You are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life. You can either give negativity power over your life or you can choose happiness instead.” – Anais Nin
I slid my car into a makeshift parking spot — the lot was completely full for a Saturday — and glanced around with a smile. “There are fall colors in Arizona.”
Well, there were on Mount Lemmon at least, which didn’t surprise me given the elevation of the mountain encompassed every ecosystem in North America. But I was surprised — happily — that my trip to Europe in late October hadn’t kept me from missing the foliage at its peak beauty. “All right, Mia, time for a hike in our favorite spot!”
I took a deep inhale of the cool mountain air as Mia led us out on our usual path, the excited pup making sure to step in the small stream at any point she could. The breeze, the colors, the crisp fall temperatures — all brought much needed relief after a long week of head-spinning. The world was at peace again — my world, at least.
I’m not sure when hiking became the antidote to the ending of a relationship; or, to be fair, in recent years, the antidote to the ending of even a couple weeks of dating. On that day, more than ever though, it was. Watching my canine companion happily gallop along, taking in the colorful scenery of my favorite spot, nothing else to worry about or think about on this weekend afternoon — I felt free; in control of myself and my emotions once more after a rocky few days.
Following our 3-mile hike complete with 360-views of the Catalina Mountain Range and the city of Tucson below, my now-slightly-tired companion and I climbed back off the trail and headed towards our car.
That’s when I spotted the puppy.
Truth be told, I do not consider myself an “all-dog” lover. In the same way some people like cats, some people like dogs, and some people like neither, I am not drawn to every dog I meet… unless it’s a golden retriever. When it’s a golden retriever, you’ll find me racing across the pavement like I did that day (my own golden in tow) to say hello, get in a few pets, and even pick up the fluff-ball to cuddle close for a few minutes.
As I got back in my car to head home from the hike, my shirt full of little puppy hairs, Mia looking only slightly miffed that I’d given another dog so much of my attention for a few minutes, an extra sense of contentment settled over me. There is nothing that makes me happier than a golden retriever… especially, a puppy, I thought to myself. And then I thought something else:
I can control that.
At that very moment in time, I didn’t know when, but I knew… I was going to get another puppy.
A couple weeks after that hike, I booked a two-month stay in Paris for when my consulting contract ended in April the following year. The idea had popped up on my most recent trip to the “City of Light” just a few weeks earlier — every time I went back I found myself jealous of those who got to be residents of the historic metropolis; what if I could do that for myself for a little while? With my consulting contract ending and plenty of money in the bank, what was there to stop me from jumping on this plan I knew would bring loads of adventure and opportunity?
Ironically, it was during that incredible overseas stay six months later that I began to research breeders, and found what I considered to be the perfect option for me. Two years ago this week, with Mia in tow, I made the trip a couple hours north of Madison to pick out the puppy that would become the next member of my family.
Ellie, short for “Elysees,” as in Paris’s most famous street, is not the easy-going, well-behaved dog Mia was. In fact, rather than something like “Mimi” or even my dad’s “Ain’t Right,” as we called her older sister, Ellie’s most common nickname is “Trouble.” And yet her personality has grown on me in a way I could’ve never imagined. Rather than the shy, stay-close-to-me companion that my first dog proved to be, I have one who is the true “social butterfly,” the most content when she’s galloping around a dog park, making new friends, and tasting freedom. Even her trot around the house is the epitome of happiness… which is more than fitting given her origins.
The idea and plan to get Ellie is rooted in my realization that I held the keys to my own happiness. No matter what else was going on in my life — be it a relationship ending, work, etc. — I knew what it took to uplift my mood, and could take those steps any time I wanted. In general, such activities are not as drastic as buying a dog or moving to Paris, but the over-arching idea they represent is one and the same. Whether it’s climbing a mountain, going for a hike or walk, or simply taking the time to glance around and appreciate my circumstances, I know how to get rid of negativity — and most importantly I know I have the power to.
Watching Ellie prance into a dog park, or any new environment with a curious wag of the tail, determined to meet everyone there, explore every nook and cranny, and take advantage of every opportunity for fun — even if it includes diving into a mud puddle head first — more than emulates the lesson she has provided me with, reminding me to simply trot past anything negative and embrace all the positive I can.
My first dog taught me how to find unconditional love; to love and be loved, holding someone — or something — extra close. It seemed the most important lesson I could learn…
Until my second dog taught me how to find unconditional joy.