What brings you joy? That seems like a very simple question, doesn’t it? As human beings, our lives have become so cluttered with responsibilities, activities, and information from TV, the Internet, email, etc that I’m not sure many of us have taken the time to think about what truly makes us happy, what makes us smile widely or laugh loudly.

Why not get some ideas from your animals? We just finished reading Temple Grandin’s “Animals Make Us Human” recently, and she talks a lot about the emotions different types of animals experience. That got us thinking about how our animals over the years have expressed what we believe is sheer joy and exuberance. We’ll share some of those with you here. We hope that you’ll then take the opportunity to watch your own animals for signs of joy.

Annie was a retired Greyhound who had a fairly mediocre and short racing career. She was a beautiful big brindle dog, with huge expressive eyes. When we first met Annie, she seemed very sad to us, and very withdrawn. She had been with a family for a year, and then had been returned to the rescue due to illness in the family. During that year she had never been off a lead outdoors, and her humans were too ill to jog or even walk with her. We brought our dogs to meet Annie before adopting her, and we took all of them over to a big fenced yard, and let them loose one by one to see how everyone would do. Annie walked slowly around the yard, and then suddenly she seemed to realize she was not on a lead. She took off running and ran – faster and faster, around and around the yard. It was one of the most beautiful things we had ever seen. We were also highly amused at how our Bassets responded – one tried to keep up with her, and the other tried to figure out her route and cut her off periodically. When Annie got tired she stopped, and on her face was the biggest dog grin I have ever seen.

Nathan was a little Peekapoo that had been with Terri her entire life. She loves to talk about taking Nathan to Oklahoma with her to see her family. Terri’s mom lives on a big farm in the country, and you can see for miles and miles in any direction. Terri took Nathan outside to go to the bathroom, and afterwards he just sat down and lifted his head. He began to sniff the air. Then he turned his head and sniffed in another direction. He did this over and over, and Terri said he was just grinning the whole time. She asked him what he was doing and he told her that he was SMELLING. He said he could sit there and all these smells came to him in the wind. He didn’t have to do a thing except enjoy all the new smells. He was one happy little dog!

Rohan is a retired Saddlebred that lives here with us. He is a very beautiful and athletic horse. He also dearly loves to roll in the mud or dust – depending on what’s available. We love to be home when he does it because he puts on quite a show. First, he lays down and really grinds his side, back and head into the ground. He gets up, shakes, and repeats the same routine on the other side. When he stands up, he jumps straight up in the air –all four legs off the ground simultaneously. He lands, twirls around, rears up, then bucks with all four legs off the ground again. He then trots or runs – head and tail high, snorting all the way. I’ve tuned in with him during this process, and he thoroughly enjoys the sensations of dirt, wind, and sun. He is totally in the moment and knows exactly how beautiful he is when he struts his stuff.

One of the real lessons animals can teach us to be in the moment, to really enjoy life now. Take the time to watch your own animals, and see how they experience joy in their lives. Perhaps it will motivate you to think about what brings you joy in your own life, and to refocus on spending a little less time answering emails and a little more time enjoying life!

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