is totally up to the author to keep its promotion alive.

That’s why this holiday season we are rolling out a national advertising campaign; rededicating ourselves to be more active in social media and holding more contests for some great prizes on our blog. But we need your help. If you have read and enjoyed our book and want to help animal rescue, please join the fun on our blog, retweet our posts and/or send emails to your family and friends to let them know about Max’s Store.  The more books we sell, the more we promote healthy grieving and the more we help rescue. I know it will take some of your time and we all have “Squirrels!” to interrupt our lives, but the other thing I’ve learned from my dogs is they don’t do it alone. They need us to throw the ball. They depend on us to fill their water bowls. And they want us to find that perfect place to scratch that makes them bicycle their legs. We know you’re busy and we’re wagging our tails in appreciation. Now here’s the ball, let’s have some fun. Go fetch!

Taking Your Dog To Work Has Benefits Any Day

June 24th, 2010 by Robin Reynolds

Tomorrow, many will celebrate “Take Your Dog to Work Day” with a day at the office. For my dogs, Amber and Krissy, however, the day holds no particular distinction since they come to work with me every day. True, I own my own business and our workplace is small, so it is easy to accommodate them. Still, as an employer, I find that having my dogs in the workplace is beneficial for everyone for a number of reasons:

1. Dogs teach us to give every task our best effort. Whether my dogs are chewing a bone, chasing a ball or pulling apart a new toy to get the squeaker, they go after it with gusto. It’s just another way of demonstrating that old adage: “Any job worth doing is a job worth doing well.” Maybe that’s where they get the phrase “Work like a dog!”

Krissy gets a scratch

2. Dogs reduce stress. A lot of stress is relieved just by taking a moment to scratch the ears or belly of a canine co-worker. Even if you’re having a tough time solving a problem, your dog will tell you you’re the greatest person in the world every time you look at her. In fact, studies have proven that petting a dog can help lower blood pressure-though I don’t know who gets more benefit you or the dog.

3. Dogs can help us look at things in an unusual way. When we’re trying to solve a problem, it is easy to fall into similar patterns. This is where it is comfortable for us as humans. Yet, we only have to glance at Krissy who has undoubtedly fallen asleep in some unusually contorted position that reminds us that there are many ways to look at a problem and comfort is just a matter of interpretation.

4. Dogs motivate us to stretch. In this computer age of information overload, it is easy to sit staring at the computer for hours without moving. Prolonged periods of time writing, reading or researching can put stress on the lumbar region of the back as well as the neck and shoulders. Dogs don’t remain in one position for too long and whenever they get up from a resting position, they stretch first. Daily stretching can provide a lot of physical and mental health benefits including keeping us younger.

5. Dogs remind us that work is more fun when we do it together. Sure there are vendors to bark at, issues to lick and client demands gnawing at us, but all seems doable when we collaborate. In the company of dogs, all things are possible.

6. Dogs encourage laughter. Dogs are naturally spontaneous and playful and they do smile and laugh. (Really!) Whenever Amber or Krissy hears one of us laughing, they love to be a part of it. Amber will throw her bone in the air and Krissy will roll on her back and grin. They don’t let us get too serious, prompt us to take play breaks and generally just make the workplace a more joyful place to be.

7. Dogs make us feel safe. Whether or not we actually are safer .is beside the point. The reality is that my dogs would rather lick someone to death than to bite their butts, but to the unwelcome solicitor we do nothing to discourage their image as ferocious beasts. “NO, WE DO NOT WANT YOUR BULK CANDY, SPA DISCOUNTS, OR YOUR COPIER, CLEANING OR INSURANCE COST COMPARISONS. GRRRR!!!!

8. Dogs can help us stay in the moment. Oil in the Gulf, job layoffs down the street, assistant out with the flu on day of the big presentation-there are plenty of things to worry about in business-but dogs will keep you grounded. There’s nothing to worry about except what’s right in front of you. All you have to do is take some time to chew it over.

Let’s face it—when you’re in business, there are some days we feel like the dog and sometimes we feel like the hydrant. We’re just glad we have always have the benefit of the doubt from our canine companions.

Life to the Max Lesson: I Am Your Dog

June 17th, 2010 by Robin Reynolds

A friend of mine sent me the following parable.  It is written from the perspective of the family dog, but the author is unknown. It is a great reminder to us all to appreciate the moment and to be generous with our time and attention, and the wisdom of its lesson crosses time, generations, and species. It bears repeating here:

I am your dog, and I have a little something that I’d like to whisper in your ear. I know that you humans lead busy lives. Some have to work, some have children to raise. It always seems that you are running here and running there, often much too fast, often never noticing the truly grand things in life.

Look down at me now while you sit there at your computer. See the way my dark brown eyes look at yours? They are slightly cloudy now. That comes with age. The grey hairs are beginning to ring my soft muzzle. You smile at me: I see love in your eyes. What do you see in mine? Do you see a spirit? A soul inside, who loves you as no other could in the world? A spirit that would forgive all trespasses of prior wrong doing for just a simple moment of your time?

That is all I ask. To slow down, if even only for a few minutes, to be with me. So many times you have been saddened by the words you read on that screen of others of my kind, passing. Sometimes we die young and oh so quickly, sometimes so suddenly it wrenches your heart out of your throat. Sometimes we age so slowly before your eyes that you may not even seem to know until the very end, when we look at you with grizzled muzzles and cataract-clouded eyes. Still the love is always there, even when we must take that long sleep, to run free in a distant land.

I may not be here tomorrow: I may not be here next week. Someday you will shed the water from your eyes that humans do when deep grief fills their souls, and you will be angry with yourself that you did not have just ‘one more day’ with me.

Because I love you so, your sorrow touches my spirit and grieves me. We have NOW, together. So come, sit down here next to me on the floor and look deep into my eyes. What do you see? If you look hard enough and deep enough we will talk, you and I, heart to heart. Come to me not as ‘alpha’ or ‘trainer’ or even ‘Mom or Dad’. Come to me as a living soul and stroke my fur and let us look deep into one another’s eyes and talk. I may tell you something of the fun of chasing a tennis ball, or I may tell you something profound about myself, or even life in general. You decided to have me in your life because you wanted a soul to share such things with. Someone very different from you, and here I am.

I am a dog, but I am alive. I feel emotion, I feel physical senses, and I can revel in the differences of our spirits and souls. I do not think of you as a “dog on two feet” I know what you are and who you are. You are human in all your quirkiness, and I love you still.

Krissy and I spend a few moments together on the floor.

Now, come sit with me on the floor. Enter my world and let time slow down if only for fifteen minutes. Look deep into my eyes and whisper into my ears. Speak with your heart, with your joy, and I will know your true self. We may not have tomorrow, but we do have today, and life is oh so very short.

So please….. come sit with me now and let us share the precious moments we have together.

Love on behalf of canines everywhere,

Your Dog

A World of Difference in the Lives of Dogs

June 9th, 2010 by trohrs

We took a little break from the blog last week, but we’re back with a special blog post from Life to the Max illustrator and designer, Terry Rohrs, who just returned from a trip to Eastern Europe. As she related her adventure to me, I was struck by the cultural differences not only with the people she and her husband met, but also with the dogs they encountered.  I asked her to share her observations in a special guest blog today. Here’s Terry:

A dog’s lot in life is not the same around the world as it is in America. This was never so apparent to me as when my husband and I recently had the opportunity to travel to Eastern Europe. Our observations of dogs in these countries helped to solidify our belief that our own rescued dog, Tater, would probably not have made it out alive if she had been a stray anywhere else.

In Macedonia there were lots of dogs. Almost all were uncollared and ran loose. Like little hobo dogs, they were just about the only beggars I saw. But they weren’t pushy about it. They relied on those big puppy-dog eyes that evolution has nurtured in the species for thousands of years.

My daughter, who’s been living there now for more than 20 months, says dogs are not given elevated “family member” status in Macedonia. They are yard pets, they are working dogs, or they are strays, but not many people bring them into their homes. She told us you won’t find anyone talking baby talk to their dogs, or buying them special treats, or dressing them up in pretty collars and coats. It’s just not done!

We were encouraged to follow the other Macedonians’ example; ignore the little stray and he’d move on. But have you any idea how hard that is for an American dog lover to do? Sometimes when no one was looking, I’d bend down, give a pup a good scratch and tell him just how cute he was and how much I’d love to take him home.

One little guy was so sweet; you could tell he’d appreciate anything we did for him. All of the little hobo pups were good at turning on the charm. Say what you will about the unseemly life they lead: these street dogs don’t know a different way, and they are very grateful animals. I never saw one that was unfriendly, aggressive, bossy, or seemed to have any issues at all with humans! I’m convinced that Cesar Millan would go hungry in Macedonia.

But don’t let them fool you — these dogs are as much pragmatists as everyone else — if I didn’t have food to give them, they’d enjoy a short scratch or chin rub, then move on to the next easy mark! No gain, no loss.

Of course, we were never happier to get home to our own lovable canine companion, but now we appreciate her even more. We know now that Tater’s very lucky she’s an American Girl!

Tater comfortable inside her American home with her favorite ball

Life to the MAX Pose of the Week: Nothing’s Missing in Nina’s Life

May 19th, 2010 by Robin Reynolds

This week’s Pose of the Week is of my friend’s Airedale tripod, Nina, who epitomizes the Life to the MAX attitude.  Since having her leg removed a few years ago after what they thought at the time was cancer in the bone, Nina has not lost a step. In fact, the way she stands, walks and engages in life, you almost have to look twice to realize her front limb isn’t there. Nina could have whined, sulked and withdrawn from life, but to her, nothing was missing from her life–she had love, family and a warm place to sleep. According to Mark, Nina never stopped being happy, active and just as mischievous as usual.  A little disability is not going to stop her!

As humans, we can all learn something from Nina.  Like Nina, we all endure some wounds, losses or setbacks during our lives, but we can choose to blame our bad luck or bless the event that made us stronger.  Nina is leading the way. Now we just need to have enough sense to follow.

Send us your funny, cute or inspirational dog photos for your chance to win a free copy of our book and remember we are now in the process of collecting stories for our sequel.  If you have a story about the lesson you learned from the Max dog in your life, please send it to us or submit it online.

Life to the Max Pose of the Week: The Wonder of Babies & Puppies

April 28th, 2010 by Robin Reynolds

Next month, my son graduates from high school and in preparation of celebrating this milestone, I have been going through a lot of the pictures we have accumulated over the years. One of the things that has struck me as I review these images (other than “What was I thinking with some of those hairstyles and glasses?!”) is how much wonder babies have at discovering the world and how much excitement they exude at mastering even the simplest tasks. Like when Andrew discovered that Bernie made a good pillow.

Or how happy he was to be at the same level as the dogs in his dinosaur walker.

Or how content he was just to share a bit of ice cream with his buddy, Bernie.

As adults, we often let daily stress, thoughts of past difficulties or projections of future problems mask that child-like wonder of enjoying the little triumphs that are a presented to us each day. Though it’s often hard to stay in the moment, if we remembered-even for a few minutes-to act a little more like babies and puppies, we’d have a lot more gratitude and fun to share with each other.

That’s what I thought about when I saw this picture of Dudley that was sent to me by his mom, Susan Widmar.

Even when we get older, there are new worlds to explore and moments that make you say, “AWWWW!”  And when you do, you know you’re living Life to the MAX!

Life to MAX Pose of the Week: Princess is No Sore Loser

April 14th, 2010 by Robin Reynolds

Our call to have our readers send in their favorite funny photos or cute puppy pictures has brought in some interesting photos of large and small puppies. Such is the case with Al Navas’s pit bull rescue, Princess. When we saw this photo of Princess in her little basketball shirt, we thought she looked like a pouting basketball fan–perfect for the beginning of NBA playoff, right?

But Princess has a deeper story that proves she’s now a team player and no sore loser.  I will let Al tell you in his own words:

Princess is now 18 months old; she came to us when she was about 8 weeks old. My 19 year-old daughter brought her from a shelter where she was working as a volunteer when somebody was about to surrender this beautiful puppy. What I saw was a gorgeous, active, playful, intriguing puppy. I had a couple of dogs when I was younger but I had heard about pit bulls and their terrible reputation, which made me question the decision to adopt her. As the days went by and the excitement shared by my children and I grew, my wife became increasingly worried.

She saw Princess as a puppy that needed love and a home, but she also saw an aggressiveness about her that only would feed a lifelong fear of any and all dog breeds. I, on the other hand, figured that her defiant behavior was something that would disappear quickly as she got used to the family. But this wasn’t happening. Not only was she defiant, but she would jump on our 10 year-old cat Tigger and she nipped at my children when they got too close. Soon I realized that I had a big problem on my hands and if I couldn’t train my dog properly, there was no telling what a full-grown aggressive pit bull could do to a human being or a small animal.

My concern grew so quickly that I went and bought the book: “Cesar’s Way” by Cesar Milan, better known as the “the dog whisperer.” I also bought other magazines and read up on a few different articles on dog behavior, but Cesar’s book was the most helpful tool.

I learned through reading and a lot of observation that Princess’ aggression was triggered by fear and she was only trying to protect herself. She was so young when we brought her home that assuming that she had been abused could be very erroneous as some dogs suffer from fear due to other conditions. But my love for animals, especially pit bulls as I learned that they are so misunderstood and that they can make such wonderful companions, gave me the determination to make the time and have the patience that has made me bond with this animal more than I ever have to any other animal in my life.

I learned to correct any undesired behavior immediately and that training brings you closer to each other. I also got my children involved in training her and rewarding her with treats. Slowly she learned that aggression was unacceptable and that she had to obey everyone in the house and respect our cat.

Change didn’t come about fast, but anyone familiar with our dog can pet her safely even when she is eating. She is not obsessive with any toys or objects and she has also learned to release or surrender anything upon command. I think I successfully turned a potentially dangerous animal into the pet EVERYONE in my family loves and plays with. My children are so comfortable around her that they can safely get Princess to her crate and close the door when we have to either clean the floors or we had a guest who isn’t comfortable around pit bulls.

My wife who was afraid of any and all dogs now loves them, and this gives me great satisfaction. Our new found love and respect for this breed has made me become a vocal advocate of this breed and I don’t waste a chance to educate others and share my personal experience with the dog that I love as my best friend…Princess.

Al’s story demonstrates why breed-specific legislation won’t stop dog attacks as much as training will. Thanks to Al and his family, Princess is able to live Life to the MAX!

Send us YOUR funny dog photo, cute puppy picture or tell us the story of your dog and you could win a copy of our book. Have a GREAT day!