Those who know me accept that I am a professional “Small Boy”. Even as I became a “responsible adult”, I always allowed the small boy to keep a tree fort in my heart. There, I’m enamored of Red Ryder BB guns, fishing poles, model rockets, and silly songs about “greasy, grimy, gopher guts”. The small boy comes out when the responsibilities of being an adult become wearisome, and need to be exorcised.
This small boy has a special memory that he still dreams about frequently. I will share with every puppy that I ever train. I have the help of my faithful minion, Hans, my aforementioned German shepherd in this educational process. He was the first recipient of my dream, and it’s most enthusiastic supporter.
I was in 3rd or 4th grade when the Scholastic Book Truck came to my elementary school, delivering unto me a colorful book called “Where The Wild Things Are”, by Maurice Sendak. This book ignited the fire that I tend to this day, nearly fifty years later. The fire is my ability to return to the freedom of being a little boy. I put on my imaginary Wolf suit, and enjoy a “Wild Rumpus” with my closest friends, my German Shepherds.
Hans has been in on the secret for most of his life, and he revels at the opportunity to join in the games. We go to the nearest open field and chase each other, play with toys, scare off flocks of geese, and whatever other mischief we can find. We wrestle and play tug-of-war with reckless abandon, play keep away, forgetting about the rules of proper canine/handler behavior. Mommy, being Mommy, has no patience for such shenanigans. But we forgive her because she’s not in a place to understand little boys.
During her puppyhood, we introduced our Holly to these secretive forays into misbehavior, because she had so much energy to burn. We knew that someday soon, when the estrogen began to hold sway, she’d betray us to Mommy. Such is the way of the feminine persuasion. Until then, she’s was one of us.
I firmly believe that dogs and little boys were created for each other by a loving God that designed the symbiotic need we have for each other. Such relationships are not possibly born of chance. Little boys love to wade in muddy rivers, and their loyal dogs will join them without hesitating. Chasing the leaves blown by autumn wind is not a frivolous pursuit, but teaches us to persevere in our favorite pastimes. Watching the clouds float by for no clear reason, teaches and reminds us that looking to heaven for the really important answers to the really important questions, is vital.
I cherish the “little boy” times that the dogs and I share. As an adult, I often rely on “experience” to make decisions and learn. The little boy learns things by jumping in with both feet, arms flailing, mud splotches appearing on as many surfaces as possible. It’s a tactile way of learning, marked by the bumps and bruises of enthusiasm and youth. It builds our bond in a singular manner, and will carry on into whatever years we have together. Now, as an adult, I know that the wild rumpus is the best part of being a little boy, but that the adult world views it as silly.
But for a little while every day, the dogs and I explore the place where my little boy lives. And I’m a better man for it. When we are finished, time to return to reality, I think of this line from Sendek:
“And [he] sailed back over a year and in and out and of weeks
and through a day and into the night of his very own room
where he found his supper waiting for him
and it was still hot”
I have the best of both worlds today, and I am a happy man.