As I may have mentioned, my family and I just got a new puppy -- a cockapoo named Barnaby. He's fourteen weeks old, and super sweet and delightful.
However, he is a dog, and even more so, he's a puppy. I knew that his arrival in our household would mean big changes -- and would also teach me a lot about myself.
So far, here's what I've learned:
1. Getting up at 5:30 a.m. is very different from getting up at 6:00 a.m.
It's just thirty minutes...but it feels like a much bigger gap. For years, my day has started at 6:00, and I'm hoping that when Barnaby is a little older, I can move my wake-up time back to its usual spot. For now, he's very eager to go out by 5:30.
2. New York City is an overwhelming place.
I've been here for so long that I take it for granted, but being with Barnaby has shown me how noisy and bustling it is. In some ways, that's good; in some ways, that's bad. I realize that sometimes I should sometimes make allowances for the overwhelming nature of the environment for myself, too.
3. It doesn't do any good, and it may do harm, to vent my temper.
When I give a sharp "no" and move away from Barnaby in a deliberate way, to teach him not to nip, that's good. When I speak sharply from impatience, because he's had an accident or whatever, that will confuse and upset him. Calm, deliberate speech! Gosh, over the years, I've done a million things to curb my sharp tongue. I'll be working on it my whole life, I'm sure.
4. It really helps to have an exact place for everything.
I really dislike having to look around for misplaced objects, and so everything related to Barnaby has its place -- and I must say, everyone has been very good about putting things away in the right place. Looking for the certain kind of treat? The clean-up bags? The squeaky green toy? His record of vaccinations? They all have their place.
5. Pets makes a home feel more alive.
When I was working on Happier at Home, I thought a lot about the experience of home, and what I could do to make my home more...homey. Well, even our betta fish add a serene presence, but having a dog snoozing on the floor at my feet as I type on my computer makes a very cozy and happy feeling.
6. Relationships are a key, perhaps the key to happiness.
Barnaby is a whole new relationship -- intense, and different from human relationships.
7. For happiness, it's just as important to give support as it is to get support.
Barnaby needs a lot of attention, a lot of time, and a fair amount of stuff. Having a dog is a big source of happiness, and giving to a dog is just as significant.
The funny thing? I knew all this before Barnaby arrived! To live a happier, healthier, more productive life, I've learned, is less about learning new things and more about putting the things we already know into action.