One morning last week, I was putting my running shoes on to take Carl out for some exercise and, seeing my movements as a clear signal, he moved his head in close to my body to let me know he was excited. I started petting his head and he leaned into it and the back half of his body wiggled his delight. I started whispering in his ear. “Does that feel good?” (more wiggling) “Do you want me to keep petting you or do you want to go outside?” (even more wiggling) “Really?” I asked. Figuring that as soon as he heard the word “outside” he’d bee-line it for the front door I was surprised that he didn’t budge. So I asked again. “Do you want more pets or do you want to go out?” He simply leaned in and started groaning that happy-dog way of saying, “ooohhh…that feels good…how about a little to the left?” “You’re just happy with whatever you’re doing right now,” I said, and I started thinking about what a great mantra that could be.

Outside we started running and I noticed how nice it was to have the daylight again now that we’d set our clocks back an hour. The trees still had a beautiful glow from the fall colors. We started running up a hill and usually I dread the climb. But I remembered what a young boy said to me days before. He was climbing one of the hills with a backpack on his way to school and I said “Don’t these hills stink?” He had a freckled face and a grown-out flat top. “Kinda,” he replied. “But they’re nice on the way back.” Good attitude.

“This is better than doing squats,” I told myself, remembering the last class I took at the fitness center. “Hills are great.” (a.k.a. “Be happy with whatever you’re doing right now.”) Surprisingly, I felt a shift in my energy and made it to the top in better spirits.

Tonight I’m heading to that same fitness class where we do about a thousand squats (or maybe 100). I plan to head into the dreaded section of our routine with the same attitude. “This is better than doing those hills. Squats are great!” Or reflecting the kid’s attitude “hey…they’re nice when they’re done.”

Dogs and kids have a lot to teach me, it seems. And not just about exercise. During the transition of our move, it was sometimes easy to focus on the challenges, the unknowns, the frustrations of readjusting to a whole new place. Yet, like the boy knew well, you have to climb the hill to get to the excitement on the other side. And as Carl knows…there’s pleasure to be found in the here and now. We’re becoming more familiar with this place and the people here and are finding more and more to enjoy. This weekend we went to a bluegrass festival with friends, scouted out a new local brew-pub owned by an artist, went to a colleague’s house party and met two people who share a mutual friend from Michigan with us. We also had lunch with our daughter, went to a friend’s art show, took a nap, read some and enjoyed a walk with Carl. And we were happy with whatever we were doing. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think!

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