When I was a little girl, my parents brought home a puppy. I’m not quite sure why they picked this particular puppy, because neither of them had ever owned a dog before, and this was going to be a big one. It was a boxer.
Like all puppies, he jumped and chewed, barked and licked. No one in our house knew how to train him; therefore, no one ever did. The little puppy grew to be a big, unruly dog who tried to please everyone and just didn’t know how. I named him Happy, which was a most appropriate name.
Life and liberty
He would go running after any distraction. We were constantly chasing Happy. My parents built the fence outside higher and higher, but Happy kept jumping it to see what exciting things might be on the other side. At one point, they even chained him to a stake in the ground to stop him. It worked great — until a neighbor called to tell us that we had a dog (a live dog, thank God!) hanging over our fence.
The next day, my parents told me that Happy had run away. This was their version of “we gave him away.” There would be no more chasing Happy, no more of him trying to please us without knowing how, no more of his looking for something better on the other side.
I missed him terribly. It was one of my first lessons in unhappiness.
I’ve always adored dogs. In my adult life, I’ve never been without at least one. The only times I’ve ever known dogs to be unhappy are when they are in pain, missing someone they love, or trying to escape confinement. Aside from those times, Happy was exactly that: happy.
The pursuit of happiness
We humans always seem to be looking for happiness, whether we had it once and lost it, or we’ve never had it. Sometimes we have fleeting moments of happiness: falling in love, getting accepted to the college of our dreams, getting the job, the raise, the promotion. It seems like everyone I know hasn’t found it, so I’ve been trying to figure out how I have.
Perhaps it’s because I’m not looking so hard for it. I’m simply happy. The two things that I believe make me happiest are 1) accepting the things I cannot change, and 2) knowing that if I help someone else to be happy, we will both be happy.
Believe me, I don’t live a charmed life. I have just as many problems as everyone else. While I don’t ignore them and burying my head in the sand, I do try to put the bad stuff in perspective and weigh it against the good stuff. I always let the good stuff win.
Of course I sometimes have my pity parties. Of course I have days when everything seems to go wrong. When I’m in pain — and I do have lots of physical pain from living with cancer for 20 years — I am admittedly unhappy. When I’m not surrounded by the people I love, I am admittedly unhappy. But overall I’m pretty damn happy in the here and now.
Like my dog Happy, I try to please those around me, but not to my own detriment. Like him, I’m happy just being free of pain and with the ones I love. I’m grateful for what I have, and I look forward to the experiences yet to come.
Now that I’m all grown up, unlike that little girl who lost her dog, I’m no longer chasing Happy. I found it right where I am.