“What we play is life”

It was Louis Armstrong who said “what we play is life.” Other people have written about the value of play — for dogs and humans (and any sentient being?). I take it for granted, here, that play is a good thing that animates our best relationships and gives us confidence.

However, it’s strangely hard to do. Imagine you are sitting next to a dog. You decide that play will benefit the two of you. But what exactly do you do?

The easy way out — for me and Lyra — is to toss a ball. Lyra will even toss it back to me. She will play “tug” for a few seconds, and will catch a frisbee a few times before getting bored. Her favourite game is to run with swallows, as if herding them, but swallows are fickle: they won’t come when called, and they disappear for much of the year.

Several courses at the Fenzi Academy emphasize play. (Play’s value is implicit in others.) One of the academy’s strengths is in its recognition that dogs are individuals. One dog may go insane over fetch; another might have no interest in balls, but will love to wrestle. (Lyra hates wrestling, except with our cat.) My goal is to figure out, more exactly, what lights up Lyra — apart from swallows (which I suspect she believes are her “work”) — and to give her the skills to play the game.