Dog Friends
(Sarah Webb)

My dog Rex, a big hound dog blue heeler mix, just one year old, loves it when I take him to the lake shore in the late afternoon. The lake is down so there are acres for him to run on, and there’s water to splash through and birds to chase. He run almost out of sight, then thunders back and swerves as he gets to me, grinning with loopy joy. That’s a way to be, I think, grinning back. Not the only way but a good way—charging forward, full heartedly, feeling your joy.

Rex running on the shore

Kids can be like that too—full hearted. Sometimes with joy, sometimes screaming their rage or sorrow. They run and stumble and leap right back up so they can keep on playing.

That’s another way Rex is like a kid. He loves to play. About a month ago he met another dog along the shore, a furry-coated little beast about half Rex’s size. He reminds me of Missy, my last dog, who died last summer, but this dog is bigger and much healthier.

After a few minutes of bristling, he realized Rex wanted to play, and they started to chase each other. We meet him almost every day now, and the two of them chase and tumble and nip and wrestle.

Kids will find the possibilities in a situation. A table? They’ll sit at it, sit on it, crawl under it, tip it on its side, slide things down it, put a blanket over it, lie underneath it and look up.

That’s what these dogs do too. Each day they find a new game. One will hide down in a hollow and burst out to surprise the other. They’ll chew down sticks from the dried brush and tug-a-war with them. They’ll steal the sticks from each other and race through the open with the other one in chase.

They leap into the ponds and splash about. They take a stick and trot together.

Yesterday we went further down the shore into heavy brush and they barreled through the brush in circles, apparently just for the joy of crashing about and following the leader. When they’re exhausted—and it takes a lot to exhaust them—they’ll lie on each other in a heap and pant. Then Rex will leap up and off they go again.

There’s something about playing. Children play and dogs too, but so do many other creatures. Ravens do daredevil acrobats. Bear cubs wrestle and tumble.  Lambs leap and run. Watching the dogs I see that it’s more than delight in motion. There’s a make-believe to it, as there is in children’s play. I’ll pretend to be angry and chase you and steal from you, but we know it’s not for real. We act like we’re separate and hostile, but we know we’re not at all. Instead we are making something together, a game.

Are we one or are we two? the dogs ask, and their game says, one. One, and a one that is bursting out into creation, making not just this world but pretend worlds and painting worlds and hitting balls and catching them worlds, and for dogs, chasing and splashing and tumbling worlds. A one that has inherent in it, play.


Anonymous said...

Just wondering if this is the same Sarah Webb who use to teach at USAO in Oklahoma?

Sarah Webb said...

Oh, I missed this all this time! Yes, it is. Did you go there?