Sadness and Soviet Space Dogs

A friend of mine called me late the other night and said the following, “It’s like we’re in hell. This is hell… but it’s still so beautiful.”

I knew exactly what he meant. A few days prior, I was wandering around in the middle of the night sulking and filled to the brim with self-pity. Filled with pressing uncertainty and unsure of where to turn, I felt the kind of bad that you know is going to be special. At times, I wasn’t even thinking, I just felt this wave of cold negativity churn in my stomach and esophagus until it settled in at the base of my spine. From there it evolved into a sharp pain as it bore itself deep into my skull. I considered jumping off a bridge or just walking until my legs couldn’t carry me further. I couldn’t rationalize anything or visualize a solution to my problems. All I could be was unhappy. But, just when I thought I was going to snap into a permanent melancholy madness, I saw the thing that saved my life.

In the middle of the sidewalk was an entire slice of pepperoni pizza and standing triumphantly on that slice was a single pigeon. Somehow he had come across it alone and could feast in relative privacy. It was an important moment for both of us and, even though he couldn’t quite express it, I knew he understood that. I watched in awe as he took bite after peck, completely uninterrupted. That slice of pizza was that bird’s moon landing, Woodstock and wedding day all rolled into one giant greasy triangle. All of my sadness left me. I couldn’t even keep myself from laughing and, when I imagined someone watching me from their apartment window, I laughed even harder. Not wanting to disturb its meal, I crossed to the other side of the street. People don’t tend to give the pigeon a lot of credit but it’s one of the smartest birds on the planet. They are also the only non-mammals that we know can identify itself in a mirror. With that in mind, I trusted that it could sense my reverence for it and the moment we were sharing.


It took me a long time to settle back into being unhappy after that. Life will sometimes go that way. You’ll be in a perfect state of utter misery and then something ridiculous will come along and shake you out of it. When it finally returns, though, take that time to wonder about the big picture. It isn’t always clear but it’s worth your thoughts and energy to contemplate upon. We’re not made to be happy all of the time. Sadness has an authenticity sorely missing from a lot of other emotions. It helps focus you into realizing what really matters and what really doesn’t. It offers perspective. When was the last time you were sobbing into a pillow and stressing about not having the next consumer product du jour? Probably never, unless that was the reason you were crying in the first place. If that’s the case, you’re probably confusing sadness with some deeper seeded mental issue anyway. What I’m talking about is a real and profound sorrow that has been earned through poor choices, a great injustice, or the inevitable nature of life. It’s an imperfect world and most of us are just trying, unsuccessfully, not to be dicks to each other.

But whether or not that sadness goes away is irrelevant. Whether or not you share even a single thought about it doesn’t matter either. It’s special and for you to do whatever you want with it. For me, I compartmentalize what I can and share whatever manages to wiggle its way out of the corners of my mind. Sometimes I feel like one of those dogs that Russia shot into space– confused and scared, but part of something so much greater that they could never quite wrap their minds around. Some of those dogs were doomed from the start and maybe some us are too. But the fact remains that they had to go because they were chosen and, in a way, extraordinary.


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42 Responses to Sadness and Soviet Space Dogs

  1. krisdw76 says:

    I find it amazing how one small incident can turn sadness into happiness, it happens to me sometimes. When life is getting to be too much for me something cute, good or amazing happens and most of my negativity goes away.

  2. prenin says:

    Hi Matt!

    Yes, I get those bad days too, but they never last long and most are composed of a fear of the unknown and the uncertainties of being dependent on benefits while faced with government money saving changes that could see my future becoming VERY bleak in a matter of a few weeks… :(

    Everyone has their low points in their lives and I know we are not alone in this, but it takes a moment like the pizza pigeon to make us realise that there is a bright side to life! :)

    God Bless my friend!


    • Agreed, good sir. I’ve been watching a lot of nature documentaries and things about the universe (which I do anyway).

      It’s nice to know that I don’t have to worry about being eaten everyday and sort of impressive that I’m more complicated and difficult to make than a star.

  3. tua1992 says:

    I identify so very much with everything you wrote. It happens so many times on the street, at home… Sometimes in this deep state of sorrow the mind wanders to this happy or funny memory you, I sometimes giggle to myself and then peevishly feel guilty as if I am doing something wrong by not staying in mourning. I read your post and probably next time I would make a conscious effort to look around for small happier things because the longer you can keep the sadness at bay, the better it is. Thanks for the post

  4. That pigeon, if they thought about it, really wanted a whole wheat, pesto and chicken pizza but is thankful she got the pepperoni and that you did not disturb her. Happiness is misunderstood – if we were happy all the time we would look like idiots. One good thing, Matt, you can write better than most people and people appreciate your candid look at life and if you laugh even just for a moment, you are not terminally depressed (that’s actually two good things).

    • No, not terminally. I see the magic and good when it’s there. It doesn’t pay to be cynical and unhappy all of the time.

      I wonder if birds and other animals ever look around and think “is this all there is?” I hope not.

  5. David says:

    Your posts keep getting better and better. What a lucky pigeon you saw. You inspired me to look up the story of Laika, the space dog. It was sadder than I’d remembered.

  6. UndercoverL says:

    After reading another post just now ridiculing motherhood, this was a breath of fresh air. My greatest sorrow in life was losing the blessing of raising two of my children, and to read an article belittling the ability to do that was infuriating. I applaud your call that we appreciate and acknowledge the victories of our fellow humans… and dogs. :)

  7. From the lyrics of Sarah Grove’s song “It might be hope”….You’ve been here for a long long time, but hope has a way of turning it’s face to you just when you least expect it. You walk in a room and look out a window and some there leaves you breathless….You say to yourself….it’s been a way since I felt this, but it feels like it might be “hope”….. ;)

    Love this post! paula

  8. Soul Walker says:

    This reminds me of the poem, “The Dust of Snow,” by Robert Frost… in a good way.

  9. vishalbheeroo says:

    Sometimes we need to go with the flow. Keep the faith.

  10. Nos says:

    Reblogged this on shumonuk.

  11. mollytopia says:

    I already liked this, but I actually loved it. Congratulations on being a recommended blog – that’s totally accurate in every way!

  12. this is awesome. Perfectly put and thoroughly enjoyed

  13. neonspndx says:

    I LOVE this part: “What I’m talking about is a real and profound sorrow that has been earned through poor choices, a great injustice, or the inevitable nature of life. It’s an imperfect world and most of us are just trying, unsuccessfully, not to be dicks to each other.”

    so so true. and also a bit hilarious. Nice. Job.

  14. Hello Matt: I would like to first say thank you for writing this article because we all go though times when we are sad or unhappy, then something come alone and make us laugh or smile and change the way we were feeling. This article is encouragement to those who read it, for it was for me. Be Bless, DIVA Iketha

  15. It’s curious to me; the way one is tempted to romanticize sadness, especially when in the midst of it. I’ve been there, too, but I much prefer not being depressed.

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