Recipes for a Happy Life

Recipes for a Happy Life

             On one of the first sun-warmed days of early spring, I sat outside rereading favourite short stories, one of which was Andrea Barrett's excellent Ship Fever. I read it to feel the impact of a few lines toward the end, when Lauchlin lies dying and he casts his eyes at those sick in bed around him and thinks, “It was life, simply life, that they had in common, and if he could have his life back he could be happy with anything.” Earlier he had thought to himself:

             What had he been doing these past years? What had he been so worried about? Fussing and   struggling to build a practice, continue his research, establish himself—if he died now his life  would have been only that, almost nothing, a chain of meaningless accomplishments and struggles. Why had he wasted so much time? When he was a boy, before his mother's death, he had understood the beauty of daily life. Somehow this had slipped his mind, and if he died now —but of course he would not die now, he was very sick, but was all right, he was young….

             The “life… happy with anything” is the same sentiment Wilder expresses in Our Town and that many other writers have tried to convey over time. It (“the beauty of daily life”) is also the same sentiment my dogs live by, all of whom embody simplicity, gratitude, living in the moment and love. I share now some of their unique recipes for a happy life.



            Olive is a sweet, even-tempered long-haired dachshund who was most likely a puppy mill bitch, crated indoors or on wire floors, for she now seems never to get enough of lying out in the sun, or on soft, cushioned surfaces inside. She is smart (far smarter than the beagles) and patiently waits for me “to catch up.” Her life philosophy:

            When someone makes you feel inferior, tuck your short legs underneath and say you're a saluki. Ingenuity.

            Go on walk, and chase the cat next door. Excitement.

            Scrub around on your back in the grass. Joy.

            Lie outside on your side in the sunshine. Gratitude.



             Sasha, a beagle, is the sweetest dog ever to walk the earth. She’s still fearful, having come from a situation of extreme abuse, but she’s also silly and lovable once she feels secure. She’s my clown. Her philosophy:

            Remember that food is always coming, twice a day, many times a day, always, always (please, please). Faith.

            Eat as fast as you can. Strength, speed and power born of love!

            Go on walk, and eat the cat next door's poop. Fun.

            Stare intently at the person reading a book in bed until the person reading a book relents and rubs your tummy. Perseverance.




            Chance is an odd little beagle mix. She was found wandering the streets with a severe case of mange. She is my pulse, my breath, my touchstone. But for all my love, Chance is a dog's dog not a human's dog, so it is Chance, more than any other, who teaches me unconditional love. As Montaigne said when describing why he loved his friend, “Because it was he; because it was I.” Whether my dogs love me in return is unimportant; loving for itself is enough. Chance's guide for living well:

            Sniff the air for scents. Be present in the moment; savour life every, single second.

            Sleep when you hurt. Accept what is.

            Go on walks when you're able. Wisdom of knowing your limits, but also strengths.

            Bark for your food as loud as you can; just because you can't hear doesn't mean your voice doesn't count. Intention.

            Stand on the bed and bark to get off. Ask for help.

           My dogs didn't write the following words, but they might have: “If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?”* Happy spring and peace and well-being to all.


*A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life.