For the New Year, Resolve to Make Your Dog Smile

Your dog makes you smile. Why don't you return the favor?

Posted Dec 31, 2011

Poking through the "Pets" section of our local used book store the other day, I noticed a little blue spine with an irresistible title: 97 Ways to Make a Dog Smile. Love it!

The author, Jenny Langbehn, offers us 97 creative ideas for making your dog happy. She suggests games to play with your dog, special treats to surprise and delight your buddy, and various ways to make your pup feel good, like a massage.

Here are a couple of my favorites, drawn straight from Langbehn's book:

3. You are getting very sleepy... Using your index finger, slowly stroke the bridge of the nose in the direction the hair grows.

39. Luke, I am your father. Speak to your dog through the cardboard cylinder of a paper towel or wrapping paper roll. Your dog will love your Darth Vader voice.

50. The Treat Fairy. While your dog is asleep, attempt to sneak a treat under his pillow without disturbing him. Dogs love to wake up to a surprise.

55. Top-notch massage. That bony peak atop your dog's head actually has a name: the nuchal crest. There is no real known purpose for the protuberance, but some more spiritual scholars postulate that it may be the dog's antennae for mystical energies, and should be massaged regularly for maximum reception.

My English pointer/German Shorthaired Pointer mix Maya is awfully good at making me smile, and I like the idea of going out of my way to make her smile, too. She deserves it, for all the joy she brings me. Here's how she makes me smile: Just looking at her makes me smile because she is so cute. Her whole body is white with the liver-colored specks but her head is solid brown, so she looks like she got dipped upside down into a bucket of brown paint.

I love it when she curls up right next to me when I'm reading a book on the couch. She jumps up, does a couple of circles, and then settles her rump right on my leg, as close as she can get without actually sitting on my lap. On our daily walk through the neighborhood, I get a kick out of watching her go on point at the same corner of the same house, every day, like clockwork, just because she once saw a squirrel in the tree. I smile when she goes on point at a clump of leaves or a plastic bag. It makes me laugh when she stands right over Thor the cat, as he eats. Maya points her tail out straight and hard, which for her means "That is mine!" But she is too polite to actually steal his food.

I think it is funny how she tiptoes around the mud because she is too dainty for dirty feet. I always smile at Maya when I take her out running on trails where she can go off-leash because she runs with such joy and abandon. Sometimes she is running after a real or imagined prey, which makes me chuckle because she would never ever survive as a wild wolf-dog. But often she seems to run all out just because it feels so good to let loose. And of course it makes me smile when she runs to greet me at the door, because it warms my heart to have someone be so excited to see me, even if I've only been gone for half an hour.

For the New Year, I am making a list of 97 things Maya will especially like, and I resolve to make her smile every day.

(Many thanks to Jenny Langbehn for the inspiration.)