Friday, August 22, 2008
by Alan Cohen
A fellow at one of my workshops confessed, "For years I was so miserable that I prayed to God daily to let me wake up as happy as my dog!"
I went home and thought about it. Am I as happy as my dog? Hmmmm.
I began to observe my dog Munchie, who is happy all the time. This seven-pound furball is the most joyful creature I have ever seen, living constantly in a state of continuous delight and discovery. It became clear to me that this tiny fuzzy creature knew something I didn't know (or at least didn't remember). I decided to study Munchie's attitude to see what he was doing that I was missing.
Here are the keys to happiness that I discovered from my pet:
1. Be here now.
Munchie is fully present with whatever is happening. He has no sense of the past or future. You will not find Munchie at the local bar nursing a beer over lost love. He has no lost| love. He loves whatever is in front of him.
Munchie greets me enthusiastically whenever I come home. As soon as he hears my car pull up to the garage, he drops whatever he is doing and runs to meet me. He is so delighted to see me that he barks and cries simultaneously, wags his tail so hard that he wipes up the garage floor with his fuzzy butt, and he pees. (Munchie taught me the meaning of the phrase, "I could hardly contain myself!") This dog lives the attitude of gratitude!
Munchie offers me the same whole hearted greeting no matter how long I have been away. Whether I have been on the road for an afternoon or a month, he gives me the full red carpet welcome. When I come home after a long time he doesn't sit on his haunches with his arms folded and soberly announce, "I think it's time we discussed your commitment to our relationship." No, he is just happy to see me, and he lets me know it.
2. Think possibility.
Every few months Munchie disappears for a few days. I once went searching for him and found him trying to mount one of the German Shepherds next door. The little guy reached no higher than the big lady's knee, but that didn't stop him. He thought big!
3. Seize the day.
Munchie regularly shows up at my front door asking to come in and play with me. Depending on what I am doing and how muddy his feet are, sometimes I let him in. The moment I open the door, he charges in. He doesn't give me a moment to change my mind. He knows what he wants, asks for it, and seizes the opportunity the moment it is offered. Munchie is a master of Carpe Diem.
4. Take care of yourself.
Once Munchie had his tail run over by a car he was chasing. To facilitate his healing process, he found himself a quiet spot under a bush, and simply rested. Whenever I passed his little nook, there was the Munchster, quietly resting with his chin on his paws, just allowing nature to take care of him. After a few days he was back in action, barking, peeing upon my arrival, and hoping the German Shepherd would kneel just a little more.
I thought about what some of us humans might do if we were injured. We might just keep chasing cars; work harder; or blame someone and spend time complaining. But Munchie let all of that go in favor of his natural wisdom. He loved himself enough to rest when he needed it.
5. Entertain yourself.
When I am not home Munchie finds plenty of other amusements. He chases cats, sniffs dead critters, naps, and visits neighbors. He is not codependent. The world, through his eyes, is a big playground. There is always someone or something to entertain him.
6. Be unlimited.
Munchie has no self-concept that he is small, and so acts big. When I take him on walks through the country, he slips under fences and chases cows and horses. I think they are more surprised than intimidated to be corralled by a barking tumbleweed. But it works. Munch usually gets the critters to move at least a little bit, and he comes back with a triumphant smile.
7. Protect your space.
My dog has no questions about his function: he is here to protect me and my grounds from anything that moves. He is like a living announcement machine. The moment any foreign object with wheels or legs comes near the house, his hair-trigger bark alarm goes off. Night or day, he's there to announce potential intruders. (If they don't run away when he approaches, he changes his tactic and starts kissing them -- we're working on that one.)
Munchie's intention is so strong that he actually does intimidate other animals (not including humans). There was a Doberman that used to come around, and she always yielded to the Munchie Sentinel Service.
8. Let yourself be loved.
When Munchie looks tired during long walks with me, sometimes I pick him up and carry him for a while (probably more for myself than him.) The moment he's in my arms, he rolls over and lets me carry him like the King of the Canines. Harboring no sense of guilt or unworthiness, he does not protest, "Oh, you really don't need to do this." or "I will carry you tomorrow." He just lays there and soaks it in. He knows he is worth it, and he receives it with a full heart and body.
Munchie is not a slave to the Puritan Work Ethic. He is closer to the Pure Tan Play Ethic. He doesn't have a job, doesn't lay awake at night wondering if God exists, and doesn't try to hide his little dogie erections when they spontaneously arise. He knows that he deserves love without having to earn it. Munchie is clear that his purpose in life is to enjoy every new day, and he is happy to have the Universe continually take care of him.
As far as I can tell, Munchie is an enlightened being. He doesn't read a lot of books, has never gone to a seminar, and has no problem balancing his checkbook. Perhaps, if I play my cards right, one day I will indeed wake up as happy as him.
Are You As Happy As Your Dog?