My hubby and daughter are fond of calling Shiner, my Springer Spaniel, “Dudley Do-no-Wrong”. They say it’s because he’s the apple of my eye and, literally, can do no wrong. Ever. Not even if he tries, and, believe me, he tries and tries and tries!
This isn’t strictly true, of course. In true Springer fashion, Shiner is stubborn and curious and a little bit vain. He lets his nose and whatever fancy strikes his attention at any given moment lead him into situations that, typically, would be better left alone. So, it’s not that he can do no wrong. It’s more that I have a habit of, after a bit of scolding, laughing off most of what he does. He is fluffy and bumbly and a bit of a doofus. And, he is also quite handsome and cuddly and affectionate. He makes my life a richer, funnier, happier place. He brings me joy and fills up a spot inside me that had remained hollow and empty after the passing of my previous Springer. When something brings you that kind of joy, it’s pretty hard to stay mad at it for any length of time.
Tonight, though, Shiner put those bonds of love to the test. I changed out the cat box, leaving the bag of icky, used-up litter next to the stairs on the second floor of my house. I had a few chores to do upstairs, so I thought I would take everything down a bit later to put it out on the curb for trash day tomorrow. Shiner was supposed to be locked up on the stairs, unable to access the tasty temptation that is used kitty stuff. Unbeknownst to me, he managed to slip out; I guess the siren song of the cat box is just too strong. It can’t be denied. And he spent about thirty minutes or so amusing himself on the second floor with one very full bag of dirty, used, icky cat litter.
You know how, sometimes, you go to the beach wearing a suit that, perhaps, is a bit too small for you? And you come home to find sand in places you’d rather not mention — or think about too closely? Yeah. It was like my house had attended a nudist convention on a cat litter beach. It was EVERYWHERE. I spent an hour and a half cleaning it up, but, even so, I’m sure I’ll continue to find it all over the place for weeks to come.
But here’s the thing that’s so great about Shiner — that’s so great about all dogs, really: they find their joy in every little moment and in every little opportunity possible. Here I was, standing at the foot of the stairs, faced with about ten pounds of yucky cat litter scattered all over the room, and I couldn’t help but notice the obvious signs that Shiner had had a very, very good time. There were piles of litter in spots and other places where it had been scattered about, as if he had jumped right into the midst of it all with gleeful abandon. There were drag marks and paw prints and little “swooshes” that told me he had run and jumped and chased his tail and played for all he was worth. To me, it was just a bag of used cat litter. But, to Shiner, it was joy. Stinky, smelly, absolutely unexpected joy — and he didn’t pass up the chance to jump in there and give it a go.
I think I could learn a lot from my dog. I find I often get bogged down in all that’s expected of me. There’s a never-ending list of things that I am “supposed” to accomplish each and every day. Such a long list that I tend to start out each day already feeling overwhelmed, weighed down by the knowledge that it’ll never be possible for me to do everything. I don’t stop to notice the beauty around me. I don’t pause for a simple pleasure or a small bit of joy during the day — watching an episode of a funny show, perhaps … or a cup of tea and a favorite book … or just sitting quietly to watch the sunset.
But you know what? I should. I should stop for a while. Not a forever kind of stop, but just a little pause here and there in the midst of my busy day. Because life is short, and I’ve got to jump at every chance to find my joy. I’ve got to run after it with gleeful abandon and seize hold of it with both hands. I’ve got to laugh and love and just LIVE.
Dudley Do-no-Wrong taught me that. With a bag of cat litter.