Blog: The Act of Play

    An otter was playing in the river the other day. I watched him for about forty minutes as he tossed a pine cone into the water, then retrieved it only to swim back to the ice, climb up, slide it around and toss it back in open water. Now and then he would try to entice a friend to join but the other otter was very busy fishing. A beautiful sight on a cold winter morning.

    Everyone plays. There was always a playtime at our house, twenty minutes in the evening for nothing other than racing around the yard with a ball playing keep away or tag. Eclipse was my athletic girl and loved to catch Frisbees on the fly, her daughter Ammulett not so much. Ammulett liked to retrieve whatever I threw then play keep away, taunting me by letting me get close but never close enough and because we were ‘playing’ I did not require that she return it to me.

    I know. That is a terrible precedence to set. People who know will tell you that you cannot let them ‘get away with something’ because they would not know the difference between when you meant it and when you didn’t.  I suppose there is merit in that statement, but animals are pretty smart and are not necessarily listening as much as feeling.

    I have never had any animal misunderstand my intention. Oh, they sometimes have a lot to say about it; they may not want to do something, may not have interest in it at the time, but that does not mean they don’t know what I am asking. They simple have something they deemed better to do.

    Consider the difference in the reaction of your dog when you ask him to stop barking, as an example, and when he has slipped out the front door into the street and you scream at him to ‘stand’ or ‘stay’ because of the traffic. It is not so much the words or the intensity of the words as it is the energy attached  to your words. A dog processes your energy, then your body language, then your words. That’s why a dog learns hand signals before words; and guess what she reads before hand signals? Right, your energy.

    I think your best friend will be able to tell the difference between play and work. So when it is play time, try not to cross over into work mode…you know, the ball must be delivered, the object must be dropped in your hand or out of your hand. Just play. A full frontal attack of the no- holds- barred pandemonium that is play. The great joy of freedom.

    Sometimes we forget how rejuvenating play is, for them and us. Try to banish intruding thoughts (what should I make for supper?) from entering the ‘playroom’ and enjoy the energy of both of you together with no motives, no ‘aspiring to be’.

    School is school and recess is recess. For some reason we tend to forget that when it comes to our animals. We have an expectation for them and it does not always coincide with what is.

    But we can always create the perfect energy to share with our dogs in play if we can remember to let go for just a few minutes.


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