This morning, as I was walking Little, a Very Deep Thought hit me:

My dog is cooler than I will ever be.

This is a hard reality, since he is a dog and I am his human, but bear with me here.

We live at the bottom of a hill. Twice a day, every day, the local neighborhood dogs and their people congregate at the top of the hill. It’s particularly convenient for lazy tired dog owners (like me). Every morning, in my sleepy stupor, we wander up to the top of the hill, I let Little off his leash, and he runs like a crazy man with abandon. The generally accepted rule is that if your dog doesn’t get along with a dog that’s already there, you take a hike. No playtime for your dog.

So I generally don’t run into this rule too often, since, as I said, my dog is cooler than I will ever be. He gets along with pretty much everyone, save one dog, who I will name (because lots of people in the neighborhood read this thing at this point) Fido. Fido HATES Little. And, frankly, Little could care less about Fido, but since Fido is big and Little is big, and it would be horrible to have to separate them if they ever DID get into it, I generally steer clear. If I release Little before I see Fido, I call Little back, put him on leash, and we gallop into the sunrise.

Here is where I realized how much cooler Little is than me.

So we go up the hill, see Fido, I get Little on leash, and start walking. Fido still approached Little, and I eyed him suspiciously with eyes that CLEARLY (if Fido was human, he’d get this) stated, “Get away from my puppy”. Little is oblivious. Fido approaches, sniffs, Little sniffs, does a doggy shrug, and moves on. He clearly did not care one bit about Fido. I, on the other hand, started thinking about how much I did not like Fido’s owners, who are not the most assertive people in the world and pretty much coo commands to their 100-lb monolithic pup. I was thinking Not Nice Thoughts, like “Don’t they SEE me here? Didn’t we have a TALK about this? Why are they not CALLING HIM OFF?”

Then I realized that Little was totally nonplussed by the whole thing. He was just psyched that he got to go on a Walk. Playing and Walking, to Little, are BOTH good options. He doesn’t care one bit what he does, as long as he gets to do it outside, with me. (This is another reason he’s cool.)

I thought, “My dog is kind of dumb. But that’s okay. He’s a great dog.”

We walk along the park, Little happily sniffing and peeing on everything, me thinking Not Deep Thoughts and shuffling my feet along. (Mornings are not my best time for much except shuffling.) We do a loop, circling back to the park. And then we saw Rover, Rover’s little brother (dog), and Rover’s crazy dad (human).

Now, Rover is harmless, but annoying. Rover’s crazy dad, however, is someone I generally steer clear of. He is a nudist and doesn’t hide it well, apparently throwing on a pair of skimpy shorts and running out the door with a leash (In my head: “Doesn’t he REALIZE that *WE* are NOT NUDISTS?”). He has no idea about dog training, so essentially Rover teleports himself from one end of the park to the other, jumping on humans, jumping through humans, flying around, and generally being somewhat obnoxious, with little correction from his owner. He went through a stage as a puppy (a huge puppy) where he would hang off my scarf in the winter, unmanaged. It drove me crazy. *I* would reprimand Rover, breaking the other unspoken rule of the dog park (Do Not Discipline Other People’s Dogs). Anyway, suffice it to say that there was a moment of deep, sinking dread when I saw Rover et al tromping down the path.

(This is where I liken Rover to the crazy kid in your 2nd grade class with unmedicated ADHD that the teacher had to peeeeeeeel off the ceiling every day. Remember him? For me, it was a kid named G. I remember G because he was out of control and the whole class kind of implemented a behavior plan to help G stay with the program. G was obnoxious and had no friends because he COULDN’TCONTROLHIMSELF or his VOICE or his HANDS!!! And his seat was HARDTOSITIN!! If Rover was a kid, that’s how I’d see him.)

And my cool dog? Just chill. He sauntered past the Rover crew as cool as a cucumber. Rover rushedintoSNIFFHIM! HILITTLE!!! and Little slowed down, sniffed a bit, and kept going, like “Hey there, Rover, old boy. How’s it going?” Internally, however, *my* eyes rolled into my head, my intolerance heightened (and I prepared to fend for my neck); outwardly I stifled a smile to Rover’s crazy dad. But I noticed Little – like Miles Davis. Cool. Chill. Nonplussed.

Interesting, I think.  Maybe my puppy has figured out more than I think.

So there’s another dog in the neighborhood, Max. Poor Max. (I can use Max’s real name because I like his parents, and this isn’t negative about Max.) Max is a boxer, and Max is obsessed! with! Little! Like he will stand at the top of the hill and wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, for Little to come out. Once Little appears, Max will bark! at! the! top! of! his! lungs! to get Little to chase him. Little will stand there, hanging out, enduring the barking, and every so often give chase. It HAS to be annoying. But Little just takes it. No problem, man. Max is barking? Oh, well. I’ll chase him…when I want to. Max…now, Max is a cool DOG, but he’s not cool, like, “I am too cool for words” cool. No, Max is kind of the kid who reeeeaaaallllly wants friends but doesn’t quite know how to communicate that he likes someone. Like the awkward teenager passing notes: “Do you like me? Circle: YES or NO”.

So I start thinking: how many people are there in MY life that I have no patience for? If I saw them, would I smile genuinely, give a little sniff, and keep walking? I am pretty sure that when someone snaps at me, or yells at me, a little part of me crumples inside. Even if it’s *not* personal, I sure take it personally. I perseverate on it, thinking how I could have changed what I said. Did I bother someone? Did I insult someone? Do they hate me forever now?!?

And I am JUDGMENTAL! I never realized how judgmental I am, and now that I realize it, I feel awfully convicted. There is a concept in Christianity of God’s grace for our sins – Grace, grace, grace, grace. Little is full of grace – for me, for other dogs, for other people. Sometimes I accidentally yell at him when he isn’t doing anything wrong. He just looks at me, accepts the apology pat on the head, and moves on. But if I am wronged by another person…well, it depends, but sometimes I am not so grace-full. I look at Fido’s owners and think, “Ugh.” I look at my insane professor who yells if we don’t get the right answer, and think, “Grrrrrr…” (and some other Not Nice Things). I get frustrated with DB, with my dad, with my downstairs neighbors (although in fairness to myself, I did try to remedy that one, and I was rebuffed. The part where I am not so cool is the part where I am still miffed over their rejection of my overture).

Little doesn’t care what people think of him. He doesn’t care if other dogs hate him or like him. I mean, he wants to be liked, and he tries to play, but if another dog is having a problem, he shrugs and moves on. He goes up to people, standing there for them to pet him. Some of them don’t and push him away. He brushes off the rejection. No worries.

He is cool because he cares, but doesn’t care TOO much. He doesn’t get embarrassed. He is who he is.

He is happy with what he’s doing right NOW. He can’t play? OK, we’ll WALK!! YAY! What a great day!!! I can’t walk? OK, we’ll PLAY!!! Yay, what a great day!! We can’t go outside? OK, here’s a TOY!! What an awesome day this is!!! I’m sick? OK, let’s CUDDLE!! This is just awesome!!

He’s happy. He’s in the moment. How many times do I think, “If only I could _____”, or “If only I had _____”. He is just happy spending time…with ME.

And to be filled with grace – for others and for oneself – is to be cool, I think.

That’s my highest aspiration: to be as cool as my dog. I think if everyone was like that, the world would be a much, much, much better place.

(Gratuitous cool Little pictures):

Little’s uncool parents forgot to buy him a Halloween costume in an area where all the cool dogs have costumes, so we made do with a soccer jersey. He rolled with it:

His dorky parents also made him wear a bandana for the trip over Christmas to see DB’s family. Here he is on the hotel couch, sporting the nerd-scarf:

Cooly surveying the scene:

Hanging out (in need of grooming – badly) with his little buddy Tika. Not to take away from the point of this blog post, but isn’t our couch the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen?!? It’s the curse of the story of stuff…it’s DB’s from bachelor days. Alas.

P.S. Another symptom of coolness: He is the WORLD’S WORST SWIMMER, but every time he sees water, he beelines for it. People point at him and laugh, but he just keeps swimming with vigor. I mean, that is the definition of cool, don’t you think? If people were pointing at me and making fun of my swimming ability, there is NO WAY I’d get back in the water! No doubt about it, Little = cool.