denali, gratitude, Joy, love, Walking


I’ve learned the gift of joy from my dog. She’s coming up on nine years. We’ve been together since with was nine weeks. Aside from my immediate family, we’ve been in the longest, consistent (daily) relationship I’ve ever had.

 What I appreciate about her is the joy she experiences when she sees someone she knows and loves. Yesterday my mom came over. Denali’s ears perked when she heard the car door close. After I opened the front door and she saw my mom, she paced back and forth, started whining and eventually jumped against the storm door, pawing at it. As soon as my mom came in, she jumped around and smelled her and was clearly happy to see her. Now that she’s a little older the excitement wears out a little quicker than it used to – rather than bugging my mom for 20-30 minutes, she soon lays down and rests.

There are other people she does this with too. She loves our friends Jake and Danny. Brooke, too. Even though Denali doesn’t see Casey as much, she goes nuts when she comes over. Casey was one of the first friends of mine that Denali met when she was a puppy. It’s amazing to me who she remembers and who she’s drawn to.

Denali is wonderful with children. Even though she still jumps and runs all around adults, with children she knows to remain calm. Our four Tennessee nieces have dogs, so they don’t mind a sneaking kiss or a tug from a toy. They love their ‘Nali. The other day on Facetime Anastasia was looking at Denali and said, “She’s sooo sweet! She’s sooo cute!” That girl knows sweet and cute when she sees it!

Denali and I walk a lot. I have no idea how many miles we’ve walked together over the past nine years. Hundreds, maybe thousands. We walk a lot! Every morning before work, I try to take her on a short walk down the street – 15-20 minutes at the most. Late last fall a new family moved in across the street. They have a middle school son who waits for the bus during the time that Denali and I take our short walk. Over the last few months we’ve gotten to know Connor a little bit. What I’ve loved watch develop is the relationship between Denali and Connor. At first he was just a nice distraction on our walks. But overtime she’s come to expect him at the end of the driveway when we walk by. She always sees him before I do. I know because her ears go back, her tail starts wagging, she starts pulling on the leash, and when she’s really excited, she barks a little. He sees this too and it always makes him smile. They greet each other – “Hi Denali!” and she jumps on him. It’s the cutest thing.

I know it’s not proximity or consistency. We have other neighbors that she sees regularly that she does not respond that way toward. Some friends or family she sees only a few times a year and yet she remembers them and finds joy in the reunion. I’m not sure what it is about this middle school boy that draws her in, but she finds joy in every encounter with him.

Over the years of seeing Denali’s joy on our walks, of seeing her perk up when a friend comes over, of seeing her jump around when I grab her leash, her joy has become contagious. I see the little things on our walks more than I used to. I get more excited about someone coming over because I know she is excited. Although for different reasons, I find joy in watching the birds and squirrels and rabbits in our yard 😉

Just looking at her face brings me joy. Anastasia summed it up pretty well: “She’s sooo sweet! She’s soooo cute!”

I’m grateful for the joy of this pet, friend, companion – I’m grateful for Denali. I’m grateful for her joy that has become my joy.


P.S. My computer is still a mess so I had to load this from my phone. So, the pictures aren’t exactly where I want them but oh well! 

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