Annie was a “rescue.” She was one of seven sisters picked up from a shelter by the rescue organization “You Lucky Dog.” Part boxer, part pit-bull, part something-or-another, we met Annie when she was just a couple of months old at The Roswell Farmer’s Market on a hot summer morning. The organization was showing off the pups that were available for adoption, and along with her sisters, Annie was there to be petted and loved. That day a year and a half ago we found ourselves rescued by Annie.
Annie is teaching me about gratitude. Of course I am skeptical that in dog cognition gratitude, as I understand it, is something a dog experiences. Nevertheless there is much I am learning about gratitude from this fifty pound brown pup.
Every moment is purposeful for her. I am not saying that she is always busy with frantic energy as she scratches off items on her “to-do” list. Rather, Annie fully engages the moment: she will thoroughly smell most anything new, different and unique. Butterflies delight her; bumble-bees amaze her, and squirrels engage her. Every moment seems to be filled with possible wonder.
Every creature is a potential friend. Of course not every creature is friendly, including the two-legged variety, but every creature she meets is greeted with an enthusiastic wag of the tail. Instead of fear, anxiety or defense, she chooses to meet another with the hope of kindness exchanged.
Every day is a gift. And in each day, there are many gifts to experience. Whether nosing through the trash to fish out a tasty bit of paper or dozing in the sunshine or furtively staring at us while we try to eat a meal, all things hold the possibility of a gift. When I watch her curl at my feet in front of the fire, she even finds rest as a wonderful gift that she accepts and fully embraces.
A few years ago I was listening to a Ted-Talk presented by David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk from Austria. He said that the one thing that unites all persons everywhere is that we all want to be happy. Some people, he noted, think that when you are happy you are grateful, but this monk challenges us to think again. It is not that gratitude comes from happiness, but that when we are grateful we are happy. I think he is right.
While I know I am projecting anthropomorphic values onto Annie, I nevertheless see a canine that is happy because she is grateful – at least in a doggy kind of way!
Another favorite monk of mine writes: “Every moment and every event of every man’s [sic] life on earth plants something in his soul…we must learn to realize that the love of God seeks us in every situation, and seeks our good.” (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation)
I wonder if part of our national angst is rooted in our lack of gratitude? We bristle at accusations of privilege, yet behave as if we are entitled. We view not only strangers, but sometimes our own friends and family members with suspicion and fear. We frantically move through the day just trying to get through it instead of live in it.
We set aside one day for gratitude, but why not set aside a life for gratitude? The ancient children of God were exhorted: You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you. Take care that you do not forget the LORD your God…(Deuteronomy 8:10-11)
Every moment has a purpose…every creature is a potential friend…every day is a gift – I am thankful for my little teacher who greets me every evening with vigorous wag, a curious lick on the hand, and a hopeful glance at the door where together, with leash in hand, we can explore our small part of the universe.
Grace, peace and gratitude,