Appreciating the Present Moment, Like a Dog

Are you familiar with the song Rob Thomas wrote and recorded for the movie “Meet the Robinsons” called “Little Wonders”? It’s a sweet song about appreciating the small moments that life is made of, each moment wonderful in its own right.

I remember when that song was popular; I heard an interview with Rob Thomas in which he answered a question about the inspiration for the lyrics. He said he really needed to get a song written, and he just wasn’t feeling it; he was having a bad day. He was so frustrated and irritable, that he decided to take his dog for a walk to see if he could clear his head.

As they walked, he noticed how much joy his dog was experiencing right then in that moment. He thought to himself, my dog isn’t having a bad day at all! My dog is having a great day! And as he reflected on that, he was able to let go of his negativity and enjoy the moment too.

I recently had an experience kind of like this with my rescued mutt, Guy Ray Roy (Ray for short). It was a beautiful day and I decided to take him for a walk. We have a very nice sidewalk circling around the outside of my little neighborhood, and until recently it was buffered from the street by a wide swath of mature trees. I enjoyed seeing birds of all kinds in those trees, and sometimes caught a glimpse of rabbits dashing back into the underbrush as we approached them. It was literally a walk in the park, even though we were never far from civilization.

But as our area is growing, the street must be expanded, and the first step was for FPL to cut the trees and brush, so that the utility poles can be moved out away from the edge of the old lanes to make room for the new lanes.

As I walked along that day, I noticed that not only are the trees and brush and birds and rabbits gone, but the trucks have left a deplorable mess. Huge muddy ruts were created in the grass where heavy trucks tread on rain-soaked ground. The very nice sidewalk now is thickly covered with mud and debris, almost invisible and sometimes slippery.

I was angry as we walked along. I do appreciate the fact that the county is trying to keep up with development, but what a loss, and what a mess. It’s ugly now, the cars are so visible and loud, and the sidewalk that I would like to use is a disaster! Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Then I looked down at Ray. He was having such a grand time! He could hardly take in all the new smells that had been uncovered, and wiggle around all the new terrain that had been laid open. His nose and tail were going as fast as he could manage. And of course he had to mark everything! Imagine his delight in peeing on brand new territory for the very first time! What a “little wonder” for him. It was a beautiful day, and his person was taking him for a walk and letting him explore a place he hadn’t experienced before.

I’ve read that service dogs for people with conditions like post traumatic stress disorder and autism have a way of bringing their handlers back to the present moment as well. If someone has PTSD, he might be haunted by past memories. But a nudge from a dog can remind him to leave the memory in the past and enjoy the present (adorable) company. Similarly if a person with autism is experiencing extreme anxiety, a dog can help her stop ruminating and focus instead on its comforting presence.

To a lesser extent, this is what Ray did for me that day. I was so preoccupied with the destruction of habitat, feeling the loss of what had been, that I almost missed the beauty in the present moment. Ray didn’t care a snit about what used to be there. He reminded me that it was a glorious spring day and my faithful companion was joyful with discovery! And upon further reflection, I do believe the brush will grow back, and hopefully some of the animals will return. Maybe I can get some volunteers from the neighborhood to help me clean the sidewalk and smooth out the ruts (because I don’t think FPL is coming back to do it). If not, eventually it will rain hard enough to wash away the muck, and the grass will grow in the trenches in uneven waves of green. It still will be a safe and lovely place to walk.

Here’s a link to the song—see if you can hear Rob Thomas’s dog’s happy influence in the finished work:

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Category : Blog Posted on March 8, 2016

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