Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Everything I Needed to Know About Happiness I Learned From My Dog

Otis, the poster boy of happiness, in his element
My dog Otis, that ear-scratching, butt-sniffing, stomach-with-legs, dander factory is probably the happiest creature I've ever met. Sometimes I envy the peaceful simplicity of his life. Eat, sleep, love. That's about all that matters. And maybe a few hikes and games of Frisbee in-between.

But seriously, there are valuable lessons that can be learned from our pets. Things we can apply to our lives in order to live happier and be more content. 

A few readily applicable tricks I've gleaned from my dog that will enhance your life:

Enjoy the little things
An no-holds-barred roll in the snow or frolic through the grass is a great way to create the experience of pure joy. Just let everything go, damned to anyone watching, and indulge yourself in something simple and invigorating. A life lesson with no bottom to its practicality. Who cares if people think you're crazy? You probably are anyway.

digging a hole on the beach is better than an hour on social media
Digging a hole in the sand is a surprisingly
fulfilling way to kill an hour
Love your people, no matter what
One night I tried to act like my dog when my wife came home from work, wiggling my butt, leaping up and down incessantly, whirling in circles. She nearly called the doctor. But seriously, the pure joy of a dog every time they greet you is one of the most endearing things about their species. No matter what degree of ugly your day turned out to be, it is hard not to smile when your dog races out the door with its tail whipping like a pinwheel to greet you. A dog rarely gets mad and even when he does, he'll recklessly forgive and forget.

Sprawl out on the floor
Pick a spot on the floor (preferably in a crepuscular shaft of sunlight spilling in from the window) and just sprawl out for a few minutes. Nap on if you need to or just enjoy some worry-free moments letting your troubles bleed away into the carpet. When you roll back to your feet, I guarantee you'll be refreshed and ready to return to your full agenda of problems.

Be a messy eater
Perhaps best avoided when you are company at somebody's house but when it's just you and your people, don't be afraid to dig in to your dinner and get dirty. Probably not recommended to leave your wife to clean up the pieces (just because she's happy to do so after your dog doesn't mean she will be for you) but there is an argument to be made for pure, reckless eating.

Chasing a ball on an Alaskan beach is something to howl about
Live in the moment
Though dogs lack the tongue dexterity required to form human speech (and thus can't really tell us what they are thinking), I have a strong suspicion that Otis rarely worries about the choices he regrets not making, or wastes a day fretting about his job or finances. Otis enjoys the chewtoy in front of him and lets the rest fall into place.

Greet everyone as if they are your friend
Otis bounds toward every human or canine he meets with tail-flapping enthusiasm as if they were a long-estranged buddy. I, however, am a self-disposed, mistrustful, and preoccupied creature who tends to treat strangers like potential irritants or obstacles. If perhaps we as a species made a little more eye-contact and employed a few more friendly intentions, we might make slightly faster progress in the aim of making our world a better place.

Swim in that creek
Humans are so afraid of getting wet. We should just jump in that glacier-fed creek, damned to the consequences. Have one of your people throw in a stick for you to chase if that helps. Cold water is cleansing and invigoration. Just shake off afterwards and enjoy warming back up in the sunshine.

Clearly, a dog enjoys many perks to life humans are too stuffy and conceited to consider. The carefree simplicity of rest and love. The pleasure of reckless eating and the company of our people. Some may argue for the great advantages of being human. Like opposable thumbs and abstract thought. Reading books and pondering the nature of existence. But what really have any of those things done for us? They come with the terrible burden of civilization: anxiety, depression, jobs, wars, laws, etc, etc, etc. 

If you ask me all I have wanted all along was simply to curl into a donut on a basket bed and close my eyes for a nap....

When not dreaming about becoming an animal, Brian occasionally writes about other, sometimes more serious, topics like the consequences of building fences between us and our neighbors, or the potentially damaging effects of social media on our culture. He is also a news reporter and essayist and spends as much of his free time as possible working on one or more of his unfinished novel projects which he hopes to one day see on your bookshelf. You can sign up for his mailing list and expect the full expression of his gratitude. Don't worry, all you will get is a weekly email updating you on his most recent musings.

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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions


  1. I agree 100%. Now excuse me while I roll around in the grass for a while.

    1. That definitely sounds fun! While you're doing that, I'll go jump in this freezing cold river after a stick! Thanks for reading, and for the comment!

  2. Brian, I love this. May I use this on my blog by just writing a short into and linking to it... with all the proper credits and links? I am launching a new book in July, but would love to use this at some near future point. Best, Carol

    1. Absolutely! Glad you liked it. I am excited to hear more about your upcoming release1