Crumbs in My Pocketby Mike Smith
I realized one day that I had crossed a line when I reached into my pockets
to get some change and all I could find were dog treats. This wasn’t
something that happened all of a sudden. I had been noticing dog treats in
my pockets in the strangest of places: grocery stores, restaurants, the
movie theatre. I had even put dog treats into one of those plastic bins at
the airport in order to get through the security line. At first it seemed, well,
rather weird. But as time went on it became more and more normal. You
see, there were training opportunities popping up all the time for my dog
and me. I would be taking my dog for a walk and she would sit when we
stopped at the street curb. Time for a treat. I would walk into the house
and my dog stopped jumping and licking and actually composed herself.
Jackpot. She picked the newspaper up in the morning and brought it into
the house. Payola time. We would start an impromptu obedience training
session. I didn’t want to get caught short. On and on and on. You get the
picture. I simply got into the habit of continuously reloading my supply of
This wasn’t without its complications. When I took my pants off at night I
sometimes spilled treats onto the floor. My dog enjoyed this but my spouse
did not. New house rules were imposed concerning the proper method for
emptying the crumbs in my pockets before committing my pants to the
washing machine. Like my dog, it took me a while before I was sufficiently
trained. My training did not necessarily involve positive reinforcement!
In any event, I have reached the point where I always have dog treats in
my pockets. With those dog treats come crumbs. So it goes. There are
now literally three times when my pockets are empty. When I go through
airport security. When I go into the ring. And when my pants go into the
wash. Actually, now that I think about it, when I go through airport security
and into the ring there are still crumbs in my pockets. Please don’t tell
Homeland Security or the trial judges. And every once in a while there may
still be crumbs in my pocket when they go into the wash. Please, please,
please don’t tell my spouse!
June 17 2019
Play. Few things in life are more joyful than play. When it comes to play,
children rule. They play effortlessly and wholeheartedly. They play
sincerely. They play more frequently and more creatively than we adults
could ever manage. As we mature and assume responsibility for our lives,
we seem to lose touch with that child’s aptitude for play. We seem to forget
about the true meaning and value of play. At least, that’s what happened to
me. Until my dog came along.
My dog knows how to play. All it takes is a look, a move, an available stick,
sock, towel or leaf, and she’s ready to play. When she was a puppy, I
thought that her invitations to play were cute. I would indulge her for a while
and then get back to whatever I was in the middle of doing. After all, she
was a puppy. This was just a phase that she was going through and she
would soon grow out of it, right? Wrong. As she grew older and her play
drive continued, I learned to put her play to good use as a training tool. I
would train, get desired behavior, reward with a little play and then go right
back to training. This was all well and good, but I was still missing the point.
Over time, however, my dog patiently but persistently showed me the way.
She helped me rediscover what play meant to me when I was just a pup
myself and discover how to keep play near to my heart for the rest of my
life. As I became an adult, I had pushed play into the background of my life.
I never want to do that again.
When I play with my dog, I feel pure joy. I do not concern myself with the
past or the future. I am not making judgments. I am not thinking things
through. I am simply in motion, acting and reacting in a spontaneous,
almost instinctual manner. I feel a remarkable connection with my playmate
and a remarkable connection with my own inner self. I feel at peace with
the universe. And I’m pretty sure that my dog feels the same way.
My Father was part of what Tom Brokaw called The Greatest Generation.
He went off to fight World War 2 before he turned 20. He trained for the DDay
invasion, was wounded in battle, recovered and returned to the front
lines. After the War, he went to college on the GI Bill, got a job, fell in love,
married and raised a family. During my youth, I regarded him as being very
clean cut and very corny. He had these sayings that I also regarded as
corny. Those sayings are now seared into my soul.
One of my Father’s sayings was that you get out of life what you put into it.
At the time, the saying didn’t mean much to me. Now, I am awed by its
wisdom. To me, the saying adds meaning to almost every aspect of my life.
And that most certainly includes the relationship that my wife and I have
with our dog. Yes, we get out of our dog what we put into her.
Looking back, we realize that we have put a whole heaping lot into our dog.
All of the walks, the tugging, the fetching, the chasing. All of the long sits
and longer downs, the healing and staying and recalling. All of the lead
outs. All of the jumps and the weaves and the contacts. All of the training
and trialling. All of the feeding and grooming. All of the treats and the toys.
All of the praising and ignoring and waiting. And sometimes the frustration.
All of the spending. All of the time spent basking in the simple fact of her
company. All of the joy. All of the worry. All of the love.
All in all, we have put a whole heaping lot into our dog. We do not regret
any of it. We have received a whole heaping lot in return.