As 2018 draws to an end, I find I’ve lived this year with the dichotomy of despair on the national level and happiness personally. This can be a difficult balance when we live in a time of great peril to the planet. Often, I look at our two black Labradors with some envy. They live in blissful ignorance of crisis. While we must be informed, we also need to find sources of laughter and play, like dogs! From a place of dog joy, I can summon the courage to “light a candle rather than curse the darkness” as my great Uncle David said and lived by that motto. 

Pepper, who is four, races and leaps for the exhilaration of speed. She bounds after sticks thrown into lakes and rivers, and sprints after tennis balls. At home, she curls by the woodstove luxuriating in warmth, or stretches out with one front leg straight up and her belly exposed waiting for a good rub. She gives kisses with her wet nose and endless adoring looks.

Pepper gives a nose kiss, after I encourage her to leap up–near Benham Falls, Deschutes River.

Summer, who is fourteen, plods along on trails, yet she has dogged determination and often makes her move to get in front. She still bounds for her food, even if stiff-legged. She nuzzles for attention and has nailed the art of the nap. When you pet her just the right way, her back leg kicks in a spasm of delight. She can lose herself sniffing some aroma under a bush.

Summer nuzzles close to my son Ian in the back seat– a few days ago in Missoula.

Put the two dogs together and what can we learn about joy?

  • Run, jump or twirl for the fun of it—not training or racing.
  • Find a cozy warm spot in winter and curl up.
  • Show our love for another person with touch—we might like belly rubs and nose kisses too.
  • Be excited about our meals—find gratitude in the act of eating and celebrating our food’s journey from farm to table. (But don’t eat as fast as our dogs–they do not know how to savor.)
  • Explore with all our senses to live more fully in the moment.
  • Take naps or at least get plenty of sleep.
  • Nuzzle for attention—we all need some love, so go ahead and ask for it.

Happy New Year to all. Here’s to a fresh start in 2019. Let’s help all those great progressive new members of Congress succeed, especially on behalf of this precious earth. Maybe they could use a few dogs in their offices for daily doses of joy?

If you have pets, how do they teach you joy? If not a pet owner, consider animals in nature—like squirrels, birds, and deer. Do they teach you joy? How? Please feel free to share.

Pepper thinks Summer is a hurdle!
Summer and Pepper
Pepper splashes from the water. Summer is sedate.
Summer and Pepper go hiking on the Tumalo Falls trail with Ian and myself.
Dog wash day….mmmm maybe not so joyful?
Pepper is copilot
Sometimes they share a bed.
What’s in that tree hole?
Great snack. More please?