My parents have a dog who doesn’t play. Not only that, she has pretty much never played a day in her life. It’s the strangest thing. She doesn’t chase balls or play tug of war. She doesn’t roll on her back and let you rub her belly. She doesn’t frolic with joy or leap and bound. She’s perfectly healthy. She eats and sleeps and is affectionate with humans and she runs around and barks a lot. There’s just no spastic joy there. Nothing. Radio silence. She’s not even really a dog but she sure smells like one. She’s just a dog without even an ounce of playfulness.
Scarlet plays. Nonstop. She is warm and affectionate and spastic and joyful and loving and giving all at once. She frolics and leaps and bounds as well. She chases balls and plays tug of war and lets you rub her belly. However, she has spent a lot of winter playing inside. She does it brilliantly but it’s just been too cold and icy to play outside lately. We have had no yard to speak of. She’s cold with too little clothing and hot with too much clothing. In the recent warmer days, I’ve been slowly introducing her to outdoor play. It’s been amazing watching her blossom out there. There’s a whole new vocabulary forming. She loves to tell people about “Slide!” and “Swing!” However, there’s still an adorable few minutes of warming up time before she goes ape-crazy on the playground. She just stands there and hides her cheek in her neck. She wants to hug me a lot. She doesn’t want to play. She is the un-playful dog for a few minutes every day – she just smells a lot better.
It’s been a slow and fun progression. We tried it out on the first sunny day over 40. Blinking, she stepped into the sunlight; into the green yard that had been unrecognizably thick with snow for months:
She was confused. She was disoriented. She was even a little accusing. Back into the warm house, she ran. I stayed outside and was patient. Slowly…a little foot poked back out:
And then her head poked out a bit and I saw a big, curious eye hiding under a mop of curls:
And then she knelt at the threshold and debated whether it was safe to come back out. In many pictures you’ll find that she’s clutching some sort of security blanket. For her, security blankets are often chapsticks, sunscreen sticks or sippy cups. That’s how she rolls.
And she stepped out into the yard. And it was lumpy. And she was wearing cowboy boots and wasn’t barefoot in the yard the way she learned to be in the yard. So of course, she tumbled onto her butt. And she looked up at me…and she decided she liked it. All of it.
And the un-playful dog was gone.
But of course, it’s baby steps. This was only our yard. What if we…took it elsewhere? Would she be able to warm up to the idea of playing in the park with other kids?
“I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.” (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure)
Would she be the outsider looking in?
She got the hang of it in no time and we went back to the park a few times last week. I’d have pictures of her actually going down the slide…if I hadn’t been helping her achieve that goal and then jumping up and down with my (camera-less) arms in the air when she did it all by herself. It was golden.
It’s ok that it took her some time to warm up because obviously the park is still earning its “Spring Legs” as well. Santa, I think it’s about time for you to go back North.
This kid…she never ceases to amaze me.
She changes and grows by the instant, and goes back and forth in the blink of an eye. On the same day, I had a chubby-cheeked baby girl:
…and a very savvy and grown-up little girl:
And I love them both.