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Dustin Monke
Dustin Monke

Monke: Happiness through a dog's eyes

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columns Dickinson, 58602

Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

If we could only all be as happy as a dog. Have you ever seen creatures so cheerful?

When treated right, very little seems to get them down or break their spirits. They're basically a walking, barking and itching smile.

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Sometimes all it takes is a walk around the block, some food or a game of fetch and you have the happiest animal on the planet at your side.

I came to realize just how happy a canine's life can be when we took our dog, Noodle, to my family's farm last weekend. We figure he ran about 5 miles that day. By the time the day was done, he couldn't stop smiling.

While he is very much a lap dog, Noodle has long legs and can hit speeds of about 20 mph when he is running full, a speed we clocked as he ran alongside a four-wheeler.

Noodle's speed is evidence that he needs to get outside to run, play and dig a few holes. It helps keep him from being a pent-up ball of crazy in his regular life as a house pet.

That got me thinking. Why can't we all be that happy with the little things in life?

If Noodle and other dogs can find sheer joy in the little things, maybe humans can take a few notes.

If you sit back and think about it, we live in amazing times yet we don't seem to appreciate much of it.

We have handheld computers that make telephone calls, fit in our pockets and have access to entire world's accumulated knowledge. "But my 3G coverage is slow!"

In America and many other first-world countries, we have nearly unlimited eating options in a world where millions go to bed hungry at night. "But they forgot to bring my ranch dressing for my fries and put cucumbers on my salad when I specifically asked them not to!"

If we had the mindset of dogs, we would just roll with the punches, forget about all the needless worries and smile at how good we really have it.

Think about it. For sustenance, all dogs really ask for is a bowl of food, a bowl of water and a couple treats now and then.

According to Jeffrey Mogil, a psychologist and neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal, pets exhibit emotions much the same as humans do. Studies have shown that when dogs are happy, they use facial muscles to show it the same as humans.

Sometimes, all it takes for our dog Noodle to get a smile on his face is if I say the word, "walk." If he hears the word, he perks up, tilts his head and starts wagging his tail. He knows something good is coming.

Why can't I be that happy about something that regularly happens two or three times a day?

In my job, like most others, there are some long days. Days when I come home and just want to be left alone.

Noodle doesn't get that memo. Typically, he's a spastic mess after not seeing me for a few hours, smiling, barking and doing his best to transmit some of his happiness to me.

About the only time he doesn't smile or emote happiness is when he hears the word "kennel." It's the only word, other than "walk" we can say that gets his attention immediately. When Noodle hears "kennel," he will give you a disappointed look and do his best sullen Charlie Brown impression by trudging directly there, regardless of if he is in trouble or not.

I can only pray I have kids who are that obedient.

If you have a dog, take a look at him or her today and examine just what makes them happy. Then, think about yourself and what gives you joy. For me, it's my dog and seeing just how happy he can be.

With everything happening in the world, I look at Noodle and realize there's a lot more to life and it can't be all that bad.

Monke is the managing editor of

The Dickinson Press. Email him at dmonke@thedickinsonpress.com.

Tweet him at monkebusiness.

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