This dog believes

  • Pika

    Michelle Nijhuis
  • Pika

    Michelle Nijuis
 

"Each week we’ll hear from a banker or butcher, a painter or social worker as they discuss the principles that guide their daily lives. We realize what a daunting prospect this is — to summarize a life’s philosophy in just 500 words and share it with a national audience. But that’s exactly what we hope you will do."

—Radio producer Jay Allison, in his introduction to the "This I Believe" series on National Public Radio


Well, Jay, I know this is a long shot. You’ve got Colin Powell and Newt Gingrich in your series, after all. Why should you bother with the beliefs of an undergrown Australian shepherd mix who’s still figuring out the difference between Sit and Down? But I’ve been trying to make my owner understand me, and she’s just not getting it. I hope a national audience will help my cause.

You see, I believe in the present. When I’m hanging my head out of the car window, or lying on my back in a comfy bed of weeds, I’m not worrying about the 2008 presidential elections, or the fate of the Endangered Species Act. (Though I do sometimes wonder if chasing rabbits will ever be defined as "take.") Instead, I’m soaking up my surroundings, thinking about wind, sky, sun and sleep. The here and now always seems worth my attention.

But at least once a day, my owner looks up from her computer, or the newspaper, with an all-too-familiar look of desperation. Then she says something like, "Pika, did you know that the Greenland ice sheet is melting even faster than anyone thought?"

I try, I really do. I fix her with my gentlest, most sympathetic dog look, and I say, "That’s a big problem. A big, big problem. But don’t you think you’d be better able to face it if you did just a little deep panting, and took a nice long look out the window?"

She sighs. "I know, Pika," she says. "The present moment is all we’ve got. According to you and Ram Dass and all those chicken-soup books, not to mention the Buddha and Thoreau. But I don’t have time for any panting or looking around. Didn’t you hear what I just said about the ice sheet?"

That’s usually when she pours herself another cup of coffee, and starts eating chocolate chips straight from the bag.

She’s not listening. In fact, she’s in the next room right now, compulsively checking her e-mail, in a state about God knows what. But I hope the rest of you will give me a chance. I’m not saying you should give up on your good works, or even stop that fretting you humans seem so skilled at. We non-humans want you to clean up your planetary messes, so we need all the guilt and good works you can muster.

I’m only suggesting that you notice when spring slides into summer, when the backyard cactus blooms, and maybe even when the garbageman arrives. You could notice when your neighbor passes by, or, when you sit down to dinner with your family, you could notice how the food tastes. Then, after a brief visit to the present, you could get right back to the uncertain future, resuming your fretting about global warming or the upcoming town council elections. No one would miss you, I promise — and I suspect you’d feel a lot better for your journey.

Take it from someone who lives seven days for every one of yours: Our moments on this earth are numbered, and briefer than any of us can possibly imagine. I believe each one is worth noticing.

 

Pika lives in Paonia, Colorado, with her family, which includes HCN contributing editor Michelle Nijhuis.

High Country News Classifieds
  • WATERSHED RESTORATION DIRECTOR
    $58k-$70k + benefits to oversee watershed restoration projects that fulfill our strategic goals across urban and rural areas within the bi-national Santa Cruz and San...
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Come work alongside everyday Montanans to project our clean air, water, and build thriving communities! Competitive salary, health insurance, pension, generous vacation time and sabbatical....
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES GENERALIST
    Honor the Earth is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on identity. Indigenous people, people of color, Two-Spirit or LGBTQA+ people,...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Colorado Trout Unlimited seeks an individual with successful development experience, strong interpersonal skills, and a deep commitment to coldwater conservation to serve as the organization's...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Now hiring a full-time, remote Program Director for the Society for Wilderness Stewardship! Come help us promote excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...