Everything in life is like a game of fetch
I took Henry to the dog park earlier this week. Momentarily lost in thought, I was watching about 8 different dogs playing fetch with their owners. Many of the dogs ran repeatedly after the balls being thrown, retrieved them, and trotted happily back to their owners to drop the ball at their feet. Over and over again, the ball was picked up, “chucked” across the field, and pursued by an exuberant dog. The dog-human teams seemed so happy and connected.
Conversely, other dog-human teams seemed out of “sync”. Like the first group, the owners would throw the ball and the dog would happily chase after it. However, these dogs did not bring the ball back. They often got distracted by smells, other dogs, or just simply stopped and dropped the ball 20-50 feet away from their owner. This forced the individual to walk over to pick the ball up to keep it in play. Initially, the owner eagerly trotted over- happy to be spending quality time with their dog. However, after a while, I noticed the owner slowing down, stopping to check their phone, and/or begin a conversation with some of the other people at the park. In this scenario, both the owner and the dog lost interest in participating in the game and, while they were both present- they really were not connecting at all.
As I reviewed all of this in my mind, it occurred to me that how we engage with others in our life is much like a game of fetch.
We find personal satisfaction and pleasure in “throwing out the ball” or “giving to others”. When the ball is returned or gestures acknowledged- it is rewarding, so we continue to engage “throwing the ball”, thus fostering a stronger connection and bond with our partner, child, friend, etc….This back and forth element of “tossing out behaviors” continues as long as it is mutually rewarding.
Unfortunately, we often allow the stresses of daily living to get in the way. We either find ourselves too busy to initiate the game, tell our loved ones when they bring us the ball -“we will play later”, or we try to play while multitasking. Over time, our loved ones stop bringing us the ball and our initiation of the game occurs less and less. The game becomes less rewarding and the strength of the connection between the two people seems to wane.’
As I left the park, I made a mental note:
I took this opportunity to apply a very casual observation as general life lesson- throughout every day, we engage and connect with our dogs in ways that are mutually beneficial and rewarding.
We look directly at them when we speak, we touch them, we play with them, we snuggle with them, we are connected with them. In return, they reward us with devoted, unconditional love. It is why the human-dog bond is so strong.
It would be so easy to strengthen the human-human bond by reaching out daily to engage in a back and forth exchange utilizing conversation/communication, undivided attention, kind gestures, acknowledgement, empathy, compassion, and affection, as our “ball” in the simple game of “fetch”.