In Colorado, we have some amazing dog parks close to home. There’s a mountain dog park, where you can take dogs hiking off leash. There are lake dog parks, where dogs can swim (Denali refuses to swim, but she’ll wade with the best of ’em). We have dog parks with rivers running through them, dog parks in forests, huge dog fields and so on. But on the banks of Ocean Beach, San Diego, there is a dog beach, where dogs can unleash (literally) their inner beach bum and romp in the waves. Denali loves sniffing butts, so I took her on down to there to “say hello” to some new friends. In the process, I learned a few solid life lessons.
1. Always Say Hello
You never know who could be hanging out around you. The love of your life, a new best friend, or a business opportunity could be sitting right across from you, and if you don’t grow some balls – even if they’ve been chopped off – and say hello, you could let the rest of your life run right by you. If you get a growl in return, just know that the other person wasn’t your type and probably wasn’t meant to be in your life. So get out there and sniff some asses (just don’t get arrested for it).
2. Always Clean Up Your Shit
Right after this photo was taken, Denali took a nice, big number two right in the water. You can’t see them, but the people behind me all saw her do it. So I took out the doggie bags, reached down into the water and fished out that turd. If I hadn’t, someone else may have unknowingly stepped in it, ruining their dog beach experience for good. No matter what kind of mess you make, you should always clean up after yourself. You never know who your mess could be affecting if you don’t.
3. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Waves
Denali has only been to the ocean twice now, and she has been scared of the water mainly because of the waves crashing and sweeping over the sand. Even though most of the other dogs were playing in the water, having a great time, Denali wouldn’t step over the white-caps and into the ocean. I had to coax her out there, and when she finally put those paws in, she loved it. Even though some things may seem frightening or dangerous in life, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them. Growth happens when you step over the edge of fear. Know your limitations and test them – you might surprise yourself.
4. Stay Curious
I literally was just trying to shoot Denali (not with a gun for the turd incident), and this little curious guy came and bumped my lens with his nose, almost knocking me over. The result was my best photo in the series, and a meeting with a pretty cool chick who laughed and introduced herself. If this pup hadn’t been curious what I was doing, I would have missed a chance to meet someone new. See, that’s the thing about curiosity. Not only does it help you learn about your surroundings, it actually helps those around you open their eyes too and take a peek at something they may not have seen. Attitudes are contagious, humans!
5. Be A Leader
Like dogs, humans learn from other humans. Denali has always been somewhat indifferent to what other dogs are doing, but when my best friend’s golden retriever puppy was in training, she would go out in the backyard and dig. One day, I went out there to see her digging a huge hole under the fence. About ten feet down from her hole, the puppy was digging a miniature hole right under the fence. I had to scold them both, and realized how much we affect those around us. Likewise, at the dog beach, when one dog runs, another follows. One wants the ball, so the others chase it too. Setting good examples are important in this world, so when Denali took that poop, I did too (just kidding). We might not notice it, but what we do has an impact on kids, as well as other adults, and in turn, our society as a whole. With enough good examples, we might be able to change the world for the better.
6. Shake It Off
Life constantly drenches us with problems, obstacles, hardships and heartbreak. You have to go swimming to get wet, but when that water doesn’t feel so good, shake it off. I hate when people say things like – and I’m guilty of this too – “you made me feel like crap,” or “you make me angry,” or “you hurt me.” Now hear me out. Our expectations are huge. Some would say not to have them; others that we should set our expectations high. Either way, if things don’t work out how you expected, only you are in control of how you feel. Nobody can “make” you feel anything – you choose to feel that way when something doesn’t happen like you expect it to happen. You can literally program your brain to feel any way you want. I felt hurt and absolutely distraught when my relationships with friends or lovers ended badly, but when I chose to turn it into something good and realized it was meant to be, my bad days completely turned around into good ones.
No matter what happens to us, if we open our eyes to how big and beautifully wild this world is, we understand that happiness comes with sadness, pleasure exists with the pain, and our existence is not always blissful. But if we take in our surroundings in such a way that we are always open to the littlest moments teaching us the biggest lessons, we can find peace within the chaos. I’m four days into this road trip, and I already feel like I’m learning and growing while consuming everything around me. Breathe it in, and believe that this is exactly where you should be.
Here are some of the rest of the photos from our day at the dog beach! On to the next adventure…