I’ve got a big brown dog pacing with expectation around my house with a dirty gray stuffed skull and crossbones wedged between his jaws. Occasionally, he brings it right up to my face as I sit here on the recliner, trying my best to write while his nails are clip, clopping rhythmically across the floor. The beast’s name is Tucker, and he wants my attention.
The pacing stops and he goes into his routine. This consists of him sitting in front of me and giving me the direct stare, his big brown watery eyes focused squarely on me with a look that says “OK, I’m ready, what are we gonna do now, I know you must be dying to do something fun with me, can we do something, anything, can we, can we, can we”. After the direct stare fails to move me to action, Tucker shifts his strategy into his sit-down-inches-from-John-and-stare-straight-at-the-floor-looking-dejected pose. I believe the intention here is to try and make me feel sorry for his hardships, such as the fact that we are not currently playing with a rock, or out splashing around in a muddy puddle trying to get as dirty as possible. Poor little puppy, we never do anything fun.
Yesterday I swept what seemed like half his 95 pounds of body weight off the floor in the form of coarse brown hairs. Doesn’t he know that winter is here and he should really consider holding on to all of that fur until at least next April? Additionally, how can he lose that much hair as regularly as he does and still be here at all? I keep expecting to wake up one day to find nothing left of him but a pile of prickly brownness with some ragged old bones poking out of it haphazardly.
Now he’s gotten the message. He’s given up any hope of anything fun happening anytime soon and contorted himself into a curly Q in his chair in the corner of the living room. How can any creature sleep with their nose that close to their ass? He’s lightly snoring and soon perhaps he’ll start in with little high pitched, muted barks, his legs twitching as he runs in his sleep. What could it be that he is running from, or perhaps towards, in his doggy dreams?
Soon we will go for a walk. It’s pretty much the same walk we go on each and every morning since he’s been staying with us. We’ll leave the house and take a right on the greenway leading to the University of North Carolina in Asheville. There’s a wooded spot there where I’ll let him off his leash and hopefully he’ll go take care of his business in private (he is modest in this area of his life, though this modesty does not extend to his propensity to consume other animal’s byproducts when available). Afterward, we’ll continue on around several blocks and if I allow myself to be patient, he will teach me some lessons.
As previously stated, the route we take each morning varies little from day to day, but yet for Tucker, each and every time we go seems to be a new adventure. I’m pretty sure he knows where he is and that he’s been there many times before, but he does not let this detract him from experiencing what he encounters as if it were all new again. You see, he realizes more than most of us that nothing is ever the same. There are new things to check out, such as that little patch of grass he did not notice yesterday, or a new sound coming from the trees to our left, or that peculiar smell emanating from the dumpster by that student apartment complex. He takes each step of that same path open and ready to experience it anew.
A dog’s life is routine. Eat, play, sleep, repeat. Yet in this routine, they find joy. After all, what creature wouldn’t enjoy a big bowl of simulated fish and oatmeal flavored food product consumed so fast that no chewing is required, followed by a roll in cow shit? A dog has little trouble identifying the simple pleasures in their day to day life.
These simple pleasures are all around us, yet we usually take them for granted or miss seeing them all together because we are too busy responding to a text message or worrying about what still has to be done on the to do list. I think discovering what Tucker knows is something we can all strive for, and that something is to find joy in our routines.
Many days of our life may seem at first glance to be remarkably similar to many other days. We see the same places, interact with the same people, and respond the same way we always do to the conditions around us. But there is another way to view each day, and that is to open our eyes and minds to experience the events of our life as if we are doing so for the first time. Nothing is ever exactly the same from day to day. The light is different, the quality of the air varies, and that person we thought we knew so well probably has something new to teach us if take the time to listen.
I have been traveling a lot lately for work and pleasure. I have not had much routine as of late. I think one of the reasons I do what I do is intentionally to avoid routine. I tend to equate routine with boredom and drudgery, and routine can certainly have those qualities. But this is a choice that we make. We decide if we let routine affect us in negative ways. The big brown beast helps me to see the alternative. Tucker has shown me that I can view each moment of my daily walk as a new adventure, full of new experiences which bring with them potential and possibility.