By Guest Blogger Scott Rigdon, author of the blog Uncommonly Dad
Puppies at play. You can’t watch puppies at play without smiling. If you watch them closely, though, you’ll see that they’re actually fighting. They’re slowly gaining skills in agility, strategy, and combat, in a harmless way that allows them to practice all they want without sustaining any injuries. Survival skills they’ll need later in life.
When they’re puppies, they get all the fun with none of the risk. Sure, now and then, one nips a little too hard, or tackles with a little too much speed, and someone gets a yelp and some hurt pride. In essence, though, nobody gets hurt. It’s all in good fun. They really don’t yet even know what the risks or consequences might be if the play were for keeps.
When most people say ‘Puppy Love’, I think they’re referring to the way a puppy follows you around all starry-eyed at your awesomeness. I didn’t realize until recently that this is what most people mean when they use the term. I’ve always thought it meant the prior; all the fun and love that a puppy is afforded during play due to its youth, without any of the potentially devastating consequences that rough play may bring later in life.
Both of my kids are middle school now, and puppy love is afoot in our home! While I do worry about the potential for heartbreak, I also, every day, look forward to hearing the starry-eyed tails wagging. When I ask, “How was your day?”, I know I’m more likely to get a romantic story than anything academic. Honestly? I look forward to that every single day. It breathes some life back into my jaded old soul. I get to hear about who said what while flirting with whom, who is officially dating now rather than just flirting, etc. I get to hear the details of why this or that inside joke was funny, and to which group of friends it was funny. These are blessings, folks! I listen as intently to these tales as many people would listen to good stock market tips. The stock market can only get you money. Puppy love tales are good for the soul.
All too often, it seems that when I hear the term ‘puppy love’ used, it’s sort of… condescending in nature? As if it’s nothing but foolish? I see through you though… you’re all just jealous!!! I am. I can tell you that. Who wouldn’t give their left kidney to be able to go back and love absolutely purely without any thought to how that love might have consequences later in life due to career, mortgage, health, location, etc.? I’m a gentleman of more than Double-20 years I can tell you with absolute certainty that adults don’t do things that way anymore. Honestly I’m not sure why they don’t, but they don’t.
As adults, we have to factor in all sorts of things that slowly whittle away our prospects. Our pups themselves are heavily weighted in this equation… we don’t want to uproot them to move, we have to find the right person who will be the right influence on those pups. My career is likely based on this geographical location, hers another, etc. Adults always fight over money, which I’ll never understand, yet they do. Puppies don’t, and neither do kids.
Adults are always looking for that death blow that may come as a mortgage-to-the-jugular, a secretary-to-the-windpipe, an old-high-school-sweetheart-to-the-feels, that next big clash that could be the final straw, etc. I don’t know why it works that way, but that’s how it works with grown-ups. Kids don’t have those complications. They love who they love for the sole purpose of following their hearts, just like puppies at play are just following their instincts and enjoying every bit of the play between naps.
On top of all of that, the reality of the situation is that you really can’t explain to a puppy why it’s important to go for the throat, and to guard your own jugular, whilst wrestling about during play. Puppies just don’t understand that complexity, and no amount of explaining it is going to make the puppy understand. Same goes for our youth- even the brightest and most mature of youngsters are going to have to learn at least some of those lessons themselves.
Now don’t look so glum! It’s good news! You’re off the hook. Go ahead and get it out of your system, but just once, and say, “Hey Spot, you need to guard your jugular or a banker or secretary is going to get your 401K!” After you’ve wasted that breath, take another deep one, and enjoy watching the puppies play. Enjoy it a lot. Drink it in like fine wine, or if you’re old and jaded like myself, like Stoli on the rocks. In any case, stop worrying about it, don’t be condescending about it, and just… enjoy it! You know you’re just jealous anyway.