I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing Bruce Feiler speak at Google about his book The Secrets of Happy Families
. I expected to hear some of the traditional/cliché advice and have it be very prescriptive, but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't. Bruce dug up some interesting research and spent his time visiting with families all over the world to find out some commonalities of things that should be done and also avoided.
Below are some of my notes on the talk. I look forward to reading his book sometime soon.
- Biggest learning from positive psychology is that biggest source of happiness is relationships
- High functioning families adapt all the time
- Constantly forced to change and react
- Rarely able to be proactive
- Kid number one wish is for parents to be less stressed
- Weekly family agile meetings
- Public accountability
- Morning checklist with list of everyone's obligations
- Weekly Sunday meeting
- 3 questions
- What worked well
- What didn't work well
- What will we agree to work on in week ahead
- All give ideas
- Vote on 2 to work on
- Gives access to innermost child thoughts
- Let kids with adult supervision pick their own rewards and punishments
- Don't have to discuss all battles in the moment but can resolve on Sunday
- Be mindful of how function as a family
- Have to empower your kids
- Have kids set own work plans, evaluate selves
- Builds up their brains from fmri research
- Parents don't have all the answers
- Allow kids to criticize their parents and let off steam
- Second big idea: talk a lot
- High functioning teams have a lot of communication
- Talk about what it means to be part of your family
- Talked to Jim Collins
- Preserve the core and stimulate progress
- Define core identity
- Creating family mission statement
- Talk to kids about what they think our family values are
- Family dinner
- It is nice if can do it but the core part of the convo can be moved to family breakfast or meal out on weekend or whenever
- What matters is the family part
- Things to do in family convo
- 1. Word a day
- Teach one new word a day
- Bring newspapers and mags and catalogs with color names
- It's ok to google at dinner for new knowledge
- Have kids teach new words and slang to parents
- 2. Autobiography night
- Kids narrating story about self
- Parents who ask more elaborating questions like who/what/where/when/why have kids develop narration skills better
- 3. Talk about your family history
- Where grandparents were born
- Where parents went to high school
- Stories of overcoming disease or obstacle
- Kids who understand more of this are more confident and feel more control over lives
- Ascending family narrative: gain
- Descending family narrative: loss
- Oscillating family narrative: cycles
- Children who understand their oscillating family narrative have better ability to overcome obstacles
- Third big point: go out and play
- Spend less time worrying about what do wrong and focus on what enjoy
- Limit amount of conflict
- "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." (Anna Karenina by Leo Tolsoy)
- Happiness is not something you find but something you make
- Secret to happy family: try
- Game at dinner
- What they did bad today, what they did good
- Or highs/lows
- Family meetings should be about how family doing not about individual highs and lows
- Play improv game at beginning and end of family meeting as marker
- Put allowance at end of family meeting
- Don't talk about difficult stuff midstream of week or late at night but at specified time
- Groups make better decisions
- Vote before discussion so loudest person doesn't overwhelm
- If have more than 1 woman in a group it will make a better decision
- Get ppl into family difficult convo even if don't know much
- Give warring siblings a task to do together
- Enlist kids into contact with grandparents
- Be open about difficulties with your kids
- Don't pretend to be supermom
- Game: pain points
- Everyone says what they are struggling with
- Have kids help you solve your dilemmas
I don't remember how I heard about this book, but it was hilarious. Joel Stein, a writer for Time Magazine, wrote a book called Man Made,
chronicling his quest to find masculinity when his son was born. The self-effacing, brutally honest stories in the book made laugh as much as they made me think.
It's been interesting to compare and contrast some of the books I've read recently on the topic, like Iron John
. In Joel's book, I found myself finding many parallels and similarities between my own life and his, so a lot of what he described resonated with me. There were many times though where I was shocked at just how scared and dainty Joel seemed; in that sense, just reading the book makes you feel manly (compared to Joel). But in other senses, you definitely feel respect for him (like fighting for 5 minutes with a UFC champ).
I've made some of my own steps towards doing "manly" things, and I've done them in my own way, which I'm proud of -- like scuba diving, learning to fly, and martial arts. His take-home message -- that you learn by doing and push your comfort zone -- made a lot of sense to me.
I'm curious if others out there have gone on similar quests and what they experienced.
Below are my notes and takeaways from the book (sorry for any name misspellings).
- Father to a boy
- Freaks out
- How to find own masculinity
- There are gender differences and important different roles for both to play
- Too much feminism wrong
- Learn how to be a man
- Had a soft life, avoided guy activities
- List of tasks to turn into man
- Fears are just list of things to do
- Not old style man tasks, not über modern
Ch 1: surviving outdoors
- Start out as 11 year old boy
- Didn't join boy scouts
- Never was outside as kid
- Spend weekend as boy scout
- Without modern comforts
- Firestone Scout Reservation in Los Angeles
- Scout leader Rick Pierce
- Mom didn't let him join boy scouts
- Goes for weekend
- Mom liberal feminist therapist
- Snipes are fake birds hunted
- Boyish delight, being born happy
- List of life advice for kid
- Experience of birth of child
- Cries more after son born
Boy scout weekend
- Wants to learn man skills so doesn't pass on inadequacies to kid
- Don't need so much clothing or niceties
- No pooping
- Peeing on trees
- No brushing teeth or changing underwear
- Learn to unbrush, unfloss
- Lose the baggage
- Barfing on each other
- Passed boy scout test
- Confrontation and fighting part of manhood
- Nerdiness is big part of manliness
Ch 2: helping the helpless
- Service projects
- Learn from Firefighters
- Real men use military time
- Captain Buzz Smith of LA County Fire Dept No 27
- Go reading to kids
- Firefighters sleep at the station instead of like shifts
- Like frat house
- Like each other
- Visit hospital where they bring patients to
- Love donuts
- Men in fire house each have project they're building with their own money
- Lunch at In n Out
- Being a liberal isn't manly
- Most republicans
- Is manliness needed with technology?
- Progress = enemy of masculinity
- Guy trips together on days off
- Two families each has
- Guys bond over pranks
- Affection masked as hostility
- Dinner called family time
- Game to decide who washes dishes
- And then everyone does the dishes anyways
- Stop thinking about stuff and start doing stuff
- Use the pole because more awesome than stairs
- Risking life for something as a team makes him happy and productive
- Sad when beaten by other trucks to fight fire
- Firemen clean up after fighting fire
- Woken up in middle of night
- More like social workers and chauffeurs for the poor than superheroes
- Great bonding
- Common purpose of sacrifice
- Made him glad he has a boy
Ch 3: engaging in competition
- Excitement of hanging out with the guys
- Need more entry points to convos with real men
- Shawn Green MLB all Star coached him on baseball
- Book: The Way of Baseball
- Shawn went to Stanford like Joel
- Likes meditation
- Girls have hotness
- Boys have quantifiable measure of value: athletic ability
- Not knowing about football kills convos with men
- Pro-Ball indoor baseball training facility
- pomade by crew or unite creamy paste
- Badass Jew
- His dad was very aggressive and conflict seeking
- Dealt with antisemitism
- Line cutting vigilantism
- Focusing on physical talent is invigorating
- Shawn took 2 Buddhism classes at Stanford. Philosophy of acceptance
- 20 min daily meditation and yoga
- Learns to throw baseball
- Swing on ball with tee
- Focus on present moment
- Drink tea and wine, no coffee or beer
- Non-Jewish wives
- Try chewing tobacco
- Can be wimp inside but just expand and try new things
- Hates football
- Tribal, warlike, anti intellectual football
Goes to friends to watch football
- Prepares with sports newscaster
- Tip 1 to watch game: shut the hell up
- When don't know how to act like a man then act like my dad
- Ass slapping
- Arm slapping
- Group of guys experiencing something together
- Swimsuit calendar
- Only no perfect grade on report card was gym
- Family crest
- Wants to learn how to fight from UFC champion
Ch 4: bonding with men
- Learns to drink scorch from Macallan brand manager
Ch 5: making money
- learns from day trader
- Posts on dealbreaker blog for someone to give him 100k to trade for a day
- Step in when no one's trading and scared
- Trading not about money but about quantification of competition and your pursuit to be the best u can
- just trade in first hour and don't trade rest of day
- A bit at end too
- Traders cursing
- Lights off
- No women
- Midday breaks
- Didn't avoid the big chances
- Like taking risks
- Matt doesn't drink alcohol
- After hours trading important
- Was afraid of change but now ok for danger and change
- Al the action is in taking risk
- Manage risk more actively
Ch 6: using machines
- Son loves cars
- Needs to learn about cars
- Takes Lamborghini to drive for 3 days
Ch 7: taming animals
- Owning a dog
- Get over fear of dogs
- Reduced uptightness
- Limited himself in past to maintain his identity and to belong to tribe
- Rescue dogs
- Playing with pit bull
- Feels present with dog
- Dog anal glands
- Learning to be fearless and gentle
Ch 8: building shelter
- Do things yourself and be proud of your results
- Build your own world and your own house
- Learn from father in law
- Self reliance
- Learns to fix up home
- Learns to see beauty everywhere
- Perfectionist who likes creating good work
- Being dad just requires being present
- Skills of new manhood
- Son a bit wimpy after all
- Stand the way you want your son to stand
Ch 9: providing food
- Need to practice destroying stuff
- Understand violence
- Learn hunting from Matt Stefina of Vermont trap fun tour company
- Have to really care about turkeys to want to kill
- Peaceful fishing
- Accept discomfort of loneliness and boredom
- Calm mental chatter
- Standing up for wife
- Doesn't regret not going over to beat other guy up and regrets not regretting it after all done
Ch 10: defending my country
- Get military to force him to change and grow
- Been anti military his whole life
- Joins marine bootcamp
- 54 hours of challenges
- Gets hair shaved
- Pain is weakness leaving your body
- Really bad at joining a group and submerging who
- Joins army bootcamp and fires a tank
- Happy and present at army bootcamp
- Honorable conduct
- Always looking fresh
Ch 11: protecting my family
- Got punched in face by reality show guy who lived with lions
- His brain skips anger entirely
- Anger deficient
- Works with fighter/boxer
- Goes through with fight with randy couture even when feels pain
- Didn't totally change himself
- Changed how he reacts to conflict
- Change not by deciding but by doing
- Taking punches makes you tough
- Change is possible
- Attitude to face fears and challenges
- Dad gives gift of making son feel safe
- Man needs to learn for himself
Less than a year after my grandfather Izya passed away, my grandmother Stasya followed her husband to be with him in the next life as well. I wanted to write a quick note in her memory and share what lessons (positive and negative) I learned from her.Bio
My grandmother was a "gold medalist" in school and became an economist and industrial engineer. When she was little, her whole family was sent to one of Stalin's concentration camps, where she suffered injuries that stayed with her all her life. After the war ended, she returned home to a small city in Ukraine and started her own family.
She was always proud of how she could stay home, cook, and provide a warm home for her family. In this way, she was very, very traditional (but had a very strong character). Talking to her was sometimes like answering a police deposition (though the daily subjects were what I ate and how many pieces, what clothing I was wearing and its thickness, and what time I would be home at the end of the day).
When she moved to the United States, she learned English, and while she tried to be as active as she could, her medical problems kept her mostly at home, and so I feel she never quite adjusted to American life. For example, she never really understood why people like to eat in restaurants (What, your food at home is bad or you don't like my food?).
Her biggest character trait of all was caring (sometimes to a frustratingly high degree of detail); she loved and cared for those around her and needed to know everything about them (and worried about every detail of their lives, even when she could do little about it).Lessons
I learned a number of things from grandma, both examples of behaviors I wanted to replicate and also examples where I wanted to be different. Even though I felt a generational and cultural gap between me and her, I knew that I could still learn a lot from her, even despite (or perhaps directly due to) these differences.
- Fearing the unknown or new things. This is logical given her experience with the camps. But for myself, I want to feel like I can face uncertainty and am open to new experiences.
- Huge value on physical warmth and food (she always asked what I ate). I agree with this but not with the same level of importance my grandma attributed to it.
- The importance of education (grades, tests). I definitely continue this focus.
- Lots of questioning and deep inquiry. She really cared and always wanted to know more. She had a very good memory for my friends' names and constant awareness of the locations and health status of everyone in the family. Sometimes her questions got to be too much, but I think I could learn to be a bit more like her in making sure I stay up to date with the critical details of those around me I care about.
- Tradition and careers. She definitely had a very narrow range of career choices in the Soviet Union and carried those over to the US in thinking that the only honorable professions are in medicine and law. Business and engineering didn't seem like "professions" ever to her, and I found myself explaining to her my work and what "entrepreneurship" and "computers" were all about almost every time we spoke.
- Little individuality or aspirations. I felt like my grandma was always "on the side" and had few hopes and desires for herself; she always focused on others and on family and almost never expressed her own wishes. I wonder how she was different growing up. Was this due to her decreased social interaction here? Was this due to her aging? I always felt bad about this and wanted to hear her own hopes and some spark of life there inside her. I hope I can maintain that in myself as I age.
My grandmother was a very special person, and I will miss her greatly.
The Good, Bad, and Ugly
Here's the scenario. You're at dinner with both your family and your significant other's family. The awkwardness that results needs no explanation.
How does the awkwardness go away? From my experience, there are often two main solutions: guys and dogs.
By "guys," I mean the most common link between the two families. (This example can be extended to include two social groups that share some common members but do not often mix.) There is this pressure that guys (if they're the most "common" member of the two social circles) feel to help break the ice. Often times, girls play this role much more naturally. Everyone often looks to whoever it is organizing the event or joint outing for social cues as to what to do with the awkwardness.
And the best way to dispel it is through humor. That's where dogs come in. Having a dog around immediately (for better or worse) shifts the focus of attention away from the social interaction and onto the cuteness or hilarity of the animal. Everyone likes to pet it, ask questions about it, tell stories about its escapades, and that dispels awkwardness and also creates bonding (as the two social circles learn more about each other through their common experiences around dogs). Maybe cats and all pets help serve this function too.
But humor and cuteness need not be solely from dogs. Often funny hats and weird clothes can serve the same function.
I wonder if other guys (or pet owners) out there have felt the same way and what techniques others use to help their guests feel at home. When it's my job, I know that I feel responsible to do this as the guy, and my dog always comes to the rescue to help.
When most people think of the chihuahua
, they think of the Taco Bell dog
. That certainly made the breed a lot more famous, and I heard it unfortunately created an oversupply of the breed which still exists today.
But Taco Bell wasn't the only place in pop culture that featured this rat dog. Consider Beverly Hills Chihuahua
. Though the movie definitely jokes about ultra-luxurious living for dogs (comfy suntanning lounges by the swimming pool, manicures and massages -- how could a modern dog live without these necessities?), it actually does do a bit of justice to the long history and richness of the breed that eludes the eye (which is usually just overwhelmed by the cuteness of the face).
There's a scene in the movie where the dogs meet the powerful, wild chihuahuas that represent the grace, beauty, and fearlessness that the chihuahua contains inside. This is obviously for cinematic effect, but there is some truth to this. Every time my chihuahua is annoyed (such as by being put into a rabbit costume or by having its teeth brushed), it displays the meanest and fiercest set of fangs that are better suited for a lion than a rat.
It is true that the breed possesses a long history and is named after the state
in Mexico of the same name. Chihuahuas were the favorite companion of the Toltec royalty and were bred to be small and cute. They are perfect examples of the "toy dog" category.
When I first interacted with a chihuahua, I thought it would be a stupid, small dog (for chicks to carry in their purse). As I spent more time with the breed and got to bond with one closely, I realized that the cuteness was a front, a facade. They use their cuteness to get into your heart and your arms and use you for food, shelter, warmth, and love. Chihuahuas are in fact devilishly clever; I was surprised to see how incredibly smart they are. Their love for people and social nature makes them happy to meet anybody and to play, but each dog has a very unique personality. I can say that there are only 2 things in the world that my chihuahua cares about, so making her happy is very easy: food and being petted. She has mastered several circus animal tricks (she reminds us of Abu
sometimes) which she uses to be rewarded with extra treats and petting.
Another part of the animal that I think is neat is its ears. Though they're not as soft, large, and easy to pet as a Neapolitan Mastiffs, they are clearly strategic tools in the limited arsenal of self-defense mechanisms of the chihuahua. When the dog hears something, one or both ears can turn to help it analyze the sound. When it runs, it can slide its ears back into what I call "aerodynamic mode" sort of like a Batmobile changing shape to minimize air friction/drag. This is obviously instinctual and unconscious, but I still think it's cool.
I also think the dog's eyes are deep and full of life. At first, it may appear that they are black, lifeless orbs. In fact, the dog's face and eyes look very similar to monkeys'
, and even camels'
. In this way, every facial expression the dog makes immediately invokes a smile due to its cuteness. However, upon closer inspection, it's clear how deep and complex its eyes can be and how it uses its eyes to convey emotion and excitement (like for food).
Overall, I've enjoyed getting to know this breed and appreciate its more subtle points much more than when I first met it.
First Neo: Mario
My first dog ever was a Neapolitan Mastiff
, and I've fallen in love with the breed ever since. Though I currently live with an amazing (but high-maintenance) chihuahua
, I wanted to dedicate a quick blog post to the breed that first stole my heart.
My first dog was Mario, a Neapolitan Mastiff we rescued. Since then, my family has rescued two other Neapolitan Mastiffs one after the other. I named Mario after my favorite video game
as a kid and because the breed is Italian. We decided to keep Mario's memory alive through Marcello's name, and similarly through Marceza's name, our family's first female Neo.
As you can see from the photos, Mario and Marceza feature the grey color, whereas Marcello the brown color. Those are the two main colors the breed sports. Also, all three dogs feature fairly full tails and ears. It's a tradition to chop off the tails and ears to conform to the official Italian breed style, but we didn't do this. I find that the ears are one of my favorite parts of the dog. I think the dogs would agree, based on how loudly they snore with pleasure when their ears are massaged.
Second Neo: Marcello
The breed is very old, with its name originating from Naples. The history is very rich, with the dog featured in cavemen drawings and playing important roles in both World Wars.
You can read all about it online
, including finding tons of photos
(I especially love how cute the puppies
are). Though the breed is not that well known or popular, it has quite a devout following of admirers. What I want to focus on in this post is what I
personally love about the breed myself.
Third Neo: Marceza
Here are the top 5 reasons I love Neapolitan Mastiffs:
1. Super smart: They are incredibly smart and can learn almost anything. All of our dogs have been trained, and though they do have strong personalities at times, they will behave and listen to commands. They also pick up on every nonverbal and situational clue around them, such as when you get dressed or are in a bad mood; they will clearly respond intelligently to this, and that fascinates me.
2. Fun: Though they weigh typically 100-200 lbs., they are extremely fun to play with and not aggressive. They can be aggressive against strangers who surround the home without invitation, but for family and friends, they are extremely fun and gentle. They love to chase balls, play tug of war, chew bones, and perform tricks, like giving a high five or standing up and resting their paws on your shoulders.
3. Loyal and protective: They are extremely protective of their family and will be a great deterrent to anyone considering trespassing. From what I've read of their history, they have helped shepherds and farmers protect their livestock and homes for centuries.
4. Ears: As I mentioned before, their ears are amazing. Oh yeah, they also have great sense of hearing (and smell/nose).
5. Flews: I just learned this word, but apparently that's the name for their mouth/snout/muzzle (the flaps of skin hanging over their lower jaw out of which their whiskers grow). The flews are extremely cute and a hallmark of their look, but they are a double-edged sword. This cuteness comes with a clear price. Though the flews can be very cute while flapping in the wind while the dog is running or sticking its head out of the car window, they are like leaky kitchen sinks after the dog takes a drink of water or is sweating/breathing hard. We keep rags all over the house just to wipe the dog's mouth every time it drinks. It's ok: this price is definitely worth the cuteness.
Overall, I really love this breed and hope others can appreciate it too. Though most people's reaction may be one of hesitancy or fear (because of the dog's size or look), a deeper study and any time spent with the breed will immediately convert you to a lover of the Neapolitan Mastiff for life.
The last month or so has been particularly tough for my family. About 5 weeks ago, my last grandfather passed away, and yesterday, the second dog I ever had passed away. I've unfortunately had a lot of opportunity to think about life and mortality and struggle with the meaning of loss.
The subject of loss I've heard is written about extensively, but luckily I have never really had a large need or motivation to study it. I find myself wondering now what others feel like, what I should feel like, and methods for coping. How quickly should one go on with one's life? Is it fair to be happy when someone else cannot?
I've come to realize that I'm curious about the process of mourning and want to learn more about it. I'm also curious about how to best deal with loss and what it means to people as a community. I've seen that loss can bring people together and bring them closer, and it is sad that it sometimes requires loss to do that. But perhaps that is something good that the lost soul leaves to those who outlive him or her.
I've also realized that dealing with loss is really personal. Though I'm curious how others feel and what they do, I'm happy with myself and the feelings I've had. I try to live my life in a way where if I or someone I love is gone the next day, I have minimal regrets. Therefore, I speak to every single person that's important in my life every day and see everyone in my family at least weekly. This might be my cultural upbringing and family norms, and I know it can seem strange to people raised differently than I was (or whose families live far away). But for me it feels natural and normal, and I'm happy about that.
In addition to being close to the people I love when they're alive, when they're sick, I try to pray for them. And when they leave my life, I've tried to think about them in a positive light, to imagine they're in a better place, and most importantly to remember them for how happy they made me feel.
To that end, I wanted to make a small tribute in this blog post to the memory of my grandfather and my dog. Below is a small description of each, including a brief glimpse into what they were all about, to both help me remember them in the future and to honor them in some small way.
My grandfather Izyaslav (leftmost in the photo) was born in Chernivtsi, a small town in Ukraine. When he was a young boy, World War II broke out, and he was separated from his family for several years. He had to completely fend for himself as he journeyed alone and worked to reunite with his family. He was an engineer by training and handy with hands, working on cars and in industrial settings throughout his life. He was very proud of his son (my dad in the middle of the photo) for becoming a doctor and being first in his class, and always stressed the importance of hard work and being a good example to others. He always told me stories and explicitly tried to impart his wisdom on me whenever we were together, but he was also always curious about my life and wanted to hear everything about it. His dream was to dance at my wedding one day, and his dream came true just over one year before he passed away.Favorite things in life
Lessons he taught me
- Knight Rider: When I was growing up, my grandparents picked me up from school everyday and fed me (my parents were often working late in the hospital as residents). I watched the Knight Rider TV show with my grandfather almost everyday, and we both enjoyed the smart talking car and the action (who doesn't love Hasselhoff?). I really think the Knight Rider show was formative of my love of computers, AI, and science.
- Mephisto and Salamander shoes: My grandpa had trouble walking later in life, and he was always passionate about shoes that were comfortable. These were his favorite brands, and though he rarely got out to stores or bought himself new shoes, he was always a fan of these brands and comfortable walking shoes in general.
- Massages and "kavali": My grandfather's touch was always therapeutic, and he was always into hugging and giving massages whenever he could. It was good exercise for his hands (which trembled due to his experiences during the war), and he would use the opportunity to say a blessing of his own that he made up called "kavali" (which means "heels" in Russian), wherein he blessed my heels and wished me luck. This always seemed like a silly childish thing, but now I realize it was a unique way to show how he cared and to create a loving bond. He often told me about how he was raised in a very large family where people would constantly joke around and laugh together, and because our family in the US was small, he took it upon himself to add in the closeness and joy whenever he could.
I miss him very much, and
- Be wary of others, especially in business: That is a mild way of putting it; my grandpa often told me that business is all lying. This is probably the way he was raised and a result of his experiences in the war, but in some ways it is still relevant today. Though a lot more businesses (especially socially entrepreneurial ones) create value without lying and without taking something from others, many businesses still derive all their value from taking advantage of others and using one's unique position or information to profit. Is this really lying? I guess that's just a matter of perspective.
- Fend for yourself: My grandfather always taught me to trust others but to check their work and fend for myself. I understand where that attitude may have come from, and I think it's a valuable perspective to have. It's obviously a matter of calibration in every different circumstance in order to figure out how much trust is appropriate.
- Be honorable: For my grandfather, this meant doing the best work one can do and gaining respect in the community. He was very proud of my dad for his performance in school and professionally, and he was also proud of me. He never really pushed anyone to work hard; in fact, he always said he knew that the outcome would be as good as it was. I guess his pride was quite motivational.
he is in my thoughts everyday. I know that he is no longer suffering and sick, and I know he watches over me always.
We rescued my dog Marcello when I was in college, right after my first dog Mario died. These are the only two dogs I've ever had, and my family has always rescued Neapolitan Mastiffs. We love the breed, and I've been lucky to read about their unique history in several Italian and English books that I've collected over the years. Marcello was sick throughout his life with many mild/topical issues, and he began life very anxious around people and somewhat aggressive. However, the love our family gave him quickly brought him peace of heart, and he became an extremely loyal, protective, and loving member of our family. To me, he was like a brother or a friend; we always loved to play together outside and go for walks, and I missed him dearly when I moved out and could only visit him once a week to brush his teeth. Favorite things in life
Lessons he taught me
- Sunbathing: The first thing Marcello would do when outside on the grass (after peeing) would be to topple his 130-pound body onto the grass and roll around like a pig. He loved to soak in the Vitamin D from the sun and to chase me as I played and instigated him to run. He also loved to grab a huge tennis ball that was bigger than the size of his mouth and to play tug-of-war with me using several rope toys that he had.
- Greenies: These were his favorite treat, and he would eat them with delight whenever he could. He obviously needed to eat the large/giant size, and he would usually finish one in about two minutes. I could see from the saliva he generated that he was enjoying himself, and though he liked other treats quite a lot, I knew Greenies were his favorite (especially by the look in his eye right before he got them).
- Sitting on couches: We tried to make this illegal at first, but he was so convinced of being a human being that we could not resist him much longer. He would always be polite and wait until we gave him some space on the couch or were off the couch before he would mount and lie down. Perhaps it was to feel human, perhaps it was just to be closer to us; in any case, Marcello was not a just-lie-on-the-floor kind of guy.
I miss Marcello very much, and
- Always be happy when you see those you love: No matter what was going on or how sick he was, Marcello would always wag his tail, jump up on his hind legs, and push his body against my legs whenever I saw him. Dogs are just like this: they are always excited when they see you, as if there is nothing more important in the world to them and there is nothing they could've been doing that would have kept their attention or stopped them from saying hi. I often find myself and those around me so wrapped up in "work" and "life" that we can't snap out of it when we see someone for the first time in the day or after a break. This is an important trick that we "old dogs" should learn from real dogs. As Charles de Gaulle said, "The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs."
- Never give up: Marcello kept a good attitude and took care of himself up until the end. He never cried or winced or made life more difficult because of him, and he was always happy with whatever we needed him to do. I know he was in a lot of pain at the end, and I respect how strong he was and how he never gave up.
- Be loyal: Marcello would always bark like crazy whenever there were people near the house and would spend hours on end by my side or by my mom's side when we were at home. When we went for walks, he would sniff around, but he was never interested in other people or other dogs; he always stayed close to us and would only get aggressive or anxious when he thought we were threatened. This is pretty typical dog behavior, but it's still remarkable in my opinion, and I respect him for his innate, instinctual loyalty.
he is in my thoughts everyday. I know that he is no longer suffering and sick, and I know he is sunbathing and playing with Mario in a better place as well.