As some of you know, I've been writing more these days. My ultimate goal is to write a book that includes all of the life lessons I learned from my dog Ella, with whom I spent over 15 years. Ella had a lot of opinions. We used to joke that we were lucky that Ella couldn't talk, or we'd get an earful! With that in mind, I'm writing the book from Ella's point of view. It's been fun for me to get some of the many stories I have about Ella onto the page. To support this project, I decided to start a substack and an instagram for the Wild Western Wanderers. That's the name we gave ourselves (John, Ella, Mala, and me) for our road trips and other adventures. The make up of our group has changed – Ella is no longer with us, and Tessie has been added to the team. In the same spirit as the book, most everything posted on these platforms will be from Mala, Tessie, and Ella's points of view. Once in awhile I'll post one of my poems or essays. If you're interested in seeing what kind of adventures the four of us get up to, and read the wisdom that the dogs have to share, please consider following us on instagram or subscribing to our page on substack. If you don't want to enter your email, just click "no, thanks" on the initial substack page to get to the content. If you join substack you'll see that there's an option for a paid subscription, but for now most everything I post will be available for free. As an example of what to expect, I've included one of the lessons that I've already posted below. Keep in mind when reading that it's told from the dogs' perspectives. I hope that you enjoy it. Thanks in advance for checking it out.
Live Your Passion
Never stop doing what you love
“Everybody needs a passion. That’s what keeps life interesting. If you live without passion, you can go through life without leaving any footprints.” ~Betty White
Life is short, and tomorrows are never guaranteed, so you should do what makes you happy now, rather than putting it off to some time in the future. All you have is the present moment. As one of the original members of the Wild Western Wanderers, we’re going to let Ella start this post, since she lived with passion right up until the end of her time here on Earth. We’ll turn it over to her for a moment, and then jump back in later.
Ella I had three favorite activities to burn off my endless energy – running, hiking, and walking. I’ll focus on the first one, since running was my biggest passion.
Lucky for me mom was a runner, and soon after she adopted me she was training for a half marathon. I know I wasn’t always the easiest to jog with, because I had a tendency to ping pong back and forth on the trail following my nose to all the best smells, or trying to chase after those pesky prairie dogs. Sometimes I would run right in front of mom, causing her to have to stop on a dime. I was always on the lookout for fresh goose poop, which was plentiful on our favorite running trail that looped around a pond. I also liked to take a quick stop in the pond to cool off.
I didn’t bother much with other dogs when we were jogging, because I was too busy having a good time. I did nearly dislocate mom’s shoulder a few times going after a rabbit that crossed the trail in front of us, or those chirping prairie dogs who would egg me on and then disappear into their holes. We saw coyotes a few times on our early morning runs, so mom would shorten up my leash to keep me close and out of harm’s way.
We had several routes from our house, some with nice stops built in, like the dog park. We would run the two miles there, then I would take some time to sniff around in the park, and visit with the people who were there (not the dogs though – I didn’t have much interest in them, since it’s not like they could pet me or give me any treats). After I grew bored, we’d jog the two miles back home.
The summer that mom was training for her half marathon, we went on an eight-mile run. Mom thought that would tire me out, but I was still ready to play when we got home. I think she wished she could harness some of my energy for herself, because she was pretty tired. It energized me to do what I loved.
I jogged with mom well into my elder years. Even when I was 13-years old, we would go for some short jogs around the pond. We were both a bit slower by then, but I still enjoyed getting out and trotting along the dirt trails, which were easier on mom’s knees than the concrete or paved paths. By then Dad and Mala were part of our family, and those youngsters would run ahead of us. We’d all meet back up at the trailhead. I didn’t mind, it gave me some alone time with mom.
I was always happy to go for a run, as my smile indicated. Even if we were doing my other favorite activity (hiking), if someone jogged by us, I would pick up the pace to a trot and look back at Mom to relay, “aren’t you coming, this is so fun!”
Mala Ok, let me jump back in. While Ella’s passion was running, my passion is love. I’ll go out for a jog now and then, and enjoy sprinting around when I have a big stick in my mouth, but running for long distances is not my cup of tea.
Since the day I was adopted, I was serious about giving plentiful kisses. I love my family, so I always stay close to them. I can be off-leash most of the time, unless a leash is required (mom is kind of a rule follower). I’m cautious of people who I don’t know, but once anyone becomes part of our tribe, I’m all in. If a group of us are out hiking, I have a watchful eye on everyone – looping around from the front to the back to keep count, and to make sure no one has fallen behind.
I wag my tail whenever mom or dad glance my way or say my name, even if my tail is stuck under my body or the couch. I cherish any attention from them, and would gladly take praise over a treat. Ella thought that was crazy, but that’s just who I am – I’m a lover!
Tessie Ok, my turn. My passion is…. MALA! Just kidding, but not really. I love my big sister, and it makes my day when she plays with me. When mom and dad come home from being anywhere, even if they were gone for only a few minutes, Mala gets really excited, which in turn gets me excited.
I also love playing and cuddling with my kitty brother, Mateo. Sometimes he bites me or sticks his sharp claws in my face, but I understand. I know I can be a bit much, and I am a lot bigger than him. So, I guess you could say that my passion is family.
Both Mala and I are passionate about the snow. Hiking in the summer is fine if we go early enough, before it’s too hot, but we’d both rather hike in the snow. We love pushing it around with our noses, and wrestling each other in the snow. Mala collects snowballs in her long fur, but I seem to have been built for the snow, and that doesn’t happen to me.
You’d have to ask mom and dad what they’re passionate about, but I would venture a guess that their answer will be us!
Mom knows all about not putting off what you love until tomorrow. She survived a heart attack when she was only 31 years old. That’s when she realized that the work that she spent so much time doing didn’t fulfill her, and she started seeking out her passion. Now, she loves what she does, and is much happier as a result.
Humans tend to put things off, thinking they have plenty of time, but there is no magical time when everything will be different. As dogs, we know that life is short, and that you need to live your passion now. As Brendan Burchard wrote in The Motivation Manifesto “life’s purpose is to live – to live freely, vibrantly, joyously, madly, consciously, lovingly, enthusiastically.” So, go ahead, find what makes you feel alive and do it!