What I Learned from Pixie

By Shlomo Maital

  We have a mixed-breed mainly-Yorkshire-Terrier dog named Pixie. She weighs 2.5 kg. (about 6 pounds).  Our daughter-in-law found her, as a puppy, abandoned in the streets of Tel Aviv, flee-ridden and hungry, brought her home, bathed her and posted her picture on the Web. We loved her at first sight.   She’s about a year old now and brings tons of laughter into our lives, a ton for every kilo of her body weight.

    What I’ve learned from Pixie, a little dog, is this.  Life is play.

    I’ve just come back from a long run and am sitting in the kitchen, resting and having a drink.  Pixie, of course, is right there.  She looks up at me, as she does always, and her expression says, let’s play!  Let’s play fetch (her favorite game).  When I fail to react, she solves the problem herself.  She finds a fragment of the bone she’s been chewing, grasps it in her teeth and with a toss of her head, flings it a few yards.  Then she chases it, and repeats the process.  She looks back at me, as if to say,  okay, lazy bum, if you don’t want to play, I’ll play anyway. 

   Pixie would be an adolescent, if she were human.  I am pretty sure she will remain playful for her whole life.  I hope so.   Let’s face it, life is work, mostly. But life is play, too – so, why do we adults (especially those of us approaching 70) forget how to play?  Why do young people think video games are actually play?  What IS play, anyway?  It’s just fooling around, with whatever is at hand (Pixie has been known to use pieces of leaves, anything available), imagining things, pretending, role playing, goofing off, doing things with no purpose other than to, well, just do them. 

       I sometimes watch a cable program called Dog Whisperer, with the amazing Mexican-American dog trainer Cesar Millan.  Millan says dogs need three things, in this order: Discipline, love, play.  That kind of sums up life for humans too, doesn’t it?  I confess – for Pixie, I provide, well, two of three.  Discipline?  Kind of hard for a dog no bigger than a teacup.  But play?  Pixie’s always ready to play. And increasingly, so am I.