Gross Canine Happiness

Back in 2000, CBS broadcast an episode of 60 Minutes featuring a story about Bhutan, a small country located between India and China. What fascinated me was that the priority of the country’s leaders was not Bhutan’s GDP – Gross Domestic Product, but rather its GNH — Gross National Happiness.

Bhutan is a Buddhist nation and I became curious about Buddhism. I discovered that it is not a religion, in the traditional sense. There is no God, no Supreme Being, that followers worship; nor is there a set of dogmatic principles to be followed. Instead, it offers guidance in ways to think and techniques for a person to achieve a deeper spirituality.  Best of all, these do not contradict traditional religious beliefs. They can harmoniously coexist.

One of the hardest lessons for me has been to become less critical and to focus on what is right rather than what is wrong. I have also had to work hard to concentrate on the present, to stop ruminating about the past and to stop worrying about the tomorrows. Fortunately, animals are great teachers.

I was walking a sweet dog named Lizzy one gorgeous, late afternoon, not that I was noticing it. My mind was organizing the next day’s schedule. We had been keeping a quick pace when I realized Lizzy had slowed. As I turned to look at her, she stopped and sat. She raised her head and her nose was busy sniffing the air. She briefly closed her eyes and tilted her head.

I became conscious of the warm sun and a soft breeze. I suddenly heard the sounds of birds. We’d been rushing past a purple floral hedge, which I’d failed to appreciate. Had Lizzy not been fully focused on the present, I would have missed it all. It is often very difficult to focus on “the now” in this busy, goal-oriented world.

When my gaze moved from the flowers back to Lizzy, I found her staring at me intently. Lizzy was definitely experiencing the now. She knew I had a treat in my pocket, and she wanted it now. In support of GCH – Gross Canine Happiness – I gave it to her.