Photo by Danny Fulgencio.

Few people would say that dog poop is what inspired them to start a blog. But for neighbor Patrick Littlefield, it was his “ah-ha” moment.

Littlefield was running late for work, but he still had to take his golden retriever, Max, on a bathroom break. After fruitlessly tugging on the leash of his 70-pound pet, urging him to go to the bathroom, Littlefield realized he couldn’t make his dog poop.

“It was an ah-ha moment because I was also trying to force some things in my work life and my personal life,” he says. “Max was teaching me something in his stubbornness.”

After the incident, Littlefield started writing his observations on a blog called “Lessons from Max” in which he shares how the retriever influences his life for the better. The site is full of posts that focus on love, patience and acceptance.

Max has served as best friend and teacher since 2013, when Littlefield moved back to Dallas after finishing graduate school in Atlanta. He had interviewed for several jobs outside Dallas, but his dad — who had bought Max from a breeder the year before — promised to give his son the dog if he returned to his hometown. It was a bribe, but it worked.

A few months after moving to Dallas, Littlefield made a New Year’s resolution to start writing regularly, and he had a new form of inspiration in Max.

“It was really important for me to have him when I first moved here and was living by myself,” he says. “He was really that companion for me for the first several months of coming back to a new place where I had no connections.

Photo by Danny Fulgencio.

“I was going through some relationship stuff and weighty work stuff, and his presence reminded me of being there for people in the darker moments and in the most joyful moments too.”

Littlefield wrote once a week for the first year but has scaled back since accepting a new job as senior pastor of Lakewood United Methodist Church. The birth of his daughter, Lucy, also means less time for writing, but he still manages to post about once a month.

The post that still resonates with Littlefield is titled “Max is a dog.” Max can be frustrating when he slobbers, eats something gross or chases a rabbit — nearly yanking his owner’s arm out of its socket. But Max is a dog, and Littlefield says he must love and accept him in all his weird doggy ways — just as he is called to love and accept other people.

“The overarching theme that I go for is examining a frustration that turns into a realization of something valuable,” Littlefield says. “A big thing I have learned from Max is the value of observing the world around me with greater appreciation and openness. Practicing that intentional observation helps me be more in tune with the world and see the beauty of it. He teaches me to be more present and to welcome people in my life. He’s so open and generous with his attention.”

Yet not all posts reveal a major truth about life. Scattered frequently throughout the blog are dozens of photos and lighthearted entries about Max’s favorite Halloween costumes and his talent for stealing blankets.

Max can be greedy. Littlefield writes that the 7-year-old retriever always wants more love and attention — and especially food. While away from home on puppy play dates, Max doesn’t hesitate to eat another dog’s food. But thanks to Lucy, he’s slowly learning to share.

When Littlefield brought home a newborn, Max didn’t focus on disrupted patterns of life. He learned to adapt and connect with his humans in a new way. Little did they know, Max had already begun preparing them for parenthood by teaching them to communicate nonverbally, to wipe away drool and to clean up another person’s poop.

Although Max is no longer the center of attention, he remains devoted to his owner and his family. When the Littlefields moved into a new house on Mockingbird Lane, Max had the chance to escape through an open gate in the backyard. He “ran away” to the front porch, where he waited patiently for Littlefield to open the door.

It was another surprise lesson from Max.

Read about Max at lessonsfrommax.wordpress.com.


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