You want to be happy?
Yes, hiking in the wilderness or just going for a walk on the Ke Ala Hele Makalae and soaking in glorious ocean views, will help. How could it not?
There’s nothing like a nice five-mile run on a cool morning, even spotting a spouting whale in the distance, to get your day off to a good start.
There’s a certain joy that comes from a job well done.
And, of course, if you’re a man and you’re married, you know what they say: Happy wife, happy life! (This is a good one to remember and use as your benchmark).
But allow me to offer a suggestion, an addition to your life, that is almost, but not always, guaranteed to make you feel better. And just what is this addition? It’s not money or a nice car or a big house or even a new pair of running shoes (though those are certainly nice and I wouldn’t turn them down).
Joy, believe it or not, can be found in our four-legged furry friends. Dogs.
If you own a dog, you understand. Or, at least I hope you do. Because if you don’t find joy in your pet, if they’re not your friend, something is wrong.
Not to say everything is perfect with a dog. They can cause you grief. They’ve been known to cause a little trouble now and then, tear up some furniture or dig through kitchen trash or make a mess in the car or even the house or even disobey their owners.
But along with that occasional grief comes the best of times. Some of life’s most enjoyable, unforgettable moments, ones that just make you feel good, your loudest laughs and biggest smiles, that warm your heart, come when we have a dog at our side.
From experience, I know.
Like when our old yellow lab Sandy, who lived with us 13 years when the kids were growing up and watched after them like they were her own. She never strayed far from their sides when we lived in a house in the country. Instead of chasing the deer away in the evenings, she joined them in the meadow.
She was with me when I slipped on ice while running and broke my leg, and stayed by my side as I limped a mile back home (I asked her to run home and get me help, but she refused). She fended off a large, charging dog on another run in the country, and for that, I will be forever grateful.
Then, we later had a pair of 10-year-old, 80-pound black lab brothers, Scar and Lucky, that we adopted from a shelter. Nothing beat coming home from work and seeing their two heads watching from the bay window, then disappear as they ran to the front door to greet me.
Lucky would jump around while Scar would just put his head down and bull his way in for a hug. I loved how they slept side by side. In the morning, anxious for breakfast, they would push open our bedroom door and Scar would put his head inches from my face until I woke up while Lucky waited behind him, tail wagging, jumping up and down.
It was a joyous way to start the day.
Old Ipo, our lab/hound mix we adopted not long after moving here, was perhaps my best canine friend. When I would go running from our Lihue home, she would wait for my return from the top of the driveway, then charge down to meet me and race around in circles. When Marianne and I would go for a drive, I would glance in the rear view mirror and see Ipo, grinning from the backseat, delighted to be on another trip. And our great chicken chase — Ipo after a chicken and me chasing Ipo across a golf course and then back again — was legendary and brought great joy and laughter to my wife.
On Ipo’s last night with me, before we had to put her down because she was dying of cancer, she hopped up on our bed and put her head on my chest and laid there for an hour, her paw across my arm. It was as if she knew our time was ending and wanted the give me these final moments to hold on to. I do.
We have yet to adopt another dog. Just haven’t felt the right connection. We will. Because while a dog means dog hair in the car, cleaning up after them on walks, rushing home from work to walk them and getting calls from strangers that they found your dog that somehow got out, it’s all worth it.
If you will let them, dogs will bring you joy. They will give you love. And you will find that you will spread that joy and love with your family and friends and even strangers.
So yes, hikes in the wilderness and walks by the ocean will give you a sense of peace and happiness. Put a dog by your side, and it may be better than you imagined.
Bill Buley is editor-in-chief of The Garden Island. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org