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

This Moment Is All That Matters – We Will (Soon) Run Out.

Mornings With Minjay Michelle Chahine Sinno

In the third installment of Minjay’s birthday week lessons, I’m attempting to put into words his deep wisdom on change, aging and mortality.

The soul is a thing you can see.

A couple of years ago, when he was around four, we were sitting in our favorite spots on our couches, me curled up on the left arm of our gray two-seater. Minge curled up in his white armchair. I think I was watching television or reading, and he was sleeping. He awoke and looked up, looked at me, and I looked at him. And I was startled because… I recognized him.

That might sound silly. Recognized him? I saw him every day. Most workdays, at the time, I was home all day with him writing. How could I “recognize” someone I was with every day. But the thing is, in that quiet moment, I saw him for the individual he was, with his own character and his own presence, and his own soul. (The souls of animals is something much smarter women and better writers than I, like Dr. Jane Goodall and Sy Montgomery, have explored and tried to describe.) This is one of the harder lessons to put into words, but I’ll keep working on it!

Minjay Michelle Chahine Sinno

This moment is all that matters – we will (soon) run out.

Not to be morbid, but I think of this every day. And ever since he was three years old, I’ve been very aware of being in the moment, because that was when I first realized he was growing older: He was no longer a little puppy, and there would be a day when I would have to say good bye to him.

Every walk, every cuddle, every morning is precious. And it’s not that I’m worried about losing him (though I certainly am, already), it’s about knowing just how valuable every
moment is, in a way that is all too easy to take for granted in our busy modern lives. But I don’t anymore, thanks to

Things are going to change. We are going to age. That’s OK.

When I first saw signs of Minjay aging, I freaked out—feelings that reached a peak during the horrible surgery he had to endure last year. Once he recovered, and taught me a whole Minjaylist of lessons on resilience (we’ll leave those for another day), he taught me that it was OK. Though part of
me wanted to reminisce about his puppy endless, boundless energy, and was sad that he had slowed down a bit, there were so many wonderful things that came with that slowing down. We could now sit together in coffee shops, and even though he’d jump up to greet everyone who passed eagerly, he was calm, sure of himself, still and happy to enjoy just sitting outside together. At home on the couch, he started to jump up and snuggle his face into my lap, something he never did as a puppy. There were all these facets of him I was getting to see, facets that only came with his maturing and age, and wonderful new moments and lessons to experience. And as we age together, and grow up together (and he raises both me and my husband to be better humans), our bond grows deeper. And I wouldn’t change that for a thing. Because he’s perfect today, just the way he is. (And, he teaches me, so am I).