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.