Gratitude in an unexpected moment in North Carolina

Yesterday I went hiking with a friend and her dog at Umstead State Park in North Carolina. The dog is a beautiful, gentle, black Labrador named Scout. He’s about 13 years old and has problems with his hips. My friend says that for the last month he has been moping about the house and seems to have lost his “puppydom”.

We decided to take advantage of the weather and take him out on the trails. As we approach the park, Scout’s ears perk up, and he gets super excited. Before long he’s running around all over the place, marking his territory, and scampering through the leaves. He always comes back to us and then takes off again. He’s panting heavily but showing no signs of slowing down. (Like me! Haha.)

After about 30 minutes, though, I noticed that Scout was getting a bit wobbly on his legs and was having some trouble walking. And I realized we might have to cut the hike short.

I was a bit disappointed. I had been really looking forward to getting a pretty vigorous hiking session in to keep up my momentum with my exercise. Having the dog along was slowing me down.

I can’t explain what happened next or what triggered the reflection but suddenly I saw how selfish I was being and felt ashamed. It dawned on me how happy this dog was to be out gallivanting in the forest. My friend was having a glorious time and enjoying herself. And for the 30 minutes we were outside, our furry little friend was having the time of his life. And it made me realize that we weren’t taking Scout for a walk but it was actually the other way around. This was his moment, his day.

In this strange and unexpected moment of clarity, I saw how important it is to look for and appreciate the really simple little pleasures. I also remembered the lesson I learned long ago and sometimes forget: that happiness is not about what you get but what you give to others. — at Umstead State Park.

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