Despite the cold, my senior dog, Phineas, took me on a 2-hour hike through the North Woods of Central Park yesterday. The late afternoon light was just perfect. Time in nature is like a massage for the brain, heart, and spirit. It prompts my creativity. The movement jogs my imagination, restores my resolve to do work that builds a better world. If you need to be restored, get outside. Your restlessness has a purpose. It is meant to move you. Don’t fight it. Go with it.
My Upper West Side neighborhood is a place where neighbors sit on their brownstone stoops when the weather’s nice to say hello and visit. For writers, this is an especially wonderful practice because we hear, see, and share so many stories. It gives us a place to observe. And the fresh air does wonders for creativity.
My dog, Phineas, is a fan of this lifestyle. Here he is wishing everyone a good morning as he lounges in the dappled sunshine. I love this dog, this town, and the opportunity to tell stories.
Nothing says fun more than a park full of wieners! Phineas and I attended Dachtoberfest—a celebration of dachshunds and the humans who love them—yesterday at Washington Square Park. It was a spectacular time for the long, little doggies. I love that we live in a city where this is an annual event.
7 years ago today, I adopted this sweet, brave, and loyal boy. Phineas was just 1-year-old, and someone had dumped him in the woods to fend for himself. His howling saved him, a policeman found him, and thanks to New York Dachshund Rescue, I became his mom. Today on his 8th birthday, I wish him a bottomless bowl of food, a mountain of treats and toys, a soft, cozy bed, and plenty of long walks, grass rolling in the sun, and tummy rubs. After all he’s given to me, this is the very least he deserves. Happy birthday, buddy. May we have many more. I love you.
“The more you love your decisions, the less you need others to love them.” ~Unknown
Yesterday, Phineas decided it would be a good idea to roll in goose poop. It wasn’t. Or at least I didn’t think this was a good idea. However, he loved his decision so much that he didn’t care about whether or not I liked it. He proudly marched through Central Park like he was a king. He made me think of the quote above. And though I wasn’t thrilled with having to clean him off with hand sanitizer in the park, followed by a bath once we got home, I do admire his confidence in his choices.
I’m managing through Phineas’s adjustment to our new apartment. While it’s stressful at the moment thanks to the worst neighbor we’ve ever had, last night as I drifted off to sleep I started to wonder what could be the very positive flip side to this story.
Maybe Phin and I are meant to rescue a second pup who needs a home and will be Phin’s BFF for the rest of his life. Maybe this situation is prompting me to step up my job search even more so that I can *finally* stop renting and buy my very first home. Maybe this journey to help Phin through his anxiety is leading me to someone I’m supposed to meet who will have a positive impact on my life. Or maybe it’s just meant to give me more compassion, empathy, and concern for those who are also going through stressful times.
I’m not sure if any of those narratives are true, but their possibility is helping me rest a little easier and encouraging me to keep moving forward.
I met a man in the park this weekend who was riding his skateboard while his collie mix dog was trotting along beside him. They stopped at the water fountain where Phin was grabbing a drink and he wanted to say hello to them. The man bent down and stroked Phin’s ears.
“I had a dog exactly like him when I was a child. They are such precious little things…” and then he stopped as he got choked up. His eyes got teary, said thank you, and went on his way. Phin watched him for a minute or so until the man and his dog were out of sight.
It was so clear that despite the many years since this man’s dachshund had passed away, he still loved and missed him. It’s something everyone who’s ever loved an animal can relate to—these furry, cuddly pals wiggle their way into our hearts, take up residence, and never leave. We remember them long after they’re gone, grateful that they spent the short amount of time they had on this plane with us. We’re lucky to have known and loved them.
Phin and I went for a long walk around Central Park. It’s one of those perfect New York nights. Cool breeze, warm setting sun, and soft grass. At one point, he sat down on one of our favorite hills by the reservoir, looked around, and smiled. I sat down next to him. “It feels good to be home, buddy, doesn’t it? Isn’t our city beautiful?” He looked up at me and kept smiling. He agrees. Life is good. It’s so, so good.
There are two kinds of happiness: the one that comes from instant gratification and the one that comes from the slow slog toward a desired goal. The first makes us happy in the here and now, but it usually doesn’t last long. The second makes us happy when viewed through the arc of life but in the here and now can be difficult and uncomfortable. I’ve found that I need a good balance of both to truly feel good about life.
Art, music, good food, time with my friends, my dog, and working out are all things that make me immediately happy. Writing, working on my entrepreneurial ideas, and learning something new that I’m not yet particularly good at fall into that second bucket. It’s not that I don’t get any joy from them in the near-term; it’s just that to feel truly happy about them I need to look at them through a longer lens and with a goal in mind.
Knowing about this balance helps me figure out how to allocate my time, effort, and energy to be happy at this moment and to ensure I’m happy down the line, too.
If you want to know what my life with Phineas was like in New York City, watch the movie The Secret Life of Pets. Max, the main character, has Phineas’s personality to a tee (though the dachshund Buddy looks exactly like him!) Max even has separation anxiety when his mom, Katie, leaves for work every day just like Phin does. The movie takes place in our neighborhood on the Upper West Side. It shows some of our favorite areas of Central Park and the tiny apartments in beautiful buildings that we happily called home for years. There are a few scenes where Katie and Max are staring out at the skyline from their apartment, complete with the water towers I always loved so much. That was something Phineas and I often did, too. When Max describes his relationship with Katie, all I could do was hug Phineas and say, “That’s just like us, buddy!”
Looking at all of these nostalgic scenes made me realize that while we don’t remember every single moment of our lives, what we do remember is how all of our moments made us feel. I’m sad to say that I don’t remember every single moment with Phineas, in New York City or elsewhere. What I do know is that he has made all of my good moments great moments and he’s made all of the tough times more manageable. His love, devotion, and loyalty have been some of the greatest gifts of my life. I treasure all those walks, snuggles, naps, and playtimes, and I always will. The secret life of pets is that they are our best co-pilots.