Shadow and Finny McCool play "tug" -- practically under my feet, as usual.


We all need it. Dogs know–they’ll play anytime, anywhere, collapse for a snore-session and then play again. Children get it, too. Play works off excess energy, works the muscles, delights the mind and leaves the soul satisfied.

As adults, we often forego play in favor of taking care of business. We work, we have chores, we pay bills, we have responsibilities. Not many of us have time for play–and if we do play, we structure it like we do everything else in our lives.

This morning, the first thing Finny McCool did upon crawling from beneath the covers on my bed was go looking for his big buddy Shadow. They rolled around together under the kitchen table while I got their breakfasts. I took the big one outside for his morning constitutional, then the little one. As soon as we were done, they started playing again. They ran back and forth, first Shadow chasing Fin, then Fin chasing Shadow. Shadow played “drag the little guy around by his topknot” for a while; then Fin played “hang off the big guy’s ear.” When they finally needed a rest, the took it with Fin laying on my feet on the ottoman, Shadow on the floor as close as he could get to both of us.

Dogs are such simple creatures. It was a joy to watch them (I’ve moved the most breakable things out of their range, now–it’s like child-proofing a house!) and it made me think. What do I do for play?

Well, I don’t. At least, not anything that involves outdoor games, or running, or, well, playing. My mind plays while I write, though, and it plays as I surf the Internet, or read a good book. I guess you could say I play when I cook, too, since I truly enjoy serving food for myself and my family that’s delicious and pretty to look at.

But I need to find a form of play that will take me outside, challenge my mind and body, and allow me to work off excess energy. Because, yes, even in middle-age, even with rheumatoid arthritis, we all have excess energy. And if we don’t use it, if we suppress the need to move and laugh and be joyful for no other reason than that we’re moving and laughing, it’s lost. It trickles away in nervy, bouncing knees, or comes out as frustration over small defeats. It build up as a sort of low-level stress that, in the end, makes us unhappy and blue. And it exacerbates pain.

Today I’m thinking about possibilities for play. I have a jump-rope. I bought it for exercise, but putting that dull, adult word on something as fun as jumping rope made me pack the thing into a closet and forget about it. I’m going to get it out and do some jump-roping today. I’m going to play.

How do you play?

The guys tell me to get off my duff and play a little, too!

13 thoughts on “Playtime

  1. I hope you get the jump rope out and play! Recently I have been balancing on sidewalks, logs, playground equipment, etc. It makes me feel like a young girl and I LOVE it! When my young nephews were visiting I lead a game of “follow the leader” on playground equipment. I looked back and found my two nephews, my two children and my sister all following me. It was so fun! I guess I love playing with kids.

    Also, I enjoy throwing the ball to our dog Izzy, bike riding and taking nature walks when I can.

    Play is important. It really lets our mind free itself while we are burning that excess energy. Have fun!


    • I love that you’re playing, Cathy! I love that you’re feeling well enough, and that your RA is giving you enough of a break, to be ABLE to play! Dog walking is fun — I need to remind myself of that more often and change my thinking to perceive it as play rather than exercise. Finny DOES help me with that. He’s such a hilarious little dog! And while I’d really like to do some bike riding, our roads around here are dangerous for bikers. They’re narrow, twisty and have little or no shoulder-space. To ride a bike safely, I’d have to put one on my car and drive it down to a safe trail. Somehow that just doesn’t appeal very much.

      Oh, well. There are other forms of play. It’s been fun just trying to come up with some new ideas.


  2. I love to play in the swimming pool. Last night my son dug through the pool toys and found some diving rings. We then played an odd modification of ring toss, where I swam and tossed the rings in front of me. His goal was to aim the rings so that as I was swimming, my hand would slip right into the ring 🙂 Then I’d have to stop to give him back the ring and we’d do it all over again, back and forth across the pool.

    We have the horses, too, which I’m usually too tired to do anything with. I keep saying, “When I feel better,” but have started thinking this might be as good as it gets, so I’d better make the most of the time I have. Oh, that’s kinda a downer. Well, I still have the swimming pool 😉


    • Swimming is great for play! Unfortunately, I haven’t done any since I was a young adult — there haven’t been pools handy, and at some point in there I decided bathing suits+me+public places just didn’t mix.

      I rode horses when I was a teen and young adult, too, and I absolutely loved it. Rode bareback most of the time and enjoyed every aspect of keeping a horse, even cleaning stalls. I’d love to be able to ride again, but I’m a bit afraid of it these days, with the rheuma, the osteopenia, and the fact that at 53, I don’t bounce as well as I used to when I fall. Still… the very thought makes me nostalgic and wishful. What fun!


  3. I have always felt that having 2 dogs in the house is a little like having two 5 year old boys running around. Constant energy and play. Mine like to box in the living room. I’ve had to put a stop to that right quick.
    I have a degree in Rec Therapy so I completely agree with your thought that play is very important. I love to bike and take the dogs for long walks. Taking the dogs to the river so they can swim and retrieve is also good for them and me. I would think all of your gardening is a form of play….if you enjoy it that is.


    • Two dogs = two 5-year-old boys is a perfect analogy, Mary! I just had the one daughter, and a step-daughter, so this is new territory for me. I’ve had other dogs throughout my life, but these two are the most rambunctious I’ve experienced, at least when they’re together. I enjoy long walks with Finny — and he enjoys them, too, but I’m not quite up to walking Shadow so far. He’s extremely strong and hasn’t learned his leash manners yet. I’m planning to get both of them into training classes offered by our local city rec dept., but will have to wait a bit longer due to financial issues. Sigh… For Mr Wren, gardening is play. To me, it’s more like work, but very satisfying work. I love how the gardens look when they’ve been cared for and the walks and patios are kept swept and neat. It’s a little bit like an art project that requires a lot of perspiration to create. And of course, it’s never quite done.


  4. I hope you did get to jump rope! I used to love doing that as a little girl. To play, like Cathy, I love going to the playground and using all the equipment like I’m a child again. I love walking my dog, because he takes so much joy from it. I like chasing the cat around the apartment.


    • I DID jump rope, Ness! Not for long — apparently, this is one skill that isn’t like riding a bike — I kept tangling my feet up! So there’s a re-learning factor involved. I didn’t keep at it long enough to find out how jumping rope will affect my RA, but I’m going to keep trying. It was fun!


  5. I don’t know how you can keep a straight face with those two cutie pie dogs looking at you like that all the time. Maybe you should just get out in the yard and play chase the dog. You’d all get a kick out of that one.


    • They keep me laughing, Carla. Both of them are true clowns, and together they’re a riot (in all senses of the word, unfortunately). But they’re young, and they’re learning to be a little more civilized. Teaching them house manners has been a constant challenge so far, but they make me giggle so often I tend to forgive them their boo-boos pretty quickly.


  6. Play is so important as a distraction. We have two new kittens and they’ve been a wonderful therapy. What kind of dog is your long hIred one?


    • Finny is part Scottie and part miniature Schnauzer. Schnottie?? Whatever he’s called, he’s a hoot. Shadow is a Labrador Retriever/?? mix. Looks like the Lab was dominant, though. He’s a big, gentle, kind, friendly fellow. I call him “Cal,” short for Calamity, since he’s incredibly clumsy. 🙂


  7. I love your pic of the dogs by the laptop. I can just image the tail thumps and slight whining saying “well, come on – let’s go NOW!” But please be careful with that jump rope. I flinched when I first read that. I would have to put on wrist braces so I wouldn’t rotate my bad wrists and pad the handles so I wouldn’t squeeze too hard. My hips are okay, but the knees not so great. And jumping would play havoc on the balls of my feet even on carpet or soft grass. So, I could jump rope but I’d certainly pay a drastic price later. But for those who can do it – more power to you! – Teri


Comments are closed.