We have all noticed that the approach of the new year, usually a time of great optimism and anticipation, is weighed down this year with an elevated level of anxiety in many people. Our dogs, however, continue living in the moment. Anxiety only shows itself when outdoor clothes are being put on and they are uncertain whether they are going with us. Or dinner time is approaching and perhaps we have forgotten?
Mack glues himself to my hip in the mornings as soon as I pull on running tights. If I somehow break free, he pushes his way to the door and is out before I can say no. But why would I? In addition to being the best running bud a person could ask for, Mack is also the purest source of optimism and hope you can imagine.
He was labeled the “love puppy” by the friend I got him from and is now known as the Love Dog. Mack loves nearly everything! (Exceptions include celery and baths.) Mack is so integral to the family's happiness, so trusting and expressive in his affection, it is hard to imagine how we managed without him.
Right around the time I first saw a photo of the puppy who was to become Mack, there was a Mack truck parked in front of my house, nose to nose with my car. When I was 15 I had a “friend” who predicted my death would come from being run over by a Mack truck. She even painted the scene for me, in flat, bright acrylics. At some point, I got over my wariness of Mack trucks, but by then I was in the habit of noticing them. When I met the puppy, I knew his name needed to be Mack. It’s a good, honest name for a pup, especially one with a straightforward, honest demeanor who happens to be on the large size.
On the way to the trail, he sits in the back seat, only the twitching of a front leg indicating excitement. He nudges his nose into my elbow or rests his head on my shoulder in case I am available for a snout scratch. He watches through the window when we arrive in the parking lot and only when I open the door does he burst past me, in a flash of energy and pent-up excitement. And we are off!
He charges ahead (Mack loves to be in front!), hoovers up deer turds and any remaining acorns beneath the snow, watches the gullies for deer and coyotes, wags wildly at any approaching person or dog (especially poodles), and only very rarely runs off, and never for very long. If I stop, he waits. If I pause for more than a moment or stretch on the trail, he comes over and leans against me until we are ready to move again. He waits at every trail intersection for an indication of which way we will travel. Left or right, up or down, my choice is always rewarded with an enthusiastic bound in that direction, because Mack loves all the trails! Yesterday it was just me and Mack for 6 miles in the dark. No coyotes, no deer, no dogs, no people, just a couple of birds startled out of trees as we ran by. We stopped and surveyed the city, rolled up the ridge and down into the next canyon. We had a blast.
I wish I was more like Mack as we settle into deep winter and more snow, more cold, more smog, and global uncertainty. I know that soon enough the longer days will make a difference, the hardpack will change to ice and then slush and then mud. And then flowers! I can already imagine the first glacier lilies peeking through the expanding dirt. And then the yellow balsamroot flowers that will blanket the hills. In the meantime, at least I have a Mack, the very best one, who loves the snow, the cold, the morning, the dark, and everything else. Mack loves everything. If you need a little optimism, come on by. He would love to see you!