The Happiest Dog on Earth

Calis signatiure Feb3 2015
Cali Was Here (Photo by Christina Phelps)

Cali’s pawprint from a recent beach day. It’s so fitting that her pawprint looks like a smiley face. Cali really is the happiest dog I have even known. She greets each morning (actually, since she gets up well before the sun, I could say that she anticipates each morning) with pure joy. She grabs a toy and waves it in my face or jumps on the bed to give me kisses or just wags her whole rear half — whatever works to get me out of bed. Lazy Mom.

She then grabs a favorite toy and runs outside where she runs around, wagging and smiling. (Yes, I can tell she’s smiling, even if she has a large toy in her mouth.) A few hugs and cuddles, more wags, and she’s off to take care of morning business.
Sometimes, in the afternoon, when she’s bored and I am working too much, she loses the smile and gives me the bored teenager sigh. But she perks up immediately when I say a magic word (“park” or “play” or “walk”).
Anticipation kicks in again sometimes. I apparently have a habit of saying, “OK,” when I am about to get up from the computer. It triggers a wild frenzy of dancing and tail wagging. Same thing happens — this is a bit embarrassing — when the end music to my latest Netflix TV series comes on each night. Cali might be comfortably napping on the huge memory foam dog bed (having kicked Jana off, no doubt), but at the first bars of music, she’s up and dancing toward the door.
Am I really that predictable (yes). More to the point, what does this tell us about dogs?
The ability to remember experiences, learn from them, and anticipate new ones based partly on those memories is a huge element of what makes humans conscious and engaged in society. Same thing is true for dogs. While I doubt that Cali lies around wondering what we’re doing next weekend or worrying about how we’ll pay for her next bag of SoJo’s (she leaves that to me), she often appears to anticipate good things happening in her future.
She seems to expect that, at 4 p.m., I will stop working and Play With the Dogs. At 5 p.m., dinner had better be in the bowl. While following a routine does not, in itself, mean that dogs are thinking, planning, or anticipating, it’s clear to me that she anticipates these events. And that her clock runs a bit fast.
Even more interesting is her certainty, whenever we get on 101 South, that fun things are in store for dogs. Not all car trips end up being fun for the dogs. She’s been on car trips that started with getting on 101 South … and ended in Florida, many long, dull days later. Sometimes, I just run errands. Mostly, though, we are heading to Berkeley, to visit Cali’s sister Dora or hang out with her friend Virgil. Sometimes we end up in San Francisco with Jana’s longtime pal Christine at the beach. So the odds of fun are strongly in Cali’s favor.
That’s enough for her. Cali’s sunny personality reflects her natural optimism. And what is optimism if not a belief that good things are bound to happen in the future?

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