The Puppiness Project – Don’t Worry About Messing Up Your Hair

Gretchen Rubin wrote in The Happiness Project about the year she spent “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy.” The Puppiness Project is my attempt to learn the same from Honey, my Golden Retriever.

Adopting a Beauty Queen

Golden Retriever rolling in beach sand.

Look at me! I'm Honey of Pup-rabia and I should have sand in every orifice of my body any minute now.

As I became more certain I wanted my next dog to be a Golden Retriever, I worried about one thing: just how much time was I going to have to spend grooming that silky coat?

My previous mutts had thick, unfussy coats. I’d occasionally brush them to deal with shedding. But they didn’t have a challenging grooming regimen.

As Honey’s breeder showed me how to trim her ear hair to keep good air circulation, warned me against matting, and demonstrated the best technique for keeping the bottom of her paws from getting overgrown with fur, I wondered what I was getting into. Maybe I should keep Honey in a plexiglass box so she didn’t get messed up.

But Honey had different ideas.

When Honey sees a puddle, she wades right through the middle. She rolls in whatever stinky thing she can find. And she doesn’t even complain when strangers rub her ears even though she’s well aware that their ministrations will lead to tangles.

With her lack of concern about looking good, Honey manages to have a pretty good time. There may be something to that.

The Self-Conscious Don’t Have Much Fun

I can’t remember not being self-conscious about my looks. There may have been a time when I was a child but I don’t recall it.

I always felt that since I wasn’t very attractive naturally, I had to work harder on my appearance so that people didn’t turn away in disgust when they saw me. Yes, I’m hyperbolizing a bit. But not much.

For years, I applied lipstick even when I was just dragging the trash can to the curb as the garbage truck headed up the street. During a transit strike, I once walked three miles to work—and home again in the afternoon—wearing 3 inch spiked heels because I thought I’d look stupid wearing sneakers with a dress (y’know, like every other woman on the street). And forget riding in a convertible. I’d never get the tangles out of my hair.

Over the years, I’ve learned to care less.

Golden Retriever

Yes, I'm adorable. But I bet I'd be even cuter ears deep in a bucket of french fries.

It’s Better to Feel Good Than to Look Good

I’ll occasionally post pictures of myself on the blog. After all, that is how I look whether I like it or not. I’ve been known to wear an actual bathing suit at the beach (horrors!). I’ve even let my hair go gray, matching the appearance of people decades older than me.

And I’ve started to have a lot more fun.

Along the way, I’ve learned that people having a good time are always more attractive than those who are worried about something. And it’s much more fun to bike and sail and hike than it is to worry about getting sweaty or sunburned.

I wear the “tattoo” made by the grease of my bicycle chain with honor. And the uneven tan lines are just the price of regular sailing. And if I end up looking like a Golden Retriever who’s been splashing in the mud… well, it could be worse.

Honey is always cuter after getting into some outdoor mischief than she is right after a bath. I need to remember that. And to get into plenty mischief of my own.
Hop on…

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  1. I bet Honey is cuter, but how about the smell? lol said by the former owner of a golden retriever that used to roll in the stinkiest of stinky things

    But you are right, it is hard to have fun when worrying about whether a hair is out of place.

    • Actually, I’m not sure where the smell goes after Honey rolls in something. It disappears pretty quickly.

      Or does that just tell you about my level of housekeeping?

  2. Honey is just one happy girl and happiness does make everyone more attractive! Great post and so true! :)

  3. Mischief? I am so in!
    I can relate to the need to feel all put together when I go out thing. I have learned that I can compromise. Put on make up and let my hair air dry. :)
    Maybe as we get older we just care less about what others think and more about what we think.

  4. When I was younger I wouldn’t step foot out of the house without full makeup. Foundation, eye make-up, lipstick.

    As I’ve aged I’ve learned that oily, pimply skin I had for ten years, has helped make me look about 10 to 15 years younger than my actual age. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still terribly self-concious about my body and I’m still vain enough to dye my hair, but I will run out of the house with make-up smeared every which way till Sunday. In fact, I’ve been known to come inside and ask whoever is there, “how could you let me go out looking like THIS?” LOL

    I think we could all learn a lesson from Honey, and all dogs in general. Maybe we should change the slogan from “Be the St. Bernard” to “Be the dog.”

  5. Dogs are always cute, no matter what. The cuteness of people comes out more and more as we get to know them!

  6. Indeed. I’ve gotten over a lot of my self-consciousness but it still pops up every now and then in the worst moments. I don’t know if I’ll ever truly get over my vanity about my hair. It’s the one thing I’ve really worried about my whole life, to the point of ridiculousness. Even the night of our big high school graduation party I refused to go on the climbing wall or play any of the games because I didn’t want to mess up my expensive ‘do.

    I am so paranoid about turning gray it’s just silly. I think women with gray hair look fantastic, somehow though, I can’t apply that to myself.

    At least I’ve gotten rid of my heels (rather, my dog did for me :-P). That’s something, right?

  7. Good for you. We can learn from our pups. They don’t care what they look like. They just want to have fun.

  8. When I walk with male dogs, they walk with enough self confidence for the both of us and I’ve learned to relax and soak it in. They’ve taught me not how to be bothered or nervous by other people and cars and how to stand tall because I am with them and they are with me. It is an incredible feeling to shrug off all that self consciousness, even if it for that one walk, like taking off winter clothing in the middle of spring.

    Now the females are a bit more sisterly like and empathize with my feelings, yet they still stand tall and carefree, not a bit to bow down to anyone, but are friendly and playful as can be. Again we are in this together and they continue to show me the way to be more of myself and help me teach me more of what it means to be a woman than any female I have known.

    Dogs are so amazing at touching us right where we need it, when we need it. Pamela you are an amazing woman with an amazing dog and sometimes we all need to get dirty with tangled hair. :) I’d rather be laughing as a mess, then be so prim and proper and not know how. And while it looks like we haven’t totally mastered it yet, the dogs never give up on teaching us the way to do it!

    Great post!

  9. I spend a lot of time on grooming the dogs, not so much because I want them to look pretty, but if they don’t get groomed they get matted, which is uncomfortable for them. Leroy likes to get groomed and then roll in the backyard, he doesn’t want his hair perfect and clean he prefers sticks and leafs stuck to him. So be it. I’ll pick them out.

    I use to spend hours in front of the mirror, trying to look perfect. I bet I wasted 1/2 of my life in front of the mirror. Now, not so much. 15 minutes tops in front of the mirror, less if it’s a baseball hat day, which is more often than not.

  10. I have had a post like this on my mind for quite some time – I’d like to be more like my dog – she doesn’t worry about getting older, or feeling a little bloated, or having a bad hair day . . she’s just happy to go roll around in the grass :) Something we could all learn from!! Happy to hear that you are having more fun!!

  11. I dropped this ball some time ago; having half my face caved in with cancer scars and still working in a health care situation where I daily meet new people reminds me of how blessed I am, even when now I’m going through hyperbaric tx for wounds that won’t heal thanks to my radiation in 1985 – not fun and reminds me my cancer is a chronic condition, not finite like I wanted to think. I remember when I moved here turning heads; I remember being able to sing, do public speaking – that is all gone; but the opportunity for daily joy is here – the chance to roll in stinky stuff, play with my dogs, ride horses, and grow old (I would like to color my hair but don’t want to lose the silver!) is a grace for which I’m thankful everyday.
    I do think as we age we see what is truly important – I like looking my best but it’s not priority number one.

    • Many years ago I worked in a surgical clinic for patients being treated for head and neck cancers. The hospital moved their waiting room away from the main surgical area. Why? I’m not sure but I wonder if they thought the signs of radical cancer treatment on people’s faces would be too shocking for the other surgical patients.

      I thought our patients were beautiful. They had made tremendous changes in their lives after facing the real possibility of death. They learned the lessons about making the most of every day that few of us ever learn.

      You give so much back and I’m glad you are able to see the “opportunity for daily joy” in your life and work with dogs.

  12. Doesn’t everyone wear lipstick to take out the trash? what if the garbo is a hunk? No harm being prepared. There is no excuse for uneven tan lines though. You’ll just have to learn how to sail in your bathers..

    • Are the Australian garbo men hunks? That has not been my experience here. And besides, how close could you get to someone who smells like what everyone else throws out? :)

  13. I agree people who have a good time are much more attractive then those who are worried about something.

    Apache acts just like Honey. Although I try my best not to let him roll around in the stinky things since it takes me forever to give him a bath. I haven’t trimmed up his ears or paws, but I brush him daily. Do you have a post on how to properly groom a Golden?

    Happy Monday!

  14. Very wise words today! I agree whole-heartedly, even though I do still put on a little lip gloss before I run outside! lol I’m not sure why lipstick makes me feel so much more put together…

  15. Good reminders!

  16. Traditionally, I do not like pictures of myself.

    Other than that, though, I’ve noticed a definite relaxation of self consciousness one I’ve gotten Elka. Granted, grooming a Doberman is simple versus the grooming of Honey. I brush her once in awhile. I trim her nails. I look at her teeth. I also sometimes take her out in the morning while I’m still in my pj’s, with a hoodie thrown on overtop. I have a treat training pouch (known as a fanny pack to the rest of the world). I talk to her on the sidewalk (many a person has turned to me when I said “excuse me”, but I was talking to Elka about the fact that she was forging).


  1. […] like Pamela and Honey I just need to stop worrying about looking like a dork and wear a bloody pouch. Or maybe I can […]