The other day I went to the grocery store and, as is usual, there was a dog tied out front of the store.
Our eyes met, I immediately forgot about the jelly donut that had consumed my entire being all morning and said, “Hello puppy dog.”
I walked into the store and passed several humans, all with whom I didn’t make eye contact and to whom I certainly didn’t say, “Hi.”
On my way home from the store, I thought this was a curious behavior of mine. Why am I more inclined to say hello to a strange dog than a stranger?
The next morning, I went for a five-mile run. It was morning rush hour or, as I call it, “mourning rush hour.” The new school year had started and this added stress to the commute that wasn’t there the previous months.
Drivers, in general, were driving faster. Having to stop at the stop sign upset them. It pained some drivers to wait for a human to cross the street even though that human was running. I became a defensive runner.
On that five-mile run, I heard two drivers honk at other drivers and saw some adult sign language. It was then that I noticed my internal anger. I wasn’t angry at any particular person.
I just wasn’t feeling the love.
I asked myself, “Why don’t I feel the same sort of happiness about my fellow homo sapiens that I did for that canine? Why aren’t we humans waving good morning to each other? Why does the privilege of taking young people to school make for a bad commute? Why can’t we drive with as much care as dogs sniff each other’s butts?”
This is when I thought we could all learn a few things from man’s best friend. I thought of that Facebook meme that says, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.”
Assume strangers deserve unconditional love.
Assume everyone deserves your unconditional love and would appreciate a wave or a smile (the human version of licking strangers). Be the first to be friendly. This will make you happier and, over time, your disposition will rub off on others.
Live in the moment.
Dogs only care about the here and now. They’re not depressed about yesterday’s mistakes and certainly aren’t stressed about tomorrow’s maybes.
This is a lesson taught in many of the world’s oldest religions. Lao Tzu, the author of Tao Te Ching, said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you’re living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
Dogs have mastered living in the present. Be the dog.
Enjoy the simple things.
Our fast-paced, high-tech, constant-consumption world hasn’t made us happier. Some argue that being so connected on social media makes us less happy.
You’ll never see a dog missing Facebook. They do get excited by the sound of someone at the door, though.
You don’t need social media or textual relations to be happy. Connect with the people in your life for increased happiness and deeper relationships.
Forgive yourself and others as easily as a dog loves you after it’s scolded. Anger is a cancer that eats the soul. It does no favors. It is both a great example and great relief to forgive.
To err is human; to forgive, divine. – Alexander Pope
Don’t be quick to anger.
I was angry during my manic morning run. The dogs I saw were walking with their tails in the air and sticking their noses out car windows. They were just smelling the world as happy as they could be despite all the chaos around them.
We humans would all have better mornings if we were more like our canine companions. Do yourself a favor and push away anger and focus on joy.
Smother your loved ones with love.
Dog owners know this feeling. No matter how good or bad their day is, when they walk in the door their dog couldn’t be happier to see them. Dogs practically jump on their owners with so much pent up excitement built from the time they hear the key enter the keyhole to the time their owner walks across the threshold.
Be this way with your loved ones each and every time you see them, even if you’re just passing through the kitchen for that last jelly donut. Both your days will be better.
If you adopt even one of these behaviors, you’ll be amazed at how your life improves. If you master them all, you’ll live in a dog’s paradise.