Woodchucks and moodswings

Take a look out the window. How many shades of green do you see? I see grass, weeds, brush, leaves, cornfields. If I could even begin to count the shades, there would many, many thousands. Even the little sumac grove has dozens of shades and they change with the slightest breeze.

I just finished a book called “Inside of a Dog.” That’s from an old Groucho Marx line: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Funny guy, but I digress. One of the interesting things in the book was the idea that dogs’ sense of smell mirrors the quality of our vision! They can discern thousands of scents like we see thousands of colors. No wonder they sniff around so much. There’s a difference among the breeds, too, and German Shepherds and Bloodhounds are at the top of the list.

I saw a demonstration with a search and rescue team and their bloodhounds. They were big, sort of clumsy, and very friendly. Handlers gave three of them a sniff of a “lost person’s” sock. The lost person had a head start and ran along the edge of a field and into the woods. A few minutes later the dogs were released and they followed a different path in a long arc through the middle of the field before going into the woods where the guy went.

I asked why that was and the trainers said the scent drifts on the breeze, in this case, across the field, but that the dogs can follow even the diluted scent and since they move faster than the lost person, they catch up. The lost guy said it was a little disconcerting when he heard the pack baying as the dogs picked up the stronger scent and closed in on him. That all went away when they started to lick him, slobber all over him, wiggle in excitement, tried to sit on his lap, and bayed until the handlers came. These wonderful animals use their God-given talents to the max.

So, while visiting a friend the other day, I was looking out the back window and thought of all the colors I could see. Matter of fact there were even shades of gold where some of the grass had matured!

Just then, a smallish woodchuck loped into the yard and was nibbling on the grass. I was preoccupied with all the colors and was going to share the story about our visual abilities and dogs’ smelling abilities with my friend when the woodchuck suddenly sat up and looked right at me. No way he could have seen me through the window but he wiggled his paws like he was waving!

Ok, ok, I suppose I tend to read too much into animal behavior, but the strange little episode made me laugh. My preoccupation with the colors of the scenery went away and I was delighted and up-lifted by that silly little experience.

It occurred to me, then, that that brief, strange little episode might be like a single color I might pick out of a vista or a single scent a hound might focus on.

My experience indicates that one BAD little thing can turn a whole day in a sour direction for us and I believe it can concentrate our focus on that one negative detail like a hound on a single scent from a smelly sock.

Let’s flip this negative thing. In the panoply of experiences we have in a given day, do we take the time to focus on the little things like the woodchuck incident that pick us up? They happen all the time. The more I look for these things, the more of them I see. And they add up on the positive side of the mood and experience level.

Take a look out the window and appreciate the awesome display of colors. Watch a dog concentrate on some smelly thing. Translate this idea into an awareness of all the positive little things that happen every day. Look for uplifting things and you’ll find them!