Hanging out with friends yesterday, watching football and being around their older dog made me miss my boy. There was so many times I remember hanging out in my man cave, with Boodha, watching football, and in between plays, tossing his favorite ball or playing tug a war with his industrictable rubber rings. That said, I thought I would share an excerpt from my “work in progress”” or possible novel called “The Wisdom of Boodha: Life Lessons I Learned From Man’s Best Friend”. This chapter was called “Playing Hard”.
On Boodha’s very last day, we played his all time favorite game, fetch, with his all time favorite toy, his neon green ball. This ritual was remarkable because despite his old age and many of his physical faculties being compromised, like eye sight, and speed and agility, Boodha always played this game with the same intensity as day one. When he was younger and spry, and full of boundless energy, he had plenty of games he would also play, like tug a war with ropes, running with the big dog packs at the park, and long wooded hikes. No matter what the game was, he always played hard.
This lesson Boodha taught me, was that no matter what the prior circumstances up to that point or what might happen afterward, when it was play time, it was all about playing hard. Wether sick, or old, or when or where he was, I was always taken back at Boodha’s ability to remove any focus on prior or post circumstances, situations, and settings and the focus and intensity lied in the game itself and the participation in the game. This penchant for unbridled intensity of play and participation was always consistent and always at a certain level with Boodha, no matter what.
I remember when he once had an allergic reaction to something, and was vomiting and his face swelled up. While he was growing sicker and prior to the eventual prognosis, when I was not fully aware of the situation and was playing fetch with him as normal, I remember him still fetching and running and playing as hard as he could despite the circumstances. As a matter of fact this incident and others similar to this, were what helped me detect when something was wrong based on not a lack of participation, but rather a slight tick in pace and length of play.
I remember a few times where Boodha strained his leg or muscles and his mobility was compromised. Obviously, my sympathy for his injuries, would not allow me to force playing but I can honestly say that if I attempted to play or if when I played with him, delicately with him in these situations, he was always a willing participant, he always went as hard as he could, and he never boycotted this call to play.
There was even a bit of guilt on my part, on his last day, when we had a very long session of fetch, and later that evening he grew sick and shut down and passed. Part of me wondered if I pushed him too hard, knowing he was always a willing participant and he always played hard no matter what the circumstances. At the same time, I always tried to be vigilant, especially in his later years when it came to the fragility of his health, so that evening was no different for me as his play partner. As a matter of fact, I was equally vigilant and purposeful on making sure Boodha and me had a certain quota of playtime each week. This was because I could see the stimulation that playtime provided him, the bond as playmates it helped create, and the positive effects on his mental, spiritual, and physical health.
These benefits that I mentioned were the life lesson of playing hard that I learned from him. As humans if we can remove external factors and avoid focusing on the past or future situation or circumstance, and allow ourselves to be fully immersed in whatever play we are participating in, there are a host of benefits. We find stimulation in the act of playing hard. We create bonds with the fellow participants in the game, and we find mental and spiritual solace in act of playing hard. Playing hard helps us physically get stronger. By avoiding any excuses as to why we shouldn’t play the game, and by avoiding playing the game, half assed, and by always being a willing participant in the game, and by playing the game with same intentional intensity no matter what, we can find fulfillment and satisfaction for a lifetime. We can get past barriers and excuses and manifest the energy and drive to be a willing participant of play from childhood up to a last days, long after when our physicality is compromised.