Tomorrow is January, the month when millions of people look back, and decide they will be different this year. It’s when some of the things I write about are on everyone’s mind…we will lose weight THIS year…we WILL find a soul-mate in the next twelve optioned filled months. Yes, sadly many Januarys are spent in a futile attempt searching for things that we think will make us happy.

I have decided to approach this year the way my dog Sadie begins every day…I am going to jump into January with joy for the things I have and the good things I choose to believe lie before me. You see, dogs always anticipate the best in situations and people and this is where we humans can learn a great deal about ourselves and those things that really matter in life.

When I was placing Sadie’s wrapped gifts under the tree this year, she was exuberant with anticipation and unabashed in showing this. She had no way of knowing what was in the packages; she somehow knew they were for her and that alone made her happy. Even on Christmas morning, she ran downstairs and sniffed all the packages and stuck her head down in the gift bags. Then with a sigh, she sat back and just stared at our little tree and all the things underneath she just accepted were going to be wonderful.

That’s how she begins every day. Happy, tail wagging, eyes dancing…body wriggling in anticipation of all the good things she knows are going to happen for us this new day. Her attitude has made the days I want to just roll over and go back to sleep very scarce if they happen at all. Thanks to Sadie, I have come to believe and know very well that happiness is definitely a choice, not a condition.

There will no New Year’s resolutions in our home this year, but there will be a list of things we are grateful for. It’s wonderful to look back in a spirit of appreciation….not regret. Sadie and I traveled over 2000 miles this year and met hundreds of really nice people and dogs who shared our delight with our first book and their stories with us. The weather has been absolutely fantastic this winter, the price of gasoline is lower, our friends and family are all healthy and happy.

And strange as it might seem, we are extremely thankful for the things that didn’t happen this year. My Mom had an accident while driving to meet us in Pittsburgh. The front tire of her van blew out and while trying to keep it under control it crossed over the median on Interstate 80 near a heavy truck traffic area. She didn’t get hurt. Sadie managed to open the front storm door as she excitedly watched Rodney cross the street. She ran in front of a car that was going slow enough to stop in time and she didn’t get hit. Someone we love survived a serious illness and none of our family members suffered any great harm this year.

As a former English teacher, I taught a poem that spoke volumes about regret and missed opportunities. I see it differently now…an entire life can be changed in a moment and often it’s the things that don’t happen we need to value. Don’t look ahead to what you will be…enjoy January…don’t spend it trying to change things about yourself that might be fine the way they are.

I’ve learned from Sadie that when we choose to be happy…just about everything else falls right into place. And I’ve taken the liberty to re-write that portion of the poem I once thought so poignant. I think it should say…“The GREATEST words of tongue and pen….just might be the things that could have been.”