My dog is my happiness. He fills me with the fuzzy happy feelings. The wagging tail, the twinkling eyes and the unabashed grin is a deadly cocktail for a happiness potion. He has instant effect on our mood. The entire focus of our household revolves around this canine. He is so central to our well-being that it is unimaginable how life can be without him. Our happiness was like anchored with this sweet drop of life. The story of this happiness started six years ago with a stroke of profound unhappiness.
It was six years ago, yet the memories of ‘Simba’ lingered as a distant but vivid images in our minds. The feelings were muted as we felt, we had moved on. We felt, we had lost a source of happiness, as death took him away. Many memories, happy and sad had piled up over those memories, obscuring them to their best. There was a gaping void which we all felt. We were painfully reminded of the loss by the uncanny habit of the Facebook, to bring back your memories on your timeline. As the memories broke the barrier and entered our conscious mind, it became a source of motivation to look for another pet. Our search was futile as nothing seemed to be matching our memories. We were kind of looking for our old memories in the present. The search was on the internet, through the circle of friends and strangely even on OLX (an online portal for selling your old stuff). The irony was classic, here we were, looking for our old memories and here were some people selling the same.
The search culminated in a quick succession of events. During a casual talk with one of our friend the topic got triggered. The topic of getting a new pet had become a favourite line of conversation, driven by an ever increasing obsession. Well this time it was a concrete lead. There was a vet, who had confirmed availability of a set of cream coloured pups.
My younger daughter, the insistent factor in the search was at her insistent best as she did not allow us the usual afternoon siesta. We were revving up our car’s engine when we received the call from the vet informing us of a possible delay to get the ‘other party’ to the rendezvous. We could not step inside the house, therefore we decided to take a drive a do our long pending household shopping.
As is the norm, the shopping list has was devoid of any limit cast in stone. It followed the Hooke’s law even beyond the yield point. And, this day wasn’t beyond the normal. The shopping which started out as an activity to fill in the time, ended up filling more time, than required. We, therefore, ended up being late.
As we reached the clinic of the vet, we could see the basket being carried by the representative of the breeder. we could see two fuzzy bundles of cream through the mesh of the cane basket. The tug on my hand was urgent as we crossed the street. The tenets of negotiations were all systematically ignored and violated. The eagerness was visible to the least perceptible.
The breeder, flipped the cover open to reveal two furry siblings. Cushioned by the soft quilt the duo seemed comfortable and cosy. We fashioned the notion that we would be the one to select our pet, but the selection was done by the pet. The furry ball hopped over the rim of the basket and wobbled towards me. It was a rush of emotions as the afterlife connections on metaphysical level seem to emerge and the deal was done. The decision was made. We had found our happiness. Or, to be more precise, the happiness had found us.
The bundle of happiness reached our home and the entire locus of attention shifted. There were giggles and awwwwws as the mobile phone memory recorded each moment. As the memory of our mobile filled and spilled over to the hard disc storage, our source of happiness acquired a new name – Marty.
Our elder daughter, oblivious of this momentous happenings was battling her wits on a outstation quiz battle ground. She returned triumphant, however her happiness got dwarfed as she carefully uncovered the radiating piece of happy radioactive material lying hidden in a gift wrapped basket.
His conquest was complete. Everyone had attached their cable of happiness plugged to him. It not only covered the household but went beyond to engulf few regular visitors. The garbage collector, the newspaper guy, the washer-man and our friends. All were under his spell. The enthusiasm he displayed in each meeting was similar and fair in quantum and quality, irrespective of gender, race, caste, religion and affluence. Each one plugging into this unending source of happiness.
That set me thinking. ‘Thinking’ is an evolutionary advantage that I have. So I ‘thought’ of using it.
How does this creature, far lower in the pecking order of evolution manage to be an abundance of ‘the only commodity’ that the human race (sitting at the top of the Darwinian ladder) of evolution seeks?
Where did the source lie of this ‘abundance of happiness’? Is my dog my happiness? Or do I look for happiness in him? Or does the happiness lie somewhere in between?
That became my line of thought as I observed this super being in action, trying to pry out some secret recipe of the happiness potion.
First thing that was evident was that Marty was unfair in giving. There was no relation of his “giving” to the merit of the “receiver”. His ‘giving’ was same for any of the receiver irrespective of gender, race, caste, religion, affluence, etc. There just wasn’t any criteria of fair distribution. He was just unfair. The only consistent factors was that of attention and affection.
The other thing that troubled me was that he would give attention and the pricey wag of the tail to just anybody – the garbage collector, the maid, the courier man, so on and so forth. There wasn’t any sense of gratefulness. With no ambiguity, I wanted him to know, that I was his owner who provides him his food, his security and his identity (on the collar). I experienced that immense happiness whenever he came wagging his tail expectantly for the treat in my hand. It was a sense of elation I felt on the control I could exercise on this being as he stayed riveted to my hand (or more accurately to the smell of the treat that lingered on my hand). The wagging of the tail, the expectancy in the eyes and the imagined smile on the wide open mouth brought me my happiness. I would gloat over the affection or the attention I was given and would seek to own it. Therefore sometimes I do feel bad when the same tail wags and the eyes twinkle at these ‘other’ people. But what really got be wondering was that, when the same wag of the tail and grin on the wide open mouth is directed to these ‘other’ people, wby did it not have the same effect of engulfing happiness on me? On the contrary, I felt wretched, hateful and sad. An absolute opposite set of feelings from the same set of behaviour by the dog. It astonished me. And somehow, strangely and ironically, I felt greater anger towards Marty than towards these ‘other’ people. As if he disappoints me. As if he fell from the grace. Stranger is the irony, when I realise that at times like these, this bundle of abundant happiness was actually the source of my anger.
I also observed that the dog wasn’t so smart after all, because all he ever did was to mimic my emotions. He would get super excited if I showed excitement. If I was pensive he would be listless too. And on the other hand sometimes he would be exactly the opposite. There were times when I reached back home and just want to fling my work and chill. When I just wanted to dig into the abyss of social media world with my swiping fingers and punching thumbs. Or when I wanted to jog the remote till the mind got from dumb to the dumber. At times like these, Marty conveniently forgot his default wiring of mimicking emotions. He discovers his shriekiest bark and the most devious ways of gaining your attention. He just doesn’t realise, at such time the ‘most important’ thing for me is to relax and not spend time with him. He is actually dumb and irritating.
These observations were not helping me in anyways of extracting the holy grail of happiness. My observation seemed to point towards the contrary. My observation was creating this grave cognitive dissonance with my awareness and belief that my dog was the source of my happiness and at the same time the source of my anger and irritation.
It was a researchers sense of betrayal, to see his hypothesis not being supported by his own observation. The distress was palpable. The limits of thinking (which I was so proud of) had hit its keel on the walls of the horizon.
As I sat brooding over a blank screen, thoughts were no longer giving me solace. In my time of despair, in the most cheekiest Bollywood way, I felt Marty’s paws on my arm. For all those who have a dog, know what I am talking about. It is that placing of the paws which has a kind of therapeutic effect. With the paws on my arm, Marty face was resolute, sombre and yet expressionless. It allowed me to interpret any expression which I wanted to have. It was a blank canvas on which I could paint any thought.
I toyed with the idea which I started with ‘My dog is my Happiness’. Somehow the analogy of my dog being the happiness seemed to be a metaphoric explanation. As my thoughts rested resolutely on the metaphor it somehow transformed and rearranged itself into – ‘Happiness is the Dog’. The clarity emerged. The metaphoric shift replaced the abstract feeling of ‘happiness’ with a ‘physical entity’ which could be described.
And as I proceeded to describe the dog as happiness the clarity emerged. I use the word Marty – my Dog as a replacement of the word Happiness to derive understandable meaning.
Marty wags his tail and focusses his attention to the one who feeds him. He focusses his attention to the one that gives attention to him. He goes to the one who truly wants him and makes him feel important (more important than anything else). The next time Marty does not come to you ask yourself, whether I feed him or whether I give him attention? Do I want him? Is it really the most important thing in my life? Now replace the Marty with the word ‘Happiness’ and see the clarity emerge. Do we really want to be happy? Do I give happiness the required attention? Do I even try to be happy?
What I actually try to do is to own happiness, extract and store happiness. Just like I would like to maintain the stock of treats to buy myself the attention of Marty. We try and own happiness and control it. Leash it and not share it with the ‘others’. When I want to control it, leash it and am unwilling to share it, its core essence of happiness transforms into despair and anger. It diabolically transforms into a gruesome source of misery.
The clarity sends shivers of relief and bliss through my core. It seemed to lift a heaviness from my chest. As clarity swept through my being, the ruts on my neural pathways smoothened out to welcome this new belief. I felt actually happy.
That’s when I felt the wet licks and the insistent playful prod by the wet nose of Marty. It was time for us to play, share ourselves wholly to each other and extend our identity to ‘us’. It was time to brew happiness.