Ah, the sweet smell of dirt. The sand shifts beneath his playful moves. Rocks and sticks are collected or discarded. Our very active border collie dog, Max, constantly reminds us of the joys of using our senses with nature. His energy is contagious when he is distracted by the sights and sounds as he enjoys the messiness of nature.
We talk, we walk and enjoy some moments of silence to take notice of what’s around us. He leads us off down unintended paths. If he stops to sniff rocks and plants we let him, if he bounds off to curiously check out the birds we laugh and wait (although this is problematic at the half-way mark of our outing when he’s meant to be waiting patiently at our café coffee-stop near the beach!).
Living in the outer urban sprawl of city suburbia with twins who are easily attached to their technology screens and busy schedules, we would probably have seen less of the light of day over the last ten years if it wasn’t for Max. If our dog is ever bored, like a young child, his actions reflect his mood. He searches for something interesting to play with. He brings the outdoors inside to get our attention: a stone to throw up and catch repeatedly, sticks held between his paws to chew on, a collection of leaves stashed beneath his bed secretly kept for later.
Max seems happier and more energised when he has found something unexpected and is given time to explore what to do with it. New places and spaces excite him. He reminds us that there is joy and creativity in mess, but I would much prefer the unpredictable mess of a medium sized dog with farming instincts to be kept outside. And Max is definitely happier if he can be outside with his found treasures too. But if the doors are shut and there is a barrier to his outdoor antics, he lies about with sad eyes, nose to the ground and flat out like a door mat or trots off to look for something to be destructive with: to raid the kid’s bins of tissues and paper or to chew on a tasteless cardboard toilet roll. He must listen to me tell the kids that there is no such thing as boredom, “ If you think you have nothing to do then be curious, explore and investigate what’s around you,” I continuously say; however, Max’s uninterested mood tells us that his indoor finds are an uninteresting and lonely pastime.
At the beach, Max and the kids dig holes to sit in and cool off. They run from the sprays of dug-up sand and come out shaking water from being dunked by waves. Max is always apprehensive with fear to try again, but the kids call in excitement and they all go rushing back into the water together for more fun. If Max chases the birds, the kids join in. They learnt to swim a bit faster to avoid his thrashing dog-paddling paws and turned it into a game of chasie. It’s always calming to lose track of time and get lost in unpredictable moments. Even the not-so-good-ones like when dogs at a dog beach think you are a tree and relieve themselves! Whenever we’re near the smells and sounds of the beach, we remember those funny fragments in time – the senses will do that to memories.
Even before we had a dog, the kids still enjoyed outdoor places and experiences but I’m forever grateful that in our increasingly busy lives, our pet reminds us of the need to observe each other’s moods, be aware of how we’re feeling and motivate each other to get up and outdoors together to experience the imperfections of life.