Learning Happiness from our Pets

“Always hold fast to the present. Every situation, indeed every moment, is of infinite value, for it is the representative of a whole eternity.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Yesterday I was reminded, not for the first time, that we have much to learn on the subject of happiness from our pets.

My pet experience is almost exclusively with dogs whom I have found to be masters at BEING in the moment and BEING happy with no preconditions. So much of human happiness is contingent on accomplishments or goals. Pets, or at least dogs have the profound ability to express what appears to be blissful joy and total happiness based on nothing than pure acceptance of the present and their enjoyment thereof. I cannot speak for other animals so to those readers who may have conflicting experiences with their pets, I apologize, but most dog readers will likely agree with what I have to say.

My dog Floyd is the latest in a long history of dogs to teach me the value of enjoying the present. Yesterday’s walk in particular was impactful to me because I have spent a great deal of time and energy focusing on the future and how I will accomplish certain goals whether it be with regards to my lifting competitions, my career, or even just the future of certain hobbies, most notably this blog. That is all well and good, as these things are deeply meaningful to me and I derive great joy from them in the present, regardless of future successes, but there is undeniably some part of my happiness and contentment tied up with the potential success or failure of these endeavors.

Dogs are a perfect reality check and masterfully bring us back to the present, opening our eyes to all we ever really have, which is this very moment. Not for the first time in our time together, Floyd helped me get my head out of the clouds and reveal the beauty and happiness right in front of me. Whether it be the smell of a flower we pass on our walk, the majesty of nature manifested in all of the creatures we encounter on our walks like chipmunks, squirrels, or various birds, the majesty and beauty of our interconnected existence that all things share is always on display if we only take the time and effort to realize it.

Floyd has always been good at this and I find that when I follow suit I immediately reach a temporary sort of enlightenment and peace. Following his lead I remember to slow down as we take our walks. Why be in such a rush? So I can speed through my time with him and in nature to get back to my laptop to fire off more emails? Where is the fire? Better instead to walk slowly, truly seeing what surrounds us rather than just speeding through as if the journey were a distraction to be fast-forwarded through.

Yesterday’s walk concluded at the dog park where Floyd was literally leaping with excitement and anticipation for me to let him off his leash. He spent the next half hour chasing after new friends, rolling in the mud, or looking over his shoulder to check on me – his smile never leaving his face the entire time.

It struck me at this moment that I couldn’t remember the last time I had been as excited as he was about anything. That isn’t to say I don’t have plenty of enjoyment in my life, because I do. I have much to be grateful and happy for, and I am. But that blissful exuberance that Floyd displays about nearly everything had been missing from anything for me. I decided to catalog that memory and forced it to become a something I can quickly recollect to use as a valuable lesson in appreciation for life.

Sure, we may keep some of our thoughts on future goals. Many goals are deeply meaningful and allow us to grow into truly better people and to impact the world in positive ways. But in our pursuit of future accomplishments we must never lose our appreciation for the present. Dogs are good at reminding us of this.

When you read this, take a moment to learn from your pet and lose yourself in enjoyment of the present.

If you don’t have a pet, consider getting one! Research has shown that pet owners experience lower incidences of depression and loneliness, and oxytocin – the hormone that makes us feel warm and happy when we hug someone – can be spiked in animal-human contact as well. You can read my previous post about the positive impact of pet’s here.

Thank you Floyd, for being my anchor and being a constant source of joy.

Always looking over his shoulder to make sure his mother and I are as happy as he is

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