by | Apr 26, 1998 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Don’t take this the wrong way, but for the longest time now, I have been trying to imitate my dog.

Not his look, which is furry and chestnut brown. Not his walk, which, as with most golden retrievers, is more of a waddle. And not his tail. I don’t need a tail. I have enough trouble buckling my pants as it is.

Also, I can live without his bathroom habits, which can be summed up this way:
“Tree or bush? Tree or bush? Aw, how about right here on the grass . . .”

No, what I admire about my dog is his fascination with the simple routine of life. Every day for him is like boarding the space shuttle.

For example: In the morning, I tumble out of bed, grumble, yawn, open the door, and ta-da! There he is, the canine answer to Richard Simmons. He is so worked up, he doesn’t know which way to go, toward me or away from me. So he does both.

“Oh boy oh boy oh boy!” he seems to pant. “It’s morning and I’m gonna eat!”

Never mind that he has eaten every morning since he was born. Or that he’s had the same food every morning since he was born — and that was 11 years ago.

Never mind. He pulls me downstairs and waits breathlessly as I scoop yet another helping of boring brown nuggets into his bowl.

“Oh boy oh boy oh boy! Food, food, food!”

I yawn.

Three minutes later, he is off the food thing and into a new obsession: going out. Again, he runs forward and backward. “I’m going out! I’m going out! Is this great or what?”

Never mind that going out has not changed one bit since we’ve lived here. He is so thrilled by the notion of “exit” that he almost bites the doorknob off. He bolts into the backyard as if heading for Tomorrowland with a sack full of
“E” tickets.

I slouch and yawn again.

The great indoors

Then comes with the “bathroom” routine, which I already have described. Humans deal with these functions begrudgingly. Not my dog. It’s a real thrill for him. He scouts for the perfect spot as if looking for beachfront real estate.
“Tree or bush? Tree or bush?” And I don’t have that many trees.

Then, once his business is taken care of — and I make a mental note where we’re going to have to shovel come summer — he is off the going out obsession and onto a new one: going back in.

It doesn’t matter than he was in just two minutes ago. “Things have changed! Things have changed!” he seems to pant. “I gotta get in there! I gotta check it out! Hurry up, hurry up!”

When I open the door, he bolts in, races back and forth — looking for space aliens, I suppose — and when he doesn’t find any, he isn’t disappointed. Instead, he snarls at some ratty toy he’s played with for months, throws it into the air with his teeth, and watches it land. “Look at that!” he seems to say. “It goes up, it comes down!”

As I make a cup of coffee, he jumps up to watch. “Whatcha doin? Whatcha doin? Coffee, huh? That’s amazing!”

He then clamps onto my leg and does a dance that, were it the early ’50s, I might call the “Hootchie Coo.” I am not sure what he gets out of this — “Oh boy, a leg! Oh boy, a leg!” — but he seems to be having a better time than many of the dates I’ve had.

When I disengage and disappear behind a door, he lies down outside and waits for me to come out again. If it is only 30 seconds later, he will still react as if I were a released hostage.

The sunny side

Now, my dog does not work. He does not pay taxes. He does not create anything new (unless you consider the bushes outside). But he also doesn’t need clothes, doesn’t covet cars or jewelry, and doesn’t care about houses, as long as he can find a sunny spot on the floor and lie there for a few hours.

Meanwhile, I am bored with my same routine. Getting up is a drag. I can’t get excited about breakfast. And going out then coming back only makes me wonder how many flies I’ve let in.

So I’m trying to imitate my dog. I’m trying to find wonder in the everyday. After all, when you think about it, it is pretty remarkable that you open your eyes each morning. And since every few hours you get to quench your hunger, well, that’s a thrill, when you consider the alternative.

So while I can’t match my dog’s drool, I am trying to match his zeal. Don’t worry. If you come to visit, I will not clamp on your leg and do the Hootchie Coo.

On the other hand, that sunny spot on the floor looks pretty tempting . . .

To leave a message for Mitch Albom, call 1-313-223-4581.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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