Man’s best friend has got it doggone right

Joe Pisani bemoans the endless cycle of shoveling snow.

Joe Pisani bemoans the endless cycle of shoveling snow.

Joe Pisani /

The world is divided into two kinds of people. There are givers and there are takers. There are complainers and idealists. There are dog lovers and cat lovers. There are the rich and the poor. I suppose I should include the middle class, of which I’m a member. There are slobs and neatniks, but I refuse to say which side I’m on. There are spenders and savers. I’m definitely a spender. You get the idea.

The two kinds of people I want to talk about are a) the people who feel miserable but say they’re great and b) the people who are great but say they’re miserable.

I realize this is a pretty deep metaphysical concept for a column that usually limits itself to issues like the joys of yard work, the joys of marriage and the joys of pants with elastic waistbands. For a change, however, I want to show the depth of my intellect so here goes.

In an effort to protect the guilty, I’m not going to use real names, even though these are individuals I’ve known a long time, so if I’ve known you a long time, it’s a pretty good bet I’m talking about you! (Just kidding.)

Let’s call the first person Reggie since I only know one Reggie, and I can honestly say I’m not talking about him. Anyway, Reggie has a lot of problems — family problems, health problems, financial problems, all kinds of problems, and I genuinely feel for him. But whenever I ask, “How are you, Reggie?” he responds, “Grrrreat!” with the unbridled enthusiasm of Tony the Tiger. I want to shake him and say, “Reggie, tell the truth! I really want to know how you are.”

It does no good because people like Reggie refuse to complain even though they have a constitutionally guaranteed right to. Did you ever take the time to tell people how you felt and got the sense they weren’t listening or didn’t really care?

There’s a lesson here for all of us. The next time you ask someone how they are, be sincere and take the time to listen with compassion and empathy. If you can’t do that, don’t ask. Instead say, “Did you hear about the sale at Nordstrom?”

Second, there are people who have everything going for them — cash in the bank, no mortgage, no car payments, the respect of their families and friends, good health and regular romance. But when you ask how they are, they respond, “Lousy!” I just don’t get it.

It was Abraham Lincoln who famously observed that people are only as happy as they want to be ... and some people prefer to be grumpy. When you see them coming, you want to cross to the other side of the street to escape the dark cloud.

Now, let me turn to the animal kingdom. My dog doesn’t engage in mind games. She’s genuine. She’ll come up to me and lick my face no matter how she feels. She’s not a phony. On the other hand, she doesn’t like everybody. In fact, she doesn’t like anyone but me and my wife, and she really dislikes mailmen, not to mention mailwomen and UPS and FedEx delivery beings.

When she first came to live with us, she’d sit on top of the sofa and look out the window, waiting for me to pull into the driveway after a grueling day in Manhattan. I hated the world, but she brought me joy. She’d even break into a wolf-like howl, which is impressive for a small dog. She’d jump off the couch, jump onto another chair, run to yet another chair, and then return to the couch, barking excitedly. I made her that happy. She made me even happier.

No human being ever has or ever will love me that unconditionally. Let me put it this way: I’ve never seen my wife or daughters jumping from chair to chair because they were excited to see me. The moral of the story is: We should treat everyone like that ... so start jumping.

Joe Pisani can be reached at