2 Lessons From Minjay: A Post-Election Special Edition

Always a smile on Minjay’s face.

A lot of people, all across the political spectrum, are left wondering how to act, feel, and move on from a divisive, bitter election. As I often do in times of challenge, I turn to Minjay for lessons on how to be a good human. Here are two things I’ve learned from him so far that I think apply especially to this week, and to how we can move forward.

Love everyone and everything. Say hi to everyone. Assume they’re the best. Try. But retreat quickly if they’re mean and stay away.

There isn’t a dog or human that we come into contact with on walks or at the park that Minjay doesn’t want to say hi to, play with, and get to know. Minjay will even try to play with dogs who have snapped at him before. He’ll give them a chance, every time, though a bit more cautiously than usual, and if they snap again he just walks away, still happy and wagging his tail.

It is so clear how he assumes that everyone is awesome, everyone is fun, everyone is kind and worth saying hello to. As I’ve watched him over the past four years on daily walks, it’s opened me up to become more friendly and more open to others.

He’s also helped me deal with people who aren’t particularly nice– You always try to say hello and engage, and if they’re mean, you simply walk away without giving it another thought. Which leads me to the next lesson…

My writing partner, always extra happy when we're sitting outside.
My writing partner, always extra happy when we’re sitting outside.

Don’t let anyone affect or change your character.

We were at an outdoor picnic-style event last summer with friends, and in our group there was another dog. The poor pup was a rescue and still getting used to other dogs and noisy outdoor settings. Minjay, every-friendly, wiggled up to the dog to try and play. He rolled around on the grass, smiling, clearly loving our summer night outside. The other dog was barking non-stop, right in Minjay’s face, but that didn’t deter him from having a great time.

I think on some level he knew that the dog wouldn’t hurt him, and he was not about to let anyone ruin his fun or change his mood. I was stunned– even though I’d seen his happy disposition in action a thousand times before, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised— at how he stretched out on our blanket, a huge-happy-dog smile across his face, tail wagging, completely ignoring the other dog’s barks (again, it was right in his face, practically touching him. This wasn’t barking from far away). I made a huge mental note to myself that evening: No matter how someone else is acting, you don’t let them alter who you are and your mood, or ruin a great time for you.

I saw a post by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert on Instagram yesterday that reminded me of this very note I had made to myself a few months ago:


And finally, I’ll end this post with a great video that is a good reminder of how much we can find in common with people we disagree with, especially when it comes to dogs:


How Anxiety Spreads

Mornings With Minjay Michelle Chahine Sinno
Minjay at 2 years old, July 2012.

Yesterday morning, on my way from our apartment door to the elevator, I realized I had forgotten a document that I needed. I had just held it in my hands a few minutes before, so I rushed back inside to pick it up. The weirdest thing happened–as it only does when you absolutely have to leave for an appointment and don’t have time to calmly sort through your things. The paper disappeared.

For some reason, this distressed me a lot. I just had it in my hands! I really wanted to take it with me to the doctor’s appointment (it was a billing issue), and I couldn’t find it. I think that, combined with the fact that I hadn’t slept too well nor eaten breakfast (it was an early appointment), and I wasn’t in my best frame of mind. Stress took over, and I began to madly shuffle all the papers on my desk, pulling out folders and piles and spreading them out. Where was it?

As I searched, I could feel my own anxiety. But then something remarkable happened. When I moved the papers to a footstool to spread them out better, Minjay gave a whine I’ve rarely heard him make (the only times I can think of are once after he had surgery and a couple of times in the car when we were going reverse downhill and it obviously made him nervous). He was just standing next to me watching me madly shuffle at great speed, and he could obviously sense my anxiety– more than that, he could feel it. I had transferred it to him.

I had already learned a couple of years ago that he can sense my excitement. When I grab his leash and am clearly excited to leave the house, and show him that, he jumps around happily at the door even more than usual.

There have been plenty of studies that show how intelligent dogs are and how they can sense our emotions. But this was the first time I saw how my anxiety spread to him tangibly.

All yesterday morning, I couldn’t help thinking about how it could affect other people around me, if it could affect the happiest dog in the world (no really, he is),

That’s a lesson I’ll never forget.


Read more: Children of anxious parents are more likely to be anxious. — from Quartz.com.