I’ve read a lot of philosophy over the years. When I was a teenager and largely hanging out in libraries it was the early 1970s and there were a lot of great books geared toward achieving your greatest potential.
I read Born to Win, all the transactional analysis books, Carlos Castaneda and the teachings of Don Juan, Kahlil Gibran was big back then and so was R.D Laing whose book Knots tied me into a big psychiatric one. But hey, it was all hip and cool and fodder for a mind searching for answers.
In the 1980s I discovered Edward De Bono’s Course in Thinking, and John Bradshaw, Melody Beattie and F. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled. Then there was Oprah, Phil Donahue and all the other TV talks show hosts who aimed at enlightening everybody. It was a lot to take in.
It seemed as though if you were looking for answers there were a host of writers, talkers, celebrities and gurus who had the definitive one. Pop psychology was big business and there was a huge audience and readership for it. Self-help was the buzz word and I was right in there helping myself.
All that searching took a lot of energy. It was a wonder I had time to do any real work. So nowadays, I’m 54 years old and I’ve recently discovered that all I ever needed to know about successful living I can learn from my dog.
She’s wise. She’s sage. She lives entirely the moment and she finds the joy in everything. She eats regularly, takes a good nap every afternoon, drinks a lot of water, stretches before doing anything and is never afraid to express love or ask for what she needs.
She’s never too busy to listen, never too overwhelmed to find the smallest thing interesting and she never pretends to be anything other than who she is. There’s nothing better than the sun on your belly and nowhere as comforting as being at home.
I could live a long time being dog-wise. There’s no huge books to read, no deep answers to search for, just the satisfaction of knowing that the world is full of smells and sights and wonder and infinite possibility and that if you ask to go out into it, someone will always be willing to walk with you.
Richard Wagamese is Ojibway and the author of Keeper’n Me. He won the Canadian Author’s Award for Dream Wheels and his new novel, Ragged Company, is out from Doubleday.
He can be reached at