It's so easy to over-think things. I do this all the time. I'm the queen of over-analyzing. I can create problems where there are none just because I start thinking about all the worst-case scenarios. And last night, I almost missed a golden opportunity because I was looking for some complicated reason why my dog was whining.

Pet owners will understand that it can often be challenging interpreting their signals. Are they scratching because of dry skin, allergies, or fleas?  Did they refuse to eat their kibble because they're just not hungry right now or do they have an upset tummy? It often takes a good deal of patience to figure out what's going on.

Now, anyone who listens to my show knows that I love my dog, Copernicus. And I like to kid myself that I actually understand his signals pretty well. But that belief was proved unfounded last night when he kept whining. Quietly.

I was watching TV, playing Scrabble on my computer, and generally trying to unwind, and he just kept whining. I tried putting him outside. He walked onto the step, looked around, walked back in, and whined. I tried giving him a rawhide. Nope. Snaps? Nope. Body rub? Okay, he liked that. But then jumped on the couch. Laid down. And whined.

Finally, it hit me. He's bored! So I picked up one of his toys and threw it down the hall. Off the couch he went, occasionally touching his feet to the floor as he flew down the hall, grabbed the toy, and ran back. Tail wagging, eyes shining, he offered it up to me for a game of Tug. I pulled and pulled and finally he released it so I could throw it again. For about 20 minutes we repeated this over and over and, by the time we were done, I was laughing and he was considerably more content, chewing the stuffing out of said toy.

As I sat back down to resume my evening, I thought about the lessons to be learned in that short span of time. If something's bothering a loved one, do what you can to get to the bottom of it and help them to feel better. Don't look for hidden problems where there probably aren't any. The solution might be a lot simpler than you thought. And most importantly, if you're feeling blue? Put down the food and the computer, get off the couch, and play!