A Tank Update

February 18, 2019

Today is my horse Tank’s 24th birthday! As a registered American Quarter Horse, he “officially” turns a year older on Jan. 1, but I still celebrate his actual birthday—or foal date, as it’s known in the horse world.

As you may remember, back in November I moved him to a new boarding barn. This was wrenching for me, and I was worried about how he’d handle the change. We’d been at our old boarding barn for all of our 15 years together. Happily, he’s done very well overall.

The new barn was still under construction when we moved, but it was completed enough for the horses to move in about a week ago. It’s a big, airy space (and smells like new wood). Tank seems to really like his new stall.

Especially the way it tastes. (Face palm.)

We’ve faced a few challenges since the move—he developed a case of hives, and then a painful hoof abscess—both things have happened before and aren’t related to his new home. I’m also still trying to develop a routine of care and exercise for him. Most recently, though, he spooked one day while I was riding him and threw me. I pulled muscles I didn’t know I had trying to stay on, but I wasn’t seriously hurt. (Apparently there were horse-eating monsters in the woods bordering the field in which we were riding!)

Tank’s new schedule will involve being stalled part of the time and being turned out into various paddocks the rest of the time. He’s still getting used to being turned out in different areas with different horses nearby—he makes it clear he DOES NOT like being the first one turned out or brought in!

All this adjustment to different conditions can be hard on a horse, just like change can be hard for most people, myself included. I try to help him by going to see him as often as possible and not making any other changes in his management.

And while it may feel uncomfortable at first, change can also be beneficial. For horses, it can provide new stimulation and learning opportunities. For humans, change helps us be more flexible and creative. And, really, we’d become bored if nothing ever changed.

I’m trying to make the best of the recent changes in my life, and Tank is, too (I assume. He seems like he’s trying to understand what’s happening, and communicate his feelings about it!) Eventually, these changes will become the new normal…and then any further changes may feel uncomfortable! 

What changes have you experienced recently? How have you been coping?


Wishing You Holiday Happiness

December 24, 2018

Prudy, Luna, Tank, and all the humans here at Catching Happiness wish you and your loved ones much holiday happiness, whatever your traditions may be. 


“Happiness Is a Warm Puppy”*

June 22, 2018

Today is Take Your Dog to Work Day, and while I tried to convince my husband to take Luna to the office with him, he declined. Since I work at home, every day is Take Your Dog to Work Day for me, and while that has its drawbacks, overall I love being able to take a break for cuddle time with either Luna or Prudy, my other fuzzy office mate.

For many, myself included, pets are a lasting source of happiness and simple pleasures. In honor of the dog in my life, here are a few quotes about how dogs and happiness:

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring — it was peace.”
—Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

“When we adopt a dog or any pet, we know it is going to end with us having to say goodbye, but we still do it. And we do it for a very good reason: They bring so much joy and optimism and happiness. They attack every moment of every day with that attitude.”
—W. Bruce Cameron

“Animals have come to mean so much in our lives. We live in a fragmented and disconnected culture. Politics are ugly, religion is struggling, technology is stressful, and the economy is unfortunate. What's one thing that we have in our lives that we can depend on? A dog or a cat loving us unconditionally, every day, very faithfully.”
—Jon Katz

“My idea of absolute happiness is to be in bed on a rainy day, with my blankie, my cat, and my dog.”
—Anne Lamott

(Sounds good to me!)

“Because of the dog's joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born.”
—Mary Oliver

Happy Friday, everyone—and if you have a dog, cat, or other animal companion, give them a little extra love today.

*Charles M. Schulz, Peanuts


Making Success Out of Habits

February 12, 2018

It’s mid-February—do you know where your goals are? Are you still working towards them, or have you become discouraged or distracted? 

The excitement of a new year has worn off by now, and most of us are faced with the reality of ongoing effort, of putting one foot in front of the other. Have we made it easy—or at least easier—to be successful in pursuit of our goals and dreams? Have we put in place habits and routines that support reaching them?

I’ve been thinking about habits and routines a lot lately for two reasons:

First, we now have little Luna to teach and take care of, and as we train her, we try to set her up for success—by walking her often, keeping her contained and under supervision (so she doesn’t get into too much trouble!), and praising her when she does things we like. We have a regular schedule, with feeding times (her favorite), play time in the back yard, short obedience training sessions, time she spends quietly in her dog crate, and plenty of praise, cuddling, and petting. We want to make it easy for her to do right, to reach her goal (which we set for her, because…she’s a DOG) of living happily with humans. Having a set routine not only helps her to learn what to do when and what we expect of her, it helps us shape her behavior.

Second, my own routine has been thrown off by the demands of Luna’s routine! At least for now, I have to create new habits and routines to suit my altered situation. It’s a great exercise in flexibility, which I admit I’m not skilled in.

Whatever your goal is, what habits can you develop that will lead to success? If you want to be an artist, are you sketching, painting, or sculpting every day (or most days)? If you want to write a book, are you sitting down with pen and paper or at your computer and getting the words down? If you want to be healthier, are you taking a daily walk, or eating more vegetables, or drinking a glass of water when you wake up? If you want to read more books, are you turning off the TV or computer and setting aside time to read? These habits, this dailyness, leads you forward toward the inevitable: reaching your goal of a finished sketchbook, a healthier body, or an enviable Books Read list.

So if you want to use habits and routines to reach your goals:

  • Choose a habit—it can be as small as you like, as long as you commit to doing it daily or almost every day.

  • Practice your habit until it becomes a routine. 

  • And when your routine is disrupted (which will happen sooner or later), do what you can to maintain some semblance of habit during the disruption. If this isn’t possible, don’t stress about it—just return to your established routine when you can.

What habits and routines do you find most helpful? What habits and routines do you plan to put in place in order to reach your goals?

Ready for action


Happy Little Things: We Adopted a Puppy!

February 05, 2018

Meet Luna, the newest addition to the Catching Happiness family:

It’s been more than two years since we lost our family dog, Scout. My husband especially has been missing the companionship of a dog. After months of discussion, stewing, and trolling adoption websites, we came upon this little face:

She was described as a lab/Jack Russell Terrier mix (though we think she looks more like JRT/beagle or hound). She and her four siblings had been abandoned. We adopted her from a rescue group about a week ago, and they estimated that she is about three months old. We plan to celebrate her birthday on Halloween!

Queen Prudy is curious but allows no unwanted advances.  Since we didn’t change her routine or territory, so far she’s OK with the new arrival. This morning she almost looked like she was ready to play. Fingers crossed they can be friendly, if not friends.

Luna is already sleeping through the night in her crate, and knows how to sit and stay for short periods of time. She’s doing well on housetraining.

(Clearly, she’s gifted J)

Her little tail wags a mile a minute and she greets a 30-second absence from the couch as though it were 30 days. She’s loving and people-oriented, and my husband is thrilled with his new buddy—I think it kills him just a little to leave her to go to work every day. They spent hours outside in the yard together this weekend.

So things are just a bit chaotic here. I work when she naps—just like when my son was a baby. She’s helping me to take breaks and go outside, to get out of my head and pay attention, to simply be without feeling I have to multi-task all the time. I know there will be many more simple pleasures and everyday adventures ahead for us and I look forward to them all.

Pooped puppy

What’s making you happy right now?


Grief Is the Price We Pay For Love*

October 30, 2015

 “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
—Anatole France

I have sad news to share today.  We lost our little dog, Scout, last Saturday, and we are deep in sorrow. She was 16 ½ years old. I apologize to those of you I know personally if I haven’t shared this news with you directly. It’s because I haven’t been able to face talking about it with you—I cry every time I have to share the news. 

The past six months have been difficult. Scout was deaf; almost blind from cataracts; suffered from terrible nasal allergies that made her sneeze, wheeze and cough; and she had “doggy dementia.” She rarely made it through a night without getting up to relieve herself, and afterward she often wandered through the house, getting stuck behind toilets, doors, and pieces of furniture. She occasionally got lost in the backyard she patrolled for so many years and had to be rescued. She required medicating several times a day and became agitated if her routine was disturbed. At the same time, she ate well, bounced around the house a little every day, and there was life in her eyes. We knew her days were numbered and tried hard to make them comfortable and happy. She deserved it.

Scout's the one licking his face
Scout came home with us as an eight-week-old puppy after “choosing” Nick (we’d intended to bring home a different puppy from the litter, but she followed him around and he fell in love with her). The two of them were best buddies from day one. Once she was house trained, she slept in his bed with him at night. They dug holes together and swam in the pool, and she joined in any game in which he was participating. She knew several tricks, including sit, shake hands, roll over and play dead—dropping onto her side if you pointed your index finger at her and said, “Bang!”—though sometimes you had to “shoot” her several times. She caught and killed plenty of squirrels and snakes, including more than one coral snake. (In a way, we were surprised she didn’t meet an untimely end since she was a typical Jack Russell Terrier—a tough little dog with a big dog’s attitude.) She received Christmas presents and birthday parties, just like the member of the family she was. The last few years of her life, she finally slowed down and preferred snoozing in her own dog bed to sleeping with a human, and spent more of her daylight hours sleeping than playing.

We are each coping in our own ways. The guys are able to leave the house to go to work every day, while I struggle with looking for her and not seeing her, with cleaning up her nose prints on the window, washing her dog bed, and disposing of all her supplements and medications. Yesterday I thought I heard her sneeze in the next room and realized it was just my imagination. I know that life will eventually feel beautiful again and that Scout’s memory won’t hurt anymore. Right now, though, thinking of her is equal parts love and pain.

Scout was a happy dog through her whole life, and she brought countless hours of happiness to our family. We were lucky to have each other, and we’ll never, ever forget her.

*Queen Elizabeth II


If My Cat Had an Instagram Account...

May 22, 2015

I know I’m late to the party, but I recently joined Instagram (follow me here—and if you’re on Instagram, let me know so I can follow you!). I finally have a smartphone that takes decent pictures, and I’ve always thought Instagram sounded like a fun way to record simple pleasures and everyday adventures. I’m still figuring out how to use the features, making mistakes and bumbling around. I was lying in bed contemplating what I might post, when it crossed my mind that it would be amusing to see what my pets would share if they had their own Instagram accounts. I decided to take some pictures from their points of view and share them here.

First up, if Prudy had an Instagram account, this is what she would post (FYI, the following pictures were taken with my phone, but not actually posted to Instagram.):

First things first—a selfie.

My favorite: the ’nip.

I like to knock this in the pool every day—it doesn’t seem to know how to swim.

My nemesis.

Where I hone my razor-sharp, tree-climbing claws.

This is dinner. Where is the parsley garnish? Cretins.

I’m sure this is exactly what the inventors of Instagram had in mind…

Stay tuned for life as seen through Scout’s and Tank’s eyes. (I know you can hardly wait.)


While Walking the Dog at Two A.M.

March 16, 2015

My dog Scout will be 16 years old on Sunday, and as you might expect, she has some health issues. One of them is that she can’t always sleep through the night without having to relieve herself. Her bed is on a chair on my side of the room, so I’m the one who hears her jump down, and I’m the one who slips on her leash and takes her outside. Usually, I try not to wake up all the way so that I’ll stand a chance of going back to sleep, but this morning, at 2 a.m., I found myself looking up at the stars while I waited for Scout. The air felt cool and fresh, Orion’s belt twinkled in the night sky. The neighborhood was silent, peaceful. Scout was quick, and I returned to my warm bed and quickly fell asleep. What could have been (and often is) an annoyance turned into a moment of delight for me.

I’ve been working on going with the flow, relaxing my death grip on life and paying more attention to little moments of delight when they’re presented to me: when my favorite song comes on the radio, when Prudy jumps up on my desk for some attention, when I grab my book and steal some reading time in the afternoon. It’s easy to find delight in things like that—not quite so easy to find delight when woken at 2 a.m., and I admit that I’m more likely to complain about that situation than to recount how lovely the stars look sparkling in the velvety darkness… Just this once, though, I was able to let go and admire the night sky. It was unexpectedly delightful. I’m not sure I would have found it so without my recent focus on delight. Which goes to show, I guess, that you find more of what you focus on.

Has anything unexpectedly delighted you recently?

Oh, sure, sleep NOW...


Eleven Years Rich

February 18, 2015

Our first day together

Today is Tank’s 20th birthday! In just a week and a half, I will have owned him for 11 years—longer than anyone before me. He is truly “mine” and I am the richer for it.

We rode together yesterday, all by ourselves, while the wind shook the trees and rolled a blue beach ball around the jump field, while a neighbor helped our barn owner move some large items with a piece of heavy equipment. Any one of those situations would have been a recipe for spooking and running when I first got Tank. Yesterday, he didn’t even bat an eyelash. I guess we’ve both matured in the past 11 years.

This quote sums up for me the miracle of a relationship with a horse:

“Riding is a partnership. The horse lends you his strength, speed and grace, which are greater than yours. For your part, you give him your guidance, intelligence and understanding, which are greater than his. Together, you can achieve a richness that alone neither can.” –Lucy Rees, “The Horse’s Mind.”

A recent photo

Thank you, Tank, for 11 years of simple pleasures and everyday adventures. Your birthday “cake” is on its way!


Five Ways to Feel Happier (in 10 Minutes or Less)

November 07, 2014

No matter how happy we are, most of us would like to be just a little happier. Good news for us—there are plenty of things we can do to feel happier every day that only take a few minutes. Researchers have found a number of quick and easy happiness boosters, such as playing music that makes you feel happy, writing down things that went well and/or things you’re grateful for, or doing something nice for someone else. Here are five more 10-minutes-or-less happiness-boosting recommendations I’ve tried that bring my happiness level up a notch:

1. Cross something off the to-do list. We’re happier when we’ve achieved something, no matter how small. Choose one small task to take from start to finish (change that burnt out light bulb), or a smaller part of a larger project (check airfares for that trip you’re thinking of taking). What matters is completing the action.

2. Meditate. Sit quietly, close your eyes, and breathe. If you like, you can imagine a calming image or place, or focus on your breath. If you find yourself stewing about problems or mentally running through your to-do list, notice those thoughts and let them go. Tell yourself, “I’ll think about those things later.”

3. Laugh. Keep on hand a supply of things that make you laugh—reading material, favorite internet links (I like to scroll through Pinterest’s humor category), and so on. A quick laugh can leave your entire mood elevated. 

4. Pet an animal. Doing so lowers heart rate and stress hormones, while raising hormones that make you feel more relaxed and happy. Scout, Prudy and Tank take turns making me feel happier!

C'mon, pet my tummy...

5. Look through a “joy collection.” I keep a file folder with letters and cards from people I love, photocopies of checks received for writing and editing jobs, and photos that make me smile. Don’t have a joy collection? Start one. Fill it with things that trigger happy memories, such as favorite photos, awards, mementoes, and other symbols of happiness for you.

Feeling happier yet? What are your favorite quick happiness boosters?



August 18, 2014

I pulled out my yoga mat and one of my favorite yoga DVDs on Saturday. Immediately I attracted the attention of Miss Prudy, who felt that yoga practice was not complete without her participation:

After a few minutes of licking and biting my toes, she retired to the bed where she napped until I finished my workout.


How was last week? Any new simple pleasures or everyday adventures to report?


The Afternoon Nap

July 14, 2014

When I was a child visiting my grandparents for the summer, my grandmother often insisted that I take an afternoon nap. I detested this practice because I didn’t need a nap: I was far too busy running through the cow pasture or swimming in the irrigation ditch or lying under a tree reading to take a nap. Plus I was far to old to be taking naps! What was wrong with her?! (I realize now she likely needed a break from me and the nap was her tactful way of corralling me for at least an hour. And yes, much to my chagrin, I often fell asleep while lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling.)

Naps are wasted on the young. I don’t know about you, but there are many days I’d love to have the simple pleasure of an afternoon nap! Occasionally, I do take one, but I live with pets who have no compunction about sleeping whenever and wherever they want to. Need proof?

Perhaps we should follow their example and indulge ourselves in an afternoon nap now and then this summer!

How do you feel about naps?


Right in My Own Backyard

June 06, 2014

Some unusual things have been happening in my own back yard. This plant/tree is blooming:

Anyone know what it is? A neighbor gave us a piece trimmed from her tree (it looked like a three-pronged stick), and it’s growing leaves and blossoming. It smells nice, too.

The ginger is blooming:

So is the geranium:

And the angel wing begonia:

One of our sago palms has produced this:

A mature male Sago produces this cone every second or third year. (Though technically, this is in my front yard.)

On the downside, our dog, who is 15 years old, cut her leg badly enough to need stitches and a trip to the emergency vet. Then two days later, she came in from the backyard with a punctured foot—the vet says either a bite or an entrapment injury. She’s now on lockdown—can’t go out in the backyard without supervision—which doesn’t please her, but oh, well. She’s pretty much back to normal, and I’m taking her to have the stitches removed this morning. (I have pictures of those, too, but I’ll spare you!)

Even though I love to go exploring, it’s clear that there are plenty of everyday adventures to be had right in my own backyard.

What’s been happening in your backyard lately?


The Accomplished Cat

March 28, 2014

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a cat, and I had forgotten some of the added services cats provide over and above being pets. Each cat has his or her own specialties, and here are a few of Prudy’s:

Alarm Clock. My cat alarm clock is set for 6:30 a.m. This is fine for the rare days that I need to get up that early—which, unfortunately for Prudy, are not that often. Many nights I must shut Prudy in my office/her bedroom so that I can get a full night’s sleep. My office is directly next door to our bedroom, so when her snooze alarm goes off at 7:15, I’m sure to hear it.

Declutterer. Some areas of our house now look a little, shall we say, minimalistic. For example, the dining room table, which used to have a lovely silk flower arrangement, is now a bare sheet of wood. Cats love to knock things off any surface they manage to get on, whether or not they are allowed on these surfaces. As Prudy’s ability to jump or climb has increased, so has the spareness of my décor—the sofa table, the aforementioned dining table, my dresser. Practically every horizontal surface in the house has been simplified if not stripped bare.  No, I suppose I didn’t really need that ceramic candle holder. But I’m still sad about the folk art cow she knocked off the kitchen sideboard.

Are you sure you need all these papers?

Natural Antidepressant. Prudy is super soft to pet and very purry—she purrs when she eats, she purrs when she plays, she purrs when she’s in the mood for affection. She’ll climb on my lap, lie down, and sometimes go to sleep. She’ll even lie on her back and allow me to play with her paws and stroke her pouffy tail. It’s kind of hard to remain down when faced with all that cuteness.

Asleep on my lap

It's exhausting work being this accomplished

Personal Trainer. Monday morning (a day I had to get up at 6:30—thank you, Prudy), as I exited the bathroom back into our dark bedroom where my husband still slept, my bare feet met something soft and furry. In an effort not to flatten her, I performed some of the most intricate dance moves I’ve done in a long time.

Artist. I’ve been taking Laure Ferlita’s Imaginary Visit to a Past Vacation class, and the first time I worked on an assignment, Prudy lay down on my open palette. I suspect all future sketches will have a little cat hair accent in them somewhere. A new way to incorporate texture!

I consider myself lucky to live with such an accomplished cat, and look forward to seeing what other services she will bring to our lives. Not a bad return on the minimal adoption fee at the shelter!

What are your pets’ specialties?

Being present

Prudy Was Here

January 24, 2014

The Christmas tree was just the beginning. Let me share a few more of Prudy’s recent exploits. There are only a few surfaces left that are safe from her depridations—and that will probably change as she gets older: the top of refrigerator (where we have to keep Scout’s food when she’s not actually eating it), the top of the armoire in my office (where I put fresh flowers if I have them) and so far, our dresser in the bedroom. (I’m pretty sure she could jump up on it—she just hasn’t seen any need to do so yet.)  Everywhere she goes, havoc! She loves to lie on my desk while I’m working, and her favorite way to get there is to run into the office, jump onto my rocking chair and spring onto the desk. With the following results:

She also decides it’s time to play around 11 p.m. and frequently has to be locked into the office for the night. She doesn’t seem to mind this—I hear her rolling her ball around in there, and she doesn’t start crying to get out until morning. However, she takes that time to explore the shelves and knock things over. I’ve found many of the little odds and ends I keep on my desk on the floor in front of it when I let her out in the morning. I use a docking station with my laptop so I have a better keyboard and monitor, and Prudy likes to jump on the shelf below my desk that holds my laptop, shutting the lid and turning it off, usually when I’m right in the middle of typing a sentence.

So far she’s not an especially naughty girl (knock on wood) and I know it’s only a matter of time before she’s a full-grown cat whose main activity is sleeping. I’m enjoying her loving nature, playfulness and curiosity while trying to stay one step ahead of her possible destructiveness (the silk flower arrangement from the dining room table now lives on top of the china cabinet, for example). For once, I’m not wishing away this stage, but appreciating it, pausing many times a day to play with her or pet her. (And I save my documents frequently!)

Often we (I) look forward too much, neglecting the present for the future, believing that it will somehow be better than right now. I look back at my life and see how fast it’s going, and how much time I wasted wishing I would grow up, wishing I had a husband and family, wishing my child would grow up…you see the pattern. I’m learning that appreciating the right now not only improves my experience of the present, but builds a store of warm memories, and hopefully, a happy future.

How do you appreciate the present?


Some of My Best Teachers Have Four Legs

January 13, 2014

“Everything natural—every flower, tree, and animal—has important lessons to teach us if we would only stop, look, and listen.”—Eckhart Tolle

I’ve had various pets nearly all my life. Aside from their cuteness and cuddleability, pets can be expert teachers of life lessons (and if you doubt me, check out the delightful book Guardians of Being). Currently, I have one elderly dog, a “teenage” kitten, and a middle-aged horse. They’ve taught me many, many things (including don’t wear any clothes to the barn you’re not prepared to ruin, and no, the kitchen counter is not tall enough to keep food away from either the kitten OR the dog…). 

Here are a few of my favorite life lessons from my pets:

From Prudy:

There is a time for play and a time for cuddling. Know your priorities and stick to them.

The world is to be explored.

Like everyone until they prove unlikable.

Assume everyone likes you until proven otherwise.

From Scout:

Do everything joyfully: get up in the morning, go to bed at night, eat, announce your presence to the world.

Sleep when you’re tired, even if something interesting is going on elsewhere.

Don’t put up with bull$&@, but only do as much as you have to to get it to stop—don’t overreact.

From Tank:

You can make huge progress by taking many small steps.

Relationship is more important—and ultimately more satisfying—than tricks or blind obedience.

Hold out for your favorite treats. Spit out the ones you don’t like. Don’t waste time (or calories) on them.

Don’t let the turkeys get you down. 

Animals live in the moment. They don’t worry about what might happen tomorrow, or what the dog next door has, or what the horses in the next paddock might be saying behind their backs. Seems like some pretty valuable wisdom to me.

Have you learned any life lessons from an unusual source?