“He yawned like a black bear coming out of hibernation” Dennis Vickers


In true Shadow style, he acknowledged the beginning of a new day by saying, “Ahhh!” Ah, was also my sentiment upon the realization that we would be breaking down base camp after breakfast.


As Shadow and I moseyed around camp, the sound of my third grade teacher’s words echoed through my head. “All good things must come to an end,” was my teacher’s way of announcing that our recess was over. As a kid, I thought the message in this statement was rather strange. Why must good things come to an end? If something is good why not sustain it? Is it possible to find ways to incorporate “good things” that have no end? What if we focused on creating beginnings that evolved into lifetime adventures?


Min’s birthday along the Rainbow Rim definitely qualified as part of our lifetime adventure series. Sadly though, it was time to pack up our camp and head back to Vermilion Cliffs.


I can be rather anal with my gear at times, everything has its place and is stored in different colored stuff sacks. In my world, this system makes breaking down camp more efficient and all my gear can be accounted for. In my early hiking days, I was the one with scattered gear around the house, it made prepping for trips rather time consuming. Something had to give, I got organized.


After loading up the ca,r we headed back to Locust Point for a final goodbye. Over the years I have carried a few different flags while backpacking. It originally started with an Australian flag, followed by a rainbow flag, then most recently a smiley face flag.


For as long as I can remember, I’ve always considered happiness to be a human right. Perhaps this belief stemmed from my unhappiness growing up in an addictive family. To be raised in an addictive family, meant living in a constant state of chaos. In many ways, it’s like spending your childhood playing in a park riddled with land mines. Negotiating land mines tends to place your focus on surviving.Thriving seemed very unrealistic when simply getting through my day felt like a full-time job. With that said, even though I did not thrive, I do feel this state of chaos developed my skills of resiliency. Every day I was developing problem-solving skills that helped separate myself from the black and white thinking within our four walls. Maybe it was my hyper vigilant sense of resiliency that sought out escapism in order to find happiness. Escapism as a young girl was found through contemporary 80’s music.


Music gave words to feelings and thoughts I could not express. While some limbically driven songs taught me how to feel, other song lyrics validated my reality. In the late 80s, John Farnham and Danielle Gaha recorded a hit song in Australia called “Communication”.

This was the first song I had ever heard that addressed addiction in Australia. I vividly remember going to the record store to the buy the 7-inch single


Imagine some twenty years later you realize that Danielle Gaha is sitting in your studio as a guest on your radio show.

Danielle was part of the musical group “THE SONGBIRDS”, that featured singer Erica Canales and Latin Grammy award winner Gaby Moreno.

I can honestly say music created the escapism that I needed in order to experience the feeling of happiness growing up.


At times I feel our understanding of happiness might be similar to our definition of the American dream. Perhaps defining happiness and the American Dream can seem as elusive as achieving it. It varies for everyone, there is no simple definitive answer. I think we are all familiar with words that suggest happiness like blissful, cheerful, content, pleased, satisfied, carefree etc. However, if Happiness is a human right  I think we need to be more specific.

Could the active ingredients to being happy include: being healthy, being harmonious, being humble and humanizing?

Martin Seligman, the author of Authentic Happiness, describes happiness as having three parts: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Pleasure is the “feel good” part of happiness. Engagement refers to living a “good life” of work, family, friends, and hobbies. Meaning refers to using our strengths to contribute to a larger purpose. Seligman says that all three are important, but that of the three, engagement and meaning make the most difference to living a happy life. It would to safe to say we left Locust Point drowning in what  Martin Seligman describes as “Authentic Happiness.”


As we headed down Highway 22, I made a point of stopping at the meadow that had caught my eye a few days prior.


Shadow had the right idea, he headed straight for the flowers.


For over an hour Min, Shadow and I played and filmed amongst the flowers in the meadow. We all wanted to stay another night, however, Min had to be at work in the afternoon.


After taking our final round of photos, we walked the dirt road back to the car. 


Min’s birthday was over for another year, however I think  “Into The Wild” author Christopher McCandless best described our journey, “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”





“ In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.”


After over-extending himself the day before Shadow was in no mood or hurry to get up from the comfort of my sleeping bag. Shadow has always been an extremely high energy dog. As a puppy living in the urban jungle, I would often take him on ten-mile walks. 


It seemed to be the only way to tire him out! Shadow loves to run full speed, and really has no understanding of pacing himself. This is the first time I had ever seen Shadow physically depleted. Daily life for Shadow has always been about having a job and creating a daily sense of purpose. Even though it seemed Shadow had taken the morning off,  the partial vestibule opening created enough visibility for him to continue his guard duties.


As we laid in our sleeping bags, I could hear a few hikers talking as they walked past our campsite. “Wow, do they have the best view, look at their tent,” said one of the hikers. Yes, we did have the best view, and what the hikers didn’t know was that I was gear testing my new Alps four season tent.


After spending two nights in this tent, I was in love with the interior space; a queen size mattress could easily fit inside. The wall lined storage pockets offered ample space for gear, the ventability was excellent, the front and back door vestibule were more than adequate, and the door zippers are very sturdy.


In Shadows world, he would rank this tent as a very large warm dog house. 


On this self-proclaimed lazy day, it was Min who finally made the first move, followed by Shadow. It was rather evident that Shadow was leaving the comfort of his bed more out of obligation than actual want. Within minutes of being outside, Shadow retreated back to the warmth of the tent. It was a chilly morning, and like his mama, Shadow runs cold. I had yet to invest in doggie attire for Shadow, so the next best thing was Min’s fleece sweat-shirt.


By late morning we ventured out of the tent for some cliff side coffee.


Never in my wildest dreams, could I have imagined having a morning cuppa looking down into the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. In some ways I felt guilty, it was a Monday morning and here I was chilling with Shadow, while my friends back in Los Angeles were counting down the office minutes till their lunch break. This thought made me reminisce about my former life; working for companies that seldom offered reasonable paid leave.

How did the United States become the only advanced economy that does not require employers to provide paid vacation time?

In a country that advocates for family values and claims to the greatest nation in the world, why do  1-in-4 Americans receive no paid vacation or paid holidays?

In my experience, it seems the lack of paid vacation and paid holidays has become rather normalized for low wage workers, part time workers, and employees of small businesses. According to No-Vacation Nation Revisited, only 49 percent of low wage workers have paid vacation as opposed to 90 per cent of high wage workers.The gap between paid time off in the United States and the rest of the world is even larger when legal holidays are included.

American law does not guarantee any paid holidays, while most rich countries provide between 5 and 13 per year, in addition to paid vacation days. In this regard, the United States is equal with India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, and a handful of island nations that don’t require employers to offer workers paid time off. France, on the other hand, mandates 30 paid vacation days a year for all workers. Scandinavian countries offer 25 days. US citizens in Puerto Rico get three weeks off a year.

I feel mandating paid vacation leave would allow workers to spend more time with their families, improve their mental and physical health, and permit more productivity in the workplace. Wouldn’t this philosophy create a happier more fruitful nation? Could a happier workforce reduce our dependency on depression meds?


I have friends who currently work in the tech sector. Many of them qualify for unlimited employee vacation time. Yes, company employees take off as much time as they want. Amy Scannell, director of client engagement for Insight Performance Inc, says vacation time is beneficial not only to workers, but also for business. “It’s important for a CEO to value their employees,” she said. “You can attract and retain really amazing people.”


According to a recent Gallup poll study, America is unhappy at work. 63% of study participants report themselves as “not engaged”. 24% are what Gallup calls “actively disengaged,” meaning they hate their hate jobs. This employee will act out and undermine other co-workers accomplishments. Gallup found that 13% of workers feel engaged by their jobs. That means they feel a sense of passion for their work, a deep connection to their co-workers, and they spend their days driving innovation and moving the company forward.

When did companies stop caring about employees?

Do corporations display diagnosable sociopathic traits that the documentary “The Corporation” suggests?

Do profit margins override the balance between frustration and fulfillment at work?

Would it be fair to suggest that less productive workplaces are less likely to create new jobs?

In order for Gallup to measure employee engagement, they created a list of 12 statements. I encourage you to read them, where do you fit regarding workplace happiness?

1. I know what is expected of me at work
2. I have the material and equipment I need to do my work right.
3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
10. I have a best friend at work.
11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

A few companies I have worked for over the years offered no paid leave. One human resource director had the audacity to brag about my employment package; offering me 8 days paid leave. I remember trying to hold back my laughter, and quickly reminded him that if I was fly to home to Australia that 8 days would not be enough. It would give me a day to fly to Sydney, a day to fly back to the USA, and 5 days on the ground, with a floating day to allow for time differences and connecting flights. I did not want to become one of those people who bucket list 10 cities in 5 days. I wanted quality and quantity.Over the years the paid leave dilemma has left me either working for myself or quitting jobs so I could travel. 


I often found it ironic, that when I worked in mental health many companies offered minimal to no leave. In a field where compassion fatigue and burnout is high, you would think self-care would be the focus in order to retain quality employees. Instead, the turnover was high, the companies did not care. In many ways I think mental health employers cosign co-dependency. Some companies actually felt like they were doing you a favor by offering you a job.


After my late morning deliberations on paid leave, we collectively decided to take a short walk into the woods. I didn’t want Shadow to be laying down all day, and he seemed very happy to partake in a family stroll.


Within seconds of being on trail, Shadow appeared pain-free. His love of the trail over rides any sense of muscle soreness. Shadow is one of those dogs with an extremely high threshold to pain. After being neutered, he marched out of the vet’s office like nothing happened! I was under strict instructions to keep him low key, however, within a few hours of being home, Shadow was supermanning off the bed.


Our family nature hike was a mix of digging, flower sniffing and snoozing.



Back at base camp, Min set up his birthday hammock. Min had always wanted a hammock. His ideal setting; two palm trees and a white sandy beach. Sadly I could not deliver a tropical beach setting within the Northern Arizona limits, however, I think he was ok with this view.


How many people on the planet can say they took a nana nap overlooking the North Rim?


Min can!


And so can I, I was fortunate enough that Min shared his new crib.


It was now getting late in the day, and we were hoping to enjoy the last sunset of our trip. Shadow was tired, he would have been content with sleeping inside the tent, at the same time he hates to be left alone. So like a good soldier he carried on, and we walked the few hundred yards to Locust Point.


Since having Shadow I have heard countless times that dogs are a man’s best friend. I consider this theory rather sexist in nature, dogs are a human’s best friend. When did a friendship with a dog become gendered? Min has often said that society seldom sees a woman and her dog highlighted or documented, I am hoping to change that!


By societal standards, Shadow has the odds stacked up against him. In many ways, he is a triple minority. Being part pit bull makes society fearful of him, not to mention he has a very blended family. Being raised by a gay mama and a straight minority papa always makes for interesting dinner conversation.


By no means has Shadow been a picnic since he found me. He still suffers from PTSD symptoms. Fortunately many of his triggers, I have been able to identify. He tends to be rather fearful of new experiences, yet he is willing to venture out of his comfort zone. The presence of men tends to make him fear-aggressive, he instinctually does not trust men when they try to greet him. The idea of having a man’s hand near his face or head is terrifying to him. The only exception to the rule is his relationship with Min.He has learned to trust Min, yet at the same time, Shadow sees Min as a child that needs protection. At the end of the day though, I know Shadow is a very loving loyal boy.Like myself, he is not perfect, but he tries anyway.

As we patiently waited for the sun to set, I wrapped Shadow up in my down jacket. Within minutes he was asleep.


Sunsets for me have always triggered a feeling of being awestruck. By witnessing the beauty and awe of the sunset, I feel you can slow down your perception of time.

When was the last time you felt awestruck?

Could we be a happier society if we incorporated daily feelings and experiences of awestruck?



As we returned to camp for our final night I promised myself I would return to the Rainbow Rim. It has to be my favorite sunset camp in America thus far.


As Jo Walton once said, “There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.”