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Can you and your dog really be happy anywhere?

Can you and your dog really be happy anywhere?

What is your proverbial "tree line?"

Some of you may know that Pax and I have been spending some time back in our home province of British Columbia, Canada. We had hoped for bright skies, cherry blossoms, and birds singing, but instead, we experienced a month of dreary greyness, rain, fog, and winter holding its grip.

three images of a gloomy highway with grey rainy weather

As our time here has passed I have noticed that my mood, as well as Pax’s, has changed. We have enjoyed our walks together, despite all of the rain gear required to do so, but no matter what I did I could not stop myself from feeling miserable after weeks and weeks of rainy days. It has been hard for me to see Pax being all mopey and deflated.

Border collie Pax looking mopey

I have always been an avid reader of personal development books, and the most common theme among them is that we can all live a fulfilled and happy life if we bring our state of mind to a higher level.

We should learn to be in the now!
We should see things in a positive light!
We should make a list of all the good things that happen each day!

Blah, blah, blah…🤣

I think that writing a book about happiness is much easier than LIVING THE BOOK.

I often wonder if these authors find it easy to live according to what they write, or do they struggle to maintain their daily level of happiness? Also, our dogs are masters at living in the moment, yet they too can be unhappy and mopey. Does this mean they are failing at living a happy life?

Let's look to nature for the answer to this question.

Most plants need light to grow, but coconut palms evolved or "chose to grow" in tropical temperatures with high humidity. Further north, deciduous trees grow in lower temperatures, but there is a threshold, a tree line beyond which they cannot grow. The conditions above the tree line are too harsh, and the growing season is too short for a tree to survive.

As you can see in the photo below, some trees grow just below the tree line but they do not thrive there.

Tree line on a snowy mountain side

In nature, birds fly south for the winter, and whales migrate thousands of miles to give birth in warmer waters. On the other side of the spectrum are polar bears, who suffer greatly without snow and ice. 

birds flying whales swimming and a polar bear with cubs

So, could it be that we too have our own optimal place of existence where happiness is easier for us to achieve? Is it possible that sometimes, no matter how deep our inner grounding is, or how hard we may try, we are simply above our proverbial tree line? For some people their tree line could be too much rain, fog, and darkness; for others, it might be a hectic city environment and the absence of hills or mountains.

As I am writing this I hear a voice whispering to me, "But they will think you are whining! Such horrible things are happening in the world, and you are whining about cold, fog, and rain?!" On a rational level, I can't disagree, but the consequence of feeling low is that we can't be there for others when they need our help.

Even dogs, who are — in my opinion — the most enlightened beings, have apparent preferences. For example, some dogs love to snuggle in front of a fireplace and hate being in the water, while others, like my dog Pax, simply cannot get enough of the water. They are just different, and neither of them is wrong. 

Pax swimming in a lake and a dog curled up sleeping by a fire

I have a sneaking suspicion that many of the spiritual teachers and gurus who tell us that we should be able to be happy anywhere if we are "evolved" are not precisely correct. They are great at talking the talk, but I wonder how often they fail at walking the walk. 

Does Eckhart Tolle, whom I respect very much, really live in a state of everlasting happiness, or does he still struggle from time to time like the rest of us? By the way, I have nothing against Eckhart at all; he was simply the first person who came to mind.

But I also agree that we all should observe our responses to our circumstances, and either accept what is, or change it.

Ideally, we should strive to increase our level of tolerance, while also recognizing when we are close to our TREE LINE and make the necessary changes, because this is what all life forms naturally do.

We can certainly survive while living above our tree line for some time, but we are unlikely to thrive under unfavourable conditions for very long. Being in a place that provides us with the optimal conditions we need in order to thrive is vital for our health and wellbeing, our community, and the planet. Happiness begets happiness.

I also think that the mantra of "you can always create your inner happiness" can make people feel like a failure when they do not achieve this lofty but, in my opinion, unreasonable goal.

So, if you are happy where you are — great!
If you aren’t, don’t beat yourself up.

First, you can explore how much you are able to change your outlook on life; and second, you should make sure that you are not living above your "tree line."

If you realize that you’re in the wrong place, consider relocating if you are able to, but remember if you don't change within, a move to another location will do diddly-squat, because you take your attitude with you wherever you go. I have met a surprising number of unhappy and miserable people in Hawaii. They move there to change their life and forget to work on changing themselves.🌴

If you breathe a sigh of relief after reading this article, I am glad. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, and it's important to find the right place where you can grow and be the best version of yourself.

Our dogs need to be happy, but they need us to be happy too!

PS: Let me know what you think, and share your stories of how you or your dog became happier and what made it happen.

About the author

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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