Since it was close to ten when we arrived at Avila Beach this morning, John and Shadow graciously waited while I went to get my Latte; then we walked a quarter to three minutes down to San Luis Pier where dogs can run around without a leash all day. I had been talking to Shadow all morning about us taking him to the beach, but since the line at the coffee house was twenty minutes long, I thought he was starting to think I had promised him. something I couldn’t deliver… again.

When we got to the San Luis dock and I took him off, Shadow stood, looked around, then slowly, carefully, walked down the concrete boat ramp to the beach, then stopped, turned back to look at me, and clearly asked, “Are you going to you call me back?” When I did nothing but grin at him, he began to trot down to the beach, then run, first to the people, then to their dogs.

When I caught up with Shadow, the humans and their dogs, I first said hello to their dog, as is my habit, and then to the person, to ask them about their dog. What kind is she or he if not immediately obvious, grinning at the dog and at the people and at Shadow. And I realized that this kind of casual conversation I’m really good at: talking about dogs, their dog, where they found them, if a rescue, which rescue center, as many details as they want to offer. I have an agenda these days – I hope we can find another dog, but when I think about why it’s so much fun to walk on a beach and see people playing with their dogs, I realize for the billionth time that dogs teach us happiness . They are the gurus, the experts on happiness.

Recently I discovered a wonderful blog called, Coffee with a dog and a book called The dog’s genius which is advertised on Marshal’s website. Of course, such a title was irresistible to me, so I bought it and downloaded it to my Kindle. Authors Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods claim that dogs are the most successful mammals on the planet next to us. Dog research has revealed an average canine “vocabulary” of somewhere between 100 and 500 words understood between dogs and us. But recently, research has focused on the almost incredible ability of dogs to accurately interpret the behavior of humans. Hare and Woods turn the research on its head in an intriguing claim that their intelligence improved afterwards.

After what fact?

After they used their innate kindness, an interest in people – their genius – developed as a consequence of their kindness. Shadow is the friendliest dog on the planet – ergo a genius.

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