The Year of The Dog
(in seven steps of short story)

For The Love of A Dog

Last year, I had the rare privilege of visiting Hong Kong and Macau. The children were magnificent in beauty and presence. The people I met were gentle, enormously hospitable, and kind. This same truth amplified and held for me having just returned back from travels in Peru.

What struck me most in China was the diversity of ages and ideas sitting peacefully together. It was easily evident that cross generations enjoyed watching out for each other. There was as equally an ease of respect amongst peers. In both countries, also, there was a pulse of running energy no matter where I visited held over by a supreme energy of serenity and a holding friendly calm. In Peru, it was especially spiritual and especially grounding.

The hospitality I experienced of another’s culture and way of life, sometimes with rare privileges of a shared window into spaces of central interest to their day, was warmly affecting and touching.  I imagine that my genuine appreciation for their presence and my care for their world expanded our exchange as did our common humanity and feeling valued. As a result, and no matter how brief or fleeting an interaction, I came home without too many strangers in my heart or in my travel portrait snapshots, if at all.

I was enormously lucky to have arrived in Hong Kong and Macau at the time of the Chinese New Year. The decorative and festive excitement welcoming the rooster year awoke and broadened many positive feelings. This year, I returned from Peru fast on the heels of the year of the dog.

Theo is very happy about a year that shines a spotlight of consideration on his most winning features of balance and heart. For him, always, it is a year of loyalty and non-judgment.

And what if, his dog energy asks of me as I write, were we to make those natural qualities to his way of being of a more paramount focus in our own daily lives and how we relate? This “doggy” thought naturally elicits fond unexpected relational remembrances while on travels. My heart opens to go there, I notice, in a way like it does to my dog, Theo.

Travels With Charley

Most recently, in Peru, I became of a sudden frozen within as to how to best descend a high mountain that challenged my vertigo. A fellow climber, and a complete stranger, he from Argentina, seeing my concerns, stepped in of his own and elected to have my back my every step of return to the base. I could not have done it to my own merit and confidence or accomplished a feat so joyfully without him. Leandro also eased me to feel like a band member with his own group of friends, who as fluidly accepted my sudden presence. My own charity of being quite easily flowed to know this and I felt inspired over my fears and insecurities, happy, and free. My way of being added to his day, he let me know. “Today, you are part of the pack!” he piped. This is Theo’s world, I mused within. This is what a dog does and a big part of how his days succeed, too. A dog’s way reminds us that feeling freedom is an inherent right we give to ourselves in how we are. I chewed over this thought in that very moment and while missing Theo back home.

I also smile just to think of my plane rides. How is it that time contained in the same plane on a seventeen-hour flight to China and on an eight-hour flight to Peru became marvellous? It passed fluidly, happily and almost too quickly for me. I liked this friendly sky land. It was an inspiring population to be around. The aircraft to China, in particular, was this wonderful container of diversity from rainbows of dress —  oh, so many colourful UNIQLO jackets dotting everywhere, too!—  to ethnicity, nationalities, customs and beliefs. At times, I walked the aisles up and down simply to behold the beauty of the faces young and old whose stories expanded mine. Here, hundreds of us, largely peaceful, cooperatively respectful of space and boundary, remarkably cheerful to undemanding, so unalike yet clearly alike, a sea of so many connecting flights to faraway distances of the world, and getting along high up in the air, I thought, and overall so kindly.  If we can do this business of feeling like a family so warmly and non-judgmentally to the irrefutable fact that at least for this stretch of time “we are all in this together”, I contemplated, why not then as easily when we are not on travels and not often as easily when we touch ground?

The Other End of The Leash

It’s easy of course, most will say, when you are on travels. “I’m on vacation then and less bothered about or strained by things.” Actually, travel is very stressful on the system and yet we adapt anyway. Travel, then, reminds us that we can do it and that we can apply it— inclusive of the sense of unencumbered freedom and joys we feel— yes, to our daily life, and yes, most certainly even when we are back at home. Even in our routines, we can stay curious and grateful.

Our dogs approach each day as a potential adventure so much so that every routine becomes exciting, freshly engaging and new. Even a nap! With the slightest shift, they become instant travelers to a beautiful thing. As travelers, we usually receive spontaneity and discomforts better than we do back home and we tend to enter the experience without expectations. We also become curious, open beings. We do this because we have invested or dreamed of this time and we wish to command all the harmony and joys that we can. We become quick problem solvers when things don’t go to plan and unless we are determined grumblers we are happy with the untraditional solutions we may find.

Yet by and large, we don’t do this as flexibly in our everyday relationships. We suddenly get weak on such natural attitudes. Our expectations of how things should be in due time becomes suddenly and unusually high. But isn’t a dog’s first joy to be an open-hearted day traveler to each day regardless and anyway?!

When we go on travels we are able to shift the way we see the world. So, it is possible. Just choosing to see our surroundings with new eyes allows us to enjoy our experiences and our fellow travelers with a greater depth and meaning. A positive attitude and a more open mind can make every experience meaningful. I truly believe that we need to count on the skill sets in our heart more consistently than we do our geography. We also need to embrace that these skill sets are a muscle and that to practice it is a fabulous, divine and noble thing.

A Dog’s Purpose

We all know that sometimes harmony, even on travels, is not easily evident even when you seek it. In Peru though, I finally happened upon the jackpot: a joyful global cohesiveness with a travel group of unfamiliar faces. (Yeah!) We were a diverse cut of ages, aptitudes, experiences, likes, speeds and communication styles, birthplace, ethnicity, professions and stages of life, you could say a wonderful pack of different dog breeds and sizes, talents and strengths, and to my great relief and delight, we got along famously anyway. In temperament and fancy, we even ran the gamut from sporting to non-sporting to working to herding to terrier to hound to toy to mixed.

Somehow nothing ever divided or pitted us. Why?

Somehow, we actually each held on to the tenet of a mutual acceptance very well. Refreshingly, there were no social snobs, no control freaks, no demands, no judgments, no mutinies, no polarizing grumblers, no artifice, no insistences of my way or my way. It helped that we were all unassuming folk who also moved about with a conscientious appreciation that we ourselves are fallible, imperfect and yet perfectly valuable beings; and, so too, anyone we then interact with and meet.

We showed gratitude. We each respected that everyone deserves success, dignity, and to feel included no matter our distinctions with space. We didn’t participate in divisiveness or in unspoken hierarchies of any kind. We cared enough not to be mentally lazy with each other. We each packaged ourselves within a broad-minded respect and humble curiosity for each other and the opportunities as travelers that we met. Indeed, we all unified so deeply that it’s no surprise to me that to now I miss my pack.

And though we had each other’s backs irrefutably through thick and thin, everyone— surprise! —  made sure to be in charge of his or her own happiness.  In this way, we became frank with our truths and comfortably open about our challenges but conscientiously non-burdensome to others to have solve or be responsible for our personal quirks and insecurities.

The Art of Racing in The Rain

We love our dogs for their ease with us, their acceptance of us, their ability to see past our filter and hug our day anyway. We tend to affirm them and laugh along with them and hug them for their understanding and acceptance in return. They are easy going with things and can find a comfortable spot wherever they are. They crave a close bond with kind attention but they neither hog the limelight. Ask a dog: Fellow appreciation and fellow kindness never requires a translation.

Challenges tend to muddle and rise between people when we get lost in our own insecurities and conditionality to things. We then more often loudly clash in our melodies and in how we must play and sing a song. Much of it, I am beginning to understand, is often a result of how ready you are to also sincerely receive harmony and be responsible for your own happiness within.

Such a simple recipe.

Or, is it?

One good start is to open ourselves to the present of each moment and to go to it for the earnestness it deserves. Another is to have a big heart and an open mind and to not mind being in the thick of things for the betterment of those around you. If you watch our pets, they are creative, gifted, spiritual and emotional masters in how they explore the world. We love them that they can be counted on.

And yes, any dog will tell you there is always a time when you will roll and have to play in the mud. Do we as much stay even as they to our basic needs and who we are no matter the changes in the seasons and the weather? If we are choosing to be positive, are we also choosing to be broad? When we wag our tail like my Theo, how freely do we also shed the masks we often wear?

The Incredible Journey

The kindness we bring to ourselves, you see, and the kindness we reflect to others as much matters. We never judge a dog’s silliness or the moments they sometimes miss their mark. They become sheepish at times when they have done something in error and we rarely become overcritical of them.  In place, especially if we are wise, we become even more kindly educative to our best friends and forgiving. We neither demand of them that they conform to us on everything. We also tend not to engage in a polarizing contest of who is right or wrong or who gets the last word.  We especially value that they overall depend on us but are as much their own independent vessels of light and happiness to each day.

It’s a big reason as to why we feel release with them. We also feel ease that they can see sweet, unassuming beauty or a silver lining in any and everything, and because at every moment they seek it. It is naturally almost then near impossible for a sharing of joys and vulnerabilities to not more naturally shine out for both in the bond. And to make something work when it doesn’t, the rule is simple for a dog: People need to agree to be another way.

Go, Dog. Go!

Hey, did you ever notice that your pet doesn’t get bogged down by other people’s opinions of him, the resume of other pack mates’ so-called successes or failures, or any social media tea of the day? They just are. And they love, anyway.  Here, we also all have something to work on!

This is the year of the dog.

Go now, and hug your pet. Try to see what happens when you say a daily blessing of thankfulness on that joy in relationship. It will be the start to your greatest human pet trick. And as you do heel to these playful easy-going masters. Heal and dig. It can be fun. You may find a treasure. Try to sniff out your own ways to be more cleanly masterful at gaging and moving through your world and your relationships by your own natural graces, instincts, and inner heart.

According to Theo and all his friends out there, it can be a doggone beautiful year and a great life teacher to us if we just open ourselves and let it.

signaturePhotography by Marina Mashaal

Showing 8 comments
  • Ezra S.

    Fantastic photos and reflections on life, Marina. Thanks for sharing with us all. Best to you and Theo. Ezra

    • myheartspeak

      Thanks so much for your giving message.
      We feel your appreciation and joy, Ezra. ☀️ I am especially touched by your kind energy and support.
      Thank you so much for stopping by with your heart, Ezra, and sharing that with me and Theo.???
      Your art at ? is a great place for everyone at My Heartspeak to know street photography and film
      that warms and uplift hearts!

      • Ezra S.

        Thanks, Marina and Theo! 🙂

        • myheartspeak


  • Kai

    Great post, great pictures

  • myheartspeak

    Rebecca: Wow!!! Awesome photos. Your bond with Theo is next to none!!! The way you wrote this blog is so personal and emotional. It really boggled my mind. May you reminisce often and keep this journey close to your heart. What a great memory. So so happy you were able to experience such amazing travels. You enlightened your horizons!! And you have enlightened ours.

  • Barbara

    You opened up my heart today. Beautiful writing and photos. Thank you.

    • myheartspeak

      I thank you.

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