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Wonder: What the movie The Secret Life of Pets taught me about being human

If you want to know what my life with Phineas was like in New York City, watch the movie The Secret Life of Pets. Max, the main character, has Phineas’s personality to a tee (though the dachshund Buddy looks exactly like him!) Max even has separation anxiety when his mom, Katie, leaves for work every day just like Phin does. The movie takes place in our neighborhood on the Upper West Side. It shows some of our favorite areas of Central Park and the tiny apartments in beautiful buildings that we happily called home for years. There are a few scenes where Katie and Max are staring out at the skyline from their apartment, complete with the water towers I always loved so much. That was something Phineas and I often did, too. When Max describes his relationship with Katie, all I could do was hug Phineas and say, “That’s just like us, buddy!”

Looking at all of these nostalgic scenes made me realize that while we don’t remember every single moment of our lives, what we do remember is how all of our moments made us feel. I’m sad to say that I don’t remember every single moment with Phineas, in New York City or elsewhere. What I do know is that he has made all of my good moments great moments and he’s made all of the tough times more manageable. His love, devotion, and loyalty have been some of the greatest gifts of my life. I treasure all those walks, snuggles, naps, and playtimes, and I always will. The secret life of pets is that they are our best co-pilots.

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About Christa Avampato

I make a living in business and I make a life as a writer, artist, and yogi. I use my business and storytelling skills to build a better world. My first novel, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, will be published in the Fall of 2017 by Thumbkin Prints, a children's and YA imprint of Possibilities Publishing Co. My creative career has stretched across Capitol Hill, Broadway theatre, education, nonprofit fundraising, health and wellness, and Fortune 500 companies in retail, media, and financial services. In every experience, I have used my sense of and respect for elegant design to develop meaningful products, services, program, and events to help people live happier, healthier lives. A recovering multi-tasker, I am a proud alum of UPenn (BA) and the Darden School at UVA (MBA). When not in front of my Mac, I’m on my yoga mat, walking my rescue dog, Phineas, traveling with a purpose, or practicing the high-art of people watching. I am proud to New York City my home, and I've been called the happiest New Yorker by friends and strangers alike. They're right. Follow my adventures on Twitter at https://twitter.com/christanyc and Instagram at https://instagram.com/christarosenyc.

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To be a writer is to first be a listener and observer. I often go somewhere—a coffeeshop, a museum, a store—and just tune into the conversations of others. I don’t take out my phone or notebook. I don’t have any purpose other than to listen to what people say, how they say it, and then how people respond to them.

I tried this experiment recently at the @metmuseum. I went to their Astor Chinese Garden Court and sat there for a while as people wandered in and out. It’s a bright and peaceful place in the museum. Good for clearing the mind and opening up the ears.

It was fascinating to see such a diverse set of people come into the space and have a similar experience, of peace and contentment and happiness. It reminded me how hurried and cluttered our lives can become. And it made me more conscious of the power of places that give us time to just be. The expression of “wow” on everyone’s face when they entered the garden made me smile.

As we edge toward 2018 and the cold weather takes us indoors for a few months, I’m looking forward to more of these listening and observing activities. We have so much to learn from each other.

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