The Philosophy of a Dog

Watching my dog during the course of a day and we begin to understand what motivates him. Dogs aren’t pretending. They aren’t acting. There’s no mask or false facade.

Michael is a Boston terrier. He reminds me a lot about myself, as different as we are. I’m not sure whether it’s the fact that I raised him like this or if he developed his little idiosyncratic traits on his own. He can be stubborn, needy, but he is also full of wisdom. 

I often look at my dog and wonder if he is living a happy life. Sometimes he looks at me with those sad puppy eyes.

What’s a good life for a dog? And if Michael could teach me something about living, what would he teach me? 


Perhaps he wants to teach me to be patient. How complicated is it for a human to have a conversation with another human? It takes years before we could go beyond crying and screaming to get what we need. To think that we have to communicate with an animal… How do we do it, except to be patient? We are learning a language of our own. A language that involves words and bodies. It’s more a conversation of emotions than it is of context. A dog doesn’t know I’m late for an appointment or that I have a very important presentation coming up. All he knows is that I’m stressed. 

How do I get this dog to eat his dog food? Is it the food he doesn’t like? Is he not hungry? Or does it simply want it in another vessel? Like speaking, we begin to form messages through patterns. The word “Treat” has somehow resonated with Michael. The same way I perk up whenever I hear someone talking about burgers. He’s good with “sit” too. “Come” is a little harder to understand. But be patient, Michael would tell me and don’t get frustrated when we start speaking in different languages. 

michael the boston terrier


Michael doesn’t worry about his legacy. I try not to either. But I catch myself often wondering: What great works and ideas will I pass onto the next generation? I feel that thinking of the future in this way motivates me. But perhaps it causes me more stress than necessary. Why should I feel as though the future should be my responsibility? Why can’t I simply be this little bit of wonder that blinked briefly in time only greatly affecting those people closest to me? Can’t my legacy simply be like Michael’s to make those lives closest to his better? 

There is a certain expectation for humans to contribute. As we’re now standing on the shoulder of giants of the past, we’re expected to lift up the next generation. However, it would be just as fine for me to make my primary goal to be good to those directly in my orbit as opposed to thinking of how I can greatly impact the whole universe.  


When I was a kid, I dreamed of a life where every day would be unique. Every day full of new adventures. Such a life would never get boring. But that’s not a real life… that’s a storybook life, where all the dull bits are edited out. It is our routines that make up our lives — and so does a dog’s. All Michael wants is to have a routine that he enjoys and repeat it consistently for the rest of his life. 

If you want to teach a dog tricks, you need to repeat it. You need to make learning a part of his routine. And so routines are the same for us. Yes, the dog may choose comfort but we can choose another objective for our routines. The key is that we must stick to it. What we choose for our routine is what makes up our lives. 


What’s most interesting about Michael is how he takes up space. He always seems to find the most comfortable spot, it’s an amazing skill. As pleasure seeking animals, it’s easy to understand the appeal of comfort. There is this epicurean concept of necessary desire and unnecessary desire. Michael best represents what it means to be happy by chasing the right desires. My dog focuses on treats he likes and comfy spots to sleep in, but he doesn’t get caught up with the desires that curse humans. 

He doesn’t get caught in the need to rise in social class or make more money to impress friends. There is no status he wants aside from reaching a certain level of comfortable. If nothing is causing him physical pain, he’s as happy as a nugget. 

Michael doesn’t consider some invisible objective, he lives in the physical realm, where all that matters is whether he wants to be on pillows or stretch out on the entire bed. I try to be like him and live parts of my day in the present world — I think the best way to accomplish this is to take a nap. That’s how you fully indulge in it. To simply take up space in the physical world. 

When you find it hard to be understood, when you are thinking too far into the future, and when you are getting too worried about something you want and don’t need — think of Michael and remember that while you are freaking out. He’s taking a nap. 

Maybe you can use a nap as well. 

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Wealth care

Your financial well-being is as important as your physical well-being

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. January 6, 2016

You may be spending money on gym memberships, organic health food, and high-performance active wear, but, while on pace to a healthier life, you are also wasting a lot of money on items that you probably don’t need. Running is good, but running out of money is scary. Two out of three people are constantly worried about money.

While buying healthy food is an investment in your prospective health, investment in your financial future is of equal importance. You cannot always anticipate what will happen in your life and what role finance will play in the sudden shift in lifestyle. A loss of employment, an illness, or an act of God may eat away at your savings or push you into debt.

Careless spending—like poor eating habits—comes back and bites you later on in life. We are constantly warned about why we should not consume crappy food. But when it comes to how people spend their money altogether, people tend to keep comments to themselves. In this society, we aren’t really allowed to criticize other people’s spending habits. If someone wants to buy video games instead of paying rent, you can’t stop them. They’ll get evicted, but it’s still their choice. There is no visible danger zone when it comes to money in this country, because at the end of the day Canada is built so that no human being will starve. When people receive money they are free to use it however they like.

Nevertheless, if you are smart, you would treat your money the way you would treat your own body. You care for it, you utilize it when you need to, and you get it to work for you. And, over time, you strengthen it so that it can take care of itself. The same way you exercise, you must do the same with your funds.

You get physical checkups from your doctor and you heed their warnings, and you must do the same with financial advisors. You don’t need to take all of their advice, just like how you don’t need to take all of your doctor’s advice, but a different perspective, perhaps encumbering, may be refreshing.

It’s time we start putting our money where it counts. We might need to change how we see our money. It’s not the key to fulfillment, but a necessity for survival. This way, as life progresses, we’ll have enough to spend on the stuff we need and plenty left over for the stuff we want.

Do it for yourself

Opinions Vollunteering bw

Not volunteering does not make you a selfish monster

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. October 16, 2015

You used to do it. You used to commit your valuable time helping an event, an organization, or a cause. I know I did. I don’t anymore. I don’t volunteer, not because I’m busy, but because I recall that most organizations that don’t pay for labour are often disorganized, not so flexible, and ultimately lacking professionalism.

I have had bad experiences volunteering, and I believe many people have as well. But we dismiss all the bullshit because we want the goodwill, we want the work experience, and we want to participate and make a difference.

I’m not going to say that volunteering is a waste of time, because in the end, it’s up to you to define what your time is worth, and for you to decide how you would like to spend it. If you have a group of friends volunteering, you might love it—it’ll just be like hanging out. However, if you feel frustrated over the work or lack of communication, or that perhaps there is a high expectation for your role, be on alert.

There is a reason why unpaid internships are illegal now—it’s slavery. While as a volunteer you are there of your own free will, the organizers often make it seem as though they are doing you a favour. If you feel like you’ve been mistreated—whether by the leaders or your fellow volunteers—you can leave. There are literally a billion different ways to make a positive impact in the world, and many will even pay you to do it.

We live in a capitalistic society. If you are working for free, that means other people are working for free, and that is not fair for anybody. The least they can do is offer lunch or an honorarium. If an organization does not have a revenue stream, investors, donors, patrons, etc. why does it still exist?

Moreover, if we look at the world as a whole, we see many young adventure-seekers volunteering to build houses and orphanages in developing countries. Okay… cool… but those people don’t need some 20-something-year-old from Cloverdale to help them build shit. Give them material, and they can do it themselves. If you want to have an adventure, get a job, earn the money, and buy a plane ticket without interfering with other people’s lives. If you want to help build an orphanage in Cambodia, donate money and resources. Start a company that will hire local workers to do the job. Create a self-sufficient ecosystem, not one that nourishes your own self-righteousness.

Volunteering is not sustainable. Eventually you’ll have to eat. If organizations want help, they should apply for grants, have some marketing system, and have some incentive—it doesn’t have to be monetary, but it does have to be worthwhile. Volunteering is not for everybody, so before you think of someone else, think of yourself. You deserve your own precious time.

Unhaggle | How to Buy a New Car That Would Suit Your Daily Needs

Posted by  | February 05, 2014 |
Ghostwritten by Elliot Chan. Formerly published by 
carlifestyleLike a new sweater or a new haircut, a new car is no different – It has to suit you and you alone. On one hand, a vehicle is a necessity, and on the other hand, a vehicle is fashion. It’s what people see you arriving and leaving in, so it is important that it represents you in the right way. But hey, I get it – cars are not something everyone can splurge on. We must be practical. So, how can we find the balance between budget and lifestyle to get us going in the direction we want? Simple. Just follow our guide and you’ll get there!

Figure Out Your Lifestyle

As trends show, certain types of lifestyles adhere to certain types of vehicles, and although you might want to turn heads with the most unique set of wheels on the block, you also should consider sticking with what’s in style.

Different types of people use their vehicles for different reasons. If you have a family, you might want to take your partner’s needs into consideration and figure out whether your children will be driving the new car any time soon.

If you have a large family of five to seven people, you will probably need an accommodating vehicle – like a minivan or an SUV. But if you have a smaller family with a teenager preparing for their first driving lesson, you might consider finding an adaptable vehicle that focuses on safety instead.Honda, Toyota and Subaru have consistently achieved accolades for their safety features and compatibility.

But if you haven’t settled down yet, and sharing a vehicle is not priority, you might want to consider other options, depending on your work, play and eco-friendly attitude. Most people simply need something ideal for commuting. That means a car must have good gas mileage, while offering comfort and, above all else, reliability, because god knows you don’t want to be late for another business meeting.

Then again, you might have an adventurous mindset, so a simple but reliable hatchback might not do it for you. If you want to find that secluded campsite or just take the road less traveled, take some time to decide if a truck or an SUV will in fact be worth it – even though they often come with extra expenses.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have the eco-friendly people who want to reduce carbon footprint, but have a lifestyle where transit is not possible. Hybrids, electric and diesel cars may all be a greener option, if staying eco-friendly is your goal.

Prepare a Budget

As a car buyer, you shouldn’t set the bar too high when it comes to selecting a new car. Sure, we all want the luxury and sports cars, but remember that the MSRP is not all you have to consider. There are also other expenses to take into account such as maintenance and insurance fees, which are not cheap.

Don’t be naive when it comes to budgetary constraints, because it can end up biting you big time in the long run. Understand your financial status, your salary, your living situation (social security and tax) and your bills. Some experts suggest that you should only buy a car if you can afford it with cash or if it costs 20% of your annual income.

Obviously paying in cash is not always possible – not in this economy – and that 20% suggestion is often overruled. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t make the best decision for yourself. Monthly payments may seem like a financially responsible choice, but be warned that a slight increase in payment can really offset your budget. Leasing might also be an option for those who are okay with owning a new car every few years, while losing equity.

Compile a List of Prospective Cars

You probably have the car you want in mind already. Yes, you see it occasionally as you await the next bus or wave down a cab. So, why not mark it down and see where the cost lands on your budgetary range. Acknowledge your lifestyle as well and understand whether that vehicle is actually right for you.

Let’s say you have set your eyes on the 2014 Lexus RX 450h (average MSRP $47,000), but it’s slightly over your budget. As such, you might want to take one notch down on the price range and look at a vehicle such as the 2014 Chevrolet Traverse (average MSRP $30,000). Both are mid-size SUVs with high user ratings, but they have very different prices. How does that Rolling Stones song go? “You can’t always get what you want…” In other words, know your limits and never exceed them!

Start Haggling

Okay, so you’re ready to take to the dealership. You already know which car is right for you and you are going to get it – no matter what!

Hold it there – because you can still save yourself a bit more if you handle the purchasing scenario appropriately. Don’t just walk in there and drop the suitcase full of money. Be tactful, do your research and review how much your vehicle will cost, not just the MSRP, but also the invoice price (the price the dealership has actually paid for the vehicle). That should be the price where you start negotiating from, and you can find the information through sites such as

Also, keep in mind what features you want beforehand and be wary of incentives. Buying a car shouldn’t be an arm wrestle, and as long as you do it with class, you’ll ride out in the vehicle that suits your style best.