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Jane Pak Headshot

Finding Fido

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At certain times of the day, usually in the early AM, I'll go out on my balcony and watch people walk by. Some are walking just to walk and some are dutifully walking their dogs. As I hope we all do, I aspire to see the things we often miss in our busy daily lives. Today, I noticed something seemingly insignificant, but recognizable to us all.

Every dog was happy to be outside, simply going about his or her daily constitutionals. They stop, they sniff and of course, they pee and poop. But what really struck me is how each dog, regardless of what they are doing, always notices the person walking by them. They approach with wagging tails and wait for a reciprocal friendly reception. "Hello! Who are you? I like you!" they seem to say. And sometimes the walker-by will stop and pet them and other times, they'll just walk a bit out of the way on the sidewalk and keep on keeping on.

It's no wonder we love dogs. For the most part, unless they've been severely abused, they're happy creatures interested in finding love everywhere they go (and of course, finding food). It got me thinking, what if we, as people, thought and behaved a bit more like our canine counterparts -- happy to be sharing a sidewalk with someone we don't know, eagerly expecting that they too will be happy to see us. There's the old belief that people tend to look like their dogs, but what if we acted and thought more like them?

Now, I'm not suggesting that we all start using outdoor plumbing. I, for one, am a big fan of closed doors, toilet paper and a good book. But what if a dog's reaction to another is really about a fundamental belief, a natural and organic way of living that starts with love? How different would our daily lives be if we started all beliefs with love? We'd be more friendly, we'd perceive the world as being a friendlier place and we'd see less angry people and we'd probably resolve our conflicts with greater speed and efficacy if we started with the belief that people are good and do have love to give and want to receive love. There's little to refute - we'd be happier people.

But we're people, we're much more complex than a dog. We have issues, we have weaknesses and we deal with much bigger needs than a dog... but do we really? Sure, we all worry about our jobs, our ability to do well - to not lose our jobs. We all worry about paying our bills, feeding our families and ourselves. We all worry about complex issues that involve challenging things like paying for tuition, caring for an ailing relative, our investment portfolios. What could a dog understand about that? Of course, Buddy is not lying around the house with his head in his paws thinking, how am I going to meet payroll this period? The clients are late on their payments, the rent is due, my mortgage payment is due and Sarah's fall tuition is due. Everything is due. Sure, a dog doesn't worry about the details, but if you look at his eyes, he looks worried too -- and he knows you don't feel like taking him for a walk, so he just puts his head on your knee and tries to give you love. Admit it -- you feel a little better. And when you smile and rub his head or give him a hug, his tail starts to wag because he knows his love relieved you some of that mounting pressure.

My point is, love makes us feel better, both in giving it and receiving it. Feeling better starts the process of thinking clearer, of doing wiser and being better to those around us. The opposite is true about not infusing love into our thinking process. We begin with the notion that there's fault to assign, blame to go around and that things are out of our control because the world must be in a constant state of making our lives suck. So why not try to start with love? Maybe the bank isn't trying to milk you dry, maybe he or she doesn't know you are having trouble collecting from your own debtors. Maybe if you call your banker, they will understand and give you an extension or waive your late fee. Maybe they are good people too. What have you got to lose? Start with the expectation that they might just want to help you -- that the bank, while it is an institution, only exists, lives and breathes because of the people within it.

I'm not talking about love in the commercial sense -- I'm not even talking about romantic love (though there is definitely corollary there). I'm talking about the fundamental belief that man is good. I'm talking about beginning your assertion that while infinitely flawed, man is constantly in a state of wanting love and that receiving love begins with giving it. Dogs know how to do this infinitesimally better than man. We could learn a lesson from our canine shaman -- start with love, it can never get worse. All the reasons we act and react are either based on love or fear. The beauty of free will is we get to choose which way we live rather than being a victim of what we believe are our circumstances. So choose love because honestly, life is too long to be bitter.

On your next walk, I recommend smiling and saying good day to your neighbor. That's an easy place to start.

But I don't recommend sniffing his or her butt... some things belong to the dogs.