Winifred is sprawled on the couch, head between paws. We lock eyes. And I can’t help thinking… Am I the only one who looks in the eyes of his dog and knows exactly what she’s thinking? Good. Then you understand. Her look is unmistakable: So many things to be thankful for. Get with the program, Oman! I’m working on it, girl. Give me a break. I’m only human!
Of course, that is exactly the problem. I’m human. Winifred’s a dog—a 5-year-old terrier mix rescue who three years ago picked me out of the primates wandering past her pen at a Monterey County SPCA adoption event. As I walked past, her seductive brown eyes flashed, Where do you think you’re goin’? That’s right. I’m lookin’ at you, sweetheart…
Ever since, I have found myself dragged at the end of Winifred’s leash to explore lessons I should have learned by now. I feel no embarrassment in saying that since that fateful day, I have become more attuned to what, for Winifred—and increasingly moi—constitutes a day well lived.
Aristotle called it eudaimonia, often translated as happiness, joy, thriving and relishing life in all its twists and turns and detours. And while what follows may not get you all the way to eudaimonia, Winnie and I promise to help you begin the journey.
As I write at my desk, Winifred trots into my office and gives me the look. Imploring, heart-wrenching, impossible to ignore: a laser beam into your soul instantly making you putty in her paws.
I swivel around, giving her room to jump on my lap, her back against my chest, ears erect like goal posts, my chin splitting the uprights. Her eyes peruse the computer screen. She knows this is about her.
I better get it right.
Rise and Shine!
Winifred is an early riser. I was less inclined, until Winifred showed me the error of my ways. I was not a quick study. I got quicker when Winifred greeted dawn’s early light with her tongue up my nose, Good Morning!
Within a week, I was sufficiently trained.
I grab a heavy coat for our morning walk. It’s cold out there. To my wife, who has already finished a two-mile walk, it’s not cold. It’s brisk!
Now bundled for a stroll in Antarctica, Winnie grabs a chunk of leash in her mouth and drags me out the door. She is 13 pounds of four wheel drive pulling a biped with a bum wheel. Neighbors smile—there is no question as to who is taking whom for a walk.
It’s also true that it is not horribly cold. Or maybe it’s just that Winnie’s pace is making me trot behind, giving me mild aerobic exercise in the fresh, brisk air! Unzipping my hoodie, I’m ready for the stairs at Mt. Ribera!
Confession is Good for the Soul…
…but bad for the reputation, so I’m told. That said, I have a confession to make: The older I get, the more I’m becoming my dog.
And no, I am not talking about looking like my dog. (Although friends have whispered that our furry white faces do bear some resemblance.
I am flattered. Though no question Winifred’s snout is far more adorable.)
The more I’m becoming my dog, is more about a revived appreciation, even celebration, of whatever wants to happen. Not necessarily the big stuff, but our daily dose of the small silly stuff waiting to surprise us every day.
The Nose Knows
Winifred knows friend from foe, smelling trouble before it gets up close and personal. She trusts her nose, her instincts. Perhaps because her heart is pure, void of duplicity or deception. She doesn’t come with a hidden agenda. Unlike some of us. (You know who you are!)
Winifred knows who’s trustworthy and who’s not. And once she has you pegged… good luck convincing her otherwise.
A Walk on the Wild Side
After a yummy lunch at one of Carmel’s pooch-preferred restaurants, Winnie takes me on an afternoon walkabout.
We park at an intersection on Carmel Point. I explain why we ought to go this direction, not that, and tug her leash. She balks, paws super-glued to pavement. Winifred has made up her mind. And mine. Her look says, Whose walk is this anyway? How could I forget.
But a lot of folks do forget. They’re out for a walk glued to their smartphone, texting, twittering, and have no clue what is going on with the dog waiting patiently at their side.
Pay attention people! Your pooch is showing you how to inhale the sights, sounds and smells of life in the slow lane.
Walter Hagen, a golfer back in the 1920s who enjoyed life to the fullest, famously said: “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”
You’ll get no argument from Winifred. Dogs are only here for a short visit. They don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And want to smell EVERYTHING along the way!
Winifred’s enthusiasm for exploring the simplest things reminds me of how many simple things I take for granted. Her joy of noticing…everything, makes me smile.
A Nap is a Wondrous Thing
After a walk on the wild side, I can’t think of anything better than a little siesta with 13 pounds of happy tail, warm tummy, and big brown eyes sprawled across my chest.
I believe the ease with which Winifred can drift away to dreamland is directly related to her inability to waste one second in negative self-talk, feeling unworthy, or any other useless human musings.
Nor does Winifred live in the future, worrying about what will happen next week or her plans for the weekend. Winifred is all about whatever wants to happen, here and now.
And at this moment, all that wants to happen is a lovely nap. A little snooze full of…Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you / Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you…
Gus Kahn had it right when he wrote those lyrics for “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”
Watching Winnie sail away to la la land, I whisper… Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you…
The above is excerpted from Mark Oman’s new book, “Life is Good. I’m a Dog…and You’re Not!—Four-legged Lessons for a Day Well Lived.”
Mark Oman is a best-selling author of golf humor. Four years ago, he took up with Winifred, a 13-pound terrier-mix wild woman. Their growing liaison produced a screenplay, “Murder, Misfits & Mutts,” and a new book excerpted here, publishing Spring, 2019.
Mark and Winifred live in Carmel with their four-legged brother, Mr. Winston, and two-legged wife, Barbara.
For more information, contact Mark at Mark@markoman.com or visit www.CarmelDogTales.com.
Liz Stavrinides is the one behind the lens of Carmel’s LOVEDOG & CO, specializing in pet portrait and lifestyle photography. She is the author of “Miracle Dogs: Rescue Stories,” St Martins Press.
With the help of Andee Burleigh, dog behavior expert of Divine K9 Dog Training, Liz strives to capture the whimsical personality and soul of her subjects, using FUJIFILM X Series cameras and lenses.
For more information, contact Liz at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit lovedogandco.com.