Swept Up Into Joy

There is something infectious about ebullient bounce and exhilaration.

Glynn Cardy
Glynn Cardy

Swept Up Into Joy by Rev Glynn Cardy

Like with children, it seems each phase of Mr Finn’s life is different, asks different things of me, and brings with it delightful surprises. Finn is a Red Golden Retriever.

While we travelled overseas recently, he had a lovely holiday on a farm outside Dannevirke, with his mother, sister, half-sister, two other dogs, and two of his favourite humans. When we reunited Finn had learnt some new tricks, some new good behaviours, and one that he quickly realized wasn’t going to happen here. His diet was more varied, and he was more interested in food. Maybe living as a dog family of six does that to you.

So we now have a new routine, with two sessions, morning and night (meal sessions in effect), where he ‘heels’ beside me and stays put while I throw a ball across the lawn, that lands where he can’t see it. Then, after a ‘fetch’ command, with high excitement, and a bound over the retaining wall and hedge, he seeks out the ball, tail wagging furiously, and returns to receive on the ‘give’ command a food treat. Finn can do this until my arm falls off from throwing or, as is usually the case, we run out of treats. So in each session, of about 20 minutes duration, Finn would do 30+ sprints and jumps.

Compared with putting food in a bowl (what one trainer calls ‘free food’) these sessions need some more organization. Like preparing treats (including raw broccoli and cooked pumpkin). Like equipment (ball, treat bag, boots). Like dressing for the weather (especially the cold).

Such a session at 6.30 a.m., when the winter sky is beginning to lighten, and some frost can be on the ground (like last week), receiving the wet slobbered tennis ball in one hand and rewarding with food hoovered up by a wet tongue, leads to one’s hands chilling to the point of being painful.

I also will mention, only in passing, that our ordered suburban lawn regularly mown and irregularly manicured now resembles, courtesy of the winter wet and someone’s racing exuberance, something of a paddock. Tidiness is one of the causalities of joyous buoyancy; ask any parent of whatever species.  

While there are some commands and needed correct dog behaviours in this, Finn’s twice daily routine, it is not really a training session as such. (Finn has other training sessions). It’s more like a fun session. Doing something with him that he immensely enjoys. And I, roused from my sleepy state by 35 kgs of enthusiasm, repetitively throwing and commanding (and trying to remember the order of commands), get drawn into his enjoyment until it becomes my enjoyment too.

There is something infectious about ebullient bounce and exhilaration. And, despite whatever mood I’m in when I awake that morning, whatever weighty matters or not I might be pondering, whatever worries or not I might be carrying, I’m swept up into the joy that is radiating from this dog fetching a ball. When I return to the kitchen later, with slimy and freezing hands to wash, there is usually a smile on my heart.

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