For years, scholars have debated about whether animals are capable of recalling the past and/or planning for the future. There is additional debate about which animals can do so, if any. Corvids and primates show the most evidence of doing both. I don’t have a definitive scientific answer for you. I can tell you that I certainly remember the past, as do all of my canine friends. And I plan for the future too. (Why do you think we bury bones?) But I’m a journalist, not a scientist, so I’ll just leave the discussion to the academics.
I think it’s unfortunate, however, that people spend so much time studying whether we remember and plan when they should really be focused on what we do best, which is live in the present. We are experts at seizing the day and enjoying the moment. The majority of humans, however, have never mastered that skill. While a certain amount of reflection and projection is healthy, too much of it has the opposite effect. Too often, people are distraught because they dwell on a past that is long gone or a future that has yet to unfold.
Anyone who lives with a dog knows that almost all of us wake up each morning ready to greet the day. Our joy is visible in our eyes and in the constant motion of our tails. We’re excited about eating, playing, and sleeping. When our people come home after being gone for even a short time, we’re ecstatic. We’re fascinated by nature. We find 100 reasons each and every day to celebrate life. Regrets about the past and worries about the future do not burden us. We live in the now and expect it to be wonderful.
Of course, there are times when we get sad. I’m heartbroken to say that my lifelong friend and pack mate is in the final stages of his life, and he is visibly depressed. I don’t know what his thoughts are, but I know his “now” is not a happy one. Until very recently, however, he lived his long life the way that most dogs do – embracing every moment.
I chose to write about this topic because the world is in a terrible state. It seems that each day brings some other reason to be frightened. The news is about unspeakable tragedies and disturbing threats to our security. Terror is gripping the globe and people are scared. It’s more than understandable that worry would rule the day for many humans.
At this time, however, the best thing people could possibly do is to take a page out of our book. Understand that all anyone ever has is this moment right now, so it makes sense to live in the present. As much as possible, find space away from the global strife, political wrangling, and raging arguments. Focus on the little things that make the day wonderful. Be thrilled to eat, play, and sleep. Be ecstatic when your loved ones come home. Stop to appreciate nature. Find 100 reasons each and every day to celebrate life.
A new year is upon us. There will be trials and tribulations. There will be sadness. That’s okay. A wise rector in Middleburg once told my person to allow for the possibility that things would turn out much better than she could ever imagine. Good advice.
A new year is upon us. There will be lots of resolutions. May I humbly suggest that people should simply resolve to be more like their dogs.