Ok, that’s obviously not true. I didn’t learn how to type from my dog, and in the 21st century I think it’s pretty important to know how to type. My dog didn’t teach me how to drive or decorate my Christmas tree. I just used the title because I liked how it sounded.
However, I have actually learned an incredible amount about gratitude from my bulldog Augustus.
The other day I was thinking to myself: what part of the day is my dog’s favorite? I certainly have my favorites. If we’re having pancakes for breakfast, then that’s my favorite. If I’m treating myself to a post-dinner milkshake, well then that’s the favorite. If I had an epic surf session, then that’s the favorite. The point is–there is typically a clear, single event that is the day’s highlight, with at most two or three events vying for that title. The rest of the day is acceptable, tolerable, but not necessarily highlight reel after highlight reel.
For Augustus, after long and thoughtful consideration, I think every moment of the day is his favorite part. The dude loves everything, and every moment. He loves when I wake him up, take him groggily outside, to return inside to breakfast. He loves going right back to sleep right after the exhausting, favorite activity of eating breakfast. At mid-morning it’s time for another favorite activity of walking/digging rocks/wrestling with other dogs on Ocean Beach. He loves this so much that he never wants to leave. However, when I do coax him away from the beach, he crashes almost immediately into his favorite nap of the day, when we are usually out of the house. He loves it when we come home, and he lazily rolls over from his nap in the sun to get his belly scratched. That’s followed by another favorite walk on the beach, dinner, post-dinner humping of his favorite pillow, then crashing on the couch while typically resting his head on my wife’s butt.
My bulldog seems to love every minute of the day, regardless of what he is doing. Us humans, we love acute moments in the day, but otherwise just trudge through the rest of it. There are some days, “good days,” or “great days,” where it seems that the acute moments of joy are more chronic, but the day is still laden with complaints.
Now granted, my dog’s appreciation for life may just be the living embodiment of ignorance as bliss. He isn’t aware of bills, jobs, global poverty, or Lost: Season 1, so there isn’t much to make him worry. His existence is simple and glorious.
Last summer my wife and I went on a 6 week road-trip with our bulldog, and I was amazed by his flexibility. He didn’t care where we were, he didn’t care if it was raining in Wyoming or if we were sweating in the Utah desert. As long as he had food and water, a place to sleep, and his family, he was happy. The rest of it didn’t really matter.
Living with this bulldog is like living with a cliche–“don’t sweat the small stuff, because it’s all small stuff.”
And yet, cliches are cliched and pithy, but they’re also wonderful. What an existence he must live! I don’t yearn for his ignorance, but I yearn for his gratitude. My dog loves his life, and he needs very few things to be so in love with living. Us “higher order species” are so burdened by arbitrary “needs” that so many of us have lost that joie de vivre.
So for today, I’m making a point of trying to have as many favorite moments as I can. And it’s entirely inspired by my bulldog Augustus.