“A Wilderness Explorer is a Friend To All…”

It’s no secret that Disney-Pixar’s Up is one of my (and all of society’s) favorite animated tear jerkers. Audiences go nuts over the film’s sweet lovebirds, Carl and Ellie. Their relationship is central to the plot and to the essence of the film–“Adventure is out there!” Carl and Ellie have inspired fan art, wedding themes, Disney-bounders, and Valentine’s Day cards since the film introduced us to the perfect balloon and adventure-loving couple back in 2009.

While I love Carl and Ellie for personal and generic reasons (see old post here), I can’t help but have fallen in love with Carl’s two initially unwelcome companions, Dug and Russell.

First of all, Russell is the coolest eight-year old I know. He has forty-seven patches on his Wilderness Explorer sash, and he is a friend to all, “be it plant or fish or tiny mole.” He looks both ways before crossing the busy Animal Kingdom streets (he loves to hang out there lately), and he gives very firm handshakes and great hugs. He sometimes throws a little fit when something doesn’t go his way, but he is always quick to forgive and forget the grievance.

Dug is also the cutest little pup you ever did see. He loves squirrels and hears guests exclaim “Squirrel!” to him countless of times each and every day and never gets tired of it. Sometimes baby Dug’s (plushes sold at Disney merchandise venues) visit with their tiny little Velcro and felt cone-of-shame. Dug always treats the little Dug’s with care and kindness, and he loves to give puppy kisses to those who visit him.

Now to the nitty-gritty reasons why the pair have made their way into my heart. Russell is tough. He might be a tad on the chubby side, but Russell is as tough as nails. Yes, he complained about the discomfort of the wilderness, but he made it. He got through his hurt knee (and, subsequently, his hurt elbow) and put himself last to take care of Kevin, his beloved bird-friend who happens to be a girl.

If you’ve never seen Up (how?!), this probably sounds just like a whole lot of nonsense.

Anyway. Russell is also tough in the fact that he is a normal kid living through an unfortunate normal occurrence–his parents separation and/or divorce. That’s tough, everyone. Despite his adversity, Russell is still an accomplished Wilderness Explorer: optimistic, eager to help, and only a tad whiney.

Dug teaches us to love unconditionally: “I have just met you, and I love you!” He’s like any of our beloved pups at home. Loyal and loving and cuddly and sweet and holy cow I miss my dogs. Dogs can be the perfect companion to broken people–Carl is broken because of the absence of Ellie. Russell is broken due to his unstable childhood. Dug is broken because of his mistreatment from Charles Muntz, the adventurer-turned-wacko.They are an unlikely trio, but they complete each other in the most perfect way that only Pixar could depict.

The ultimate lesson we can learn from Russell: “That might sound boring, but I think the boring stuff is what I remember the most.” He reminds us to take a step back from our hectic lives and really cherish those little moments that won’t become a Facebook status or an Instagram caption. The boring stuff fills an incredible void in our lives–without the boring stuff, the big stuff would be boring. Let’s remember to be mentally present for those “boring” adventures, because, in the end, we’ll miss those the most.

Thanks Dug and Russell for being the coolest dog and eight-year-old that I know. You help fill some of my days with adventure and fun, and I can’t thank you enough.

Thanks to Disney Springs for fueling my little addiction.

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