Every morning I open the door and let my dog Bleu out. He waits, tail wagging, for the chance to sample the smells and sights that await him in our yard. He patrols the fence line, learning everything he can about what happened while he was away. It's beautiful to see him run, his paws kick up bits of grass and dried leaves. He runs for the sheer joy of it. His joy becomes my joy as I watch him. I see him, and all dogs, as the embodiment of joy, something we as humans desperately need more of. Dogs can teach us about happiness, forgiveness and gratitude. There are some traits that dogs have that we probably should leave to them, like peeing on trees and rolling around in foul-smelling substances. But there are many that warrant emulation as well.

Dogs seek out the new and unfamiliar. Dogs love nothing more than to follow an interesting scent. What if we gave ourselves permission to explore and discover the way dogs do naturally? We might find new interests or discover a new way of looking at the world or even find a new approach to a business problem. Leaving ourselves open to new experiences, as dogs do, will certainly enrich our lives. Yes, there is the possibility that doing this will lead to a face full of porcupine quills or the occasional spray from a skunk, but there's no reward without accepting some risk.

There's nothing better than coming home to the enthusiastic welcome of a beloved dog. They don't care if you smell like used gym socks that have been left on a heater next to a pint of milk for a week. They are just happy to see you, in whatever state you happen to be in. Imagine if we carried that kind of enthusiasm in our own lives. While we probably shouldn't bark loudly and attempt to lick the face of people, we are happy to see, we can nevertheless express our happiness. While dogs seem to do it naturally, we must choose to be kind, to greet others with genuine warmth, and to look at each day as an opportunity to learn something new.

Dogs find pleasure in the simplest of things. A dog can make an old, tattered blanket look as comfortable as a king-sized bed, a dry dog biscuit as delicious as a Thanksgiving feast. Because they live in the moment, their joy is immediate, untethered to memories or thoughts of the future. We as human beings could benefit from being more present. We could enjoy the simple pleasure of a ripe apple instead of yearning for an apple pie. We could take satisfaction in a job well done instead of wishing for a windfall. We could take the time to appreciate our children while they are still young, marvel at their capacity to learn and grow.

Dogs are more than just a human's best friend. They are our greatest invention. It took ten thousand years of selective breeding to come up with a companion as perfect as a dog. They share our lives, love us, expect little, and give much. And they can teach us far more than we can teach them.

Go ahead and pet your dogs now. They deserve it.

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