Have you ever heard the old adage “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? It is the mantra of my perky Pomeranian, Peanut Pumpkin Pie, except her version is a bit more personal and goes something like “All work and no play makes my mommy a dull girl.”
I never truly appreciated the statement or its deeper meaning until Peanut became a part of my life almost 10 years ago….back when I was in the throws of college, trying my darnedest to become an engineer. I certainly didn’t grasp its importance to a little fluff ball that was small enough (at the time) to fit into the palm of my hand.
I had always done well in school and rose to whatever challenges were laid at my feet, so when I was offered the opportunity to return to school and get my degree, I chose the most challenging curriculum I could find. Big mistake. It is not that I floundered when faced with the rigors of a top engineering program; it was quite the opposite really. It is just that 9 classes a semester proved a daunting load, and I quickly redefined the concept of what “dull” really meant. I became the poster child for the word and lost my sense of joy in the process.
Peanut was 6 weeks old when she came home with me over Christmas vacation. She was my gift to myself. She was an old soul, even as a baby. It is what people said of me when I was her equivalent age. She was quiet….watchful….ever mindful of the world around her. She did not scamper with her brothers and sisters or pull my shoe laces like countless other little ones had done that I had looked at and walked away from. She did not wander off disinterested by the boring stranger who came to visit her on a whim. She just sat on the hard, concrete floor, watching me.
It was as if Peanut was trying to decide something about me; trying to determine what she would do next; trying to determine if I was worthy of her efforts. She was 4 weeks old when we first met, and yet there was something so infinitely wise about her. I knew that first day I could never love another dog the way I loved her. I knew it when she walked over and asked me to pick her up. I knew it when she looked deeply into my eyes and put her nose to mine. I knew from that first spark of understanding that kindled a passionate love between us that my heart belonged to her, and I would do her bidding for the rest of her life.
Over that Christmas break we bonded. We played and scampered the way new mommies and their fur babies do. We laughed more than I had laughed in some time. She helped me heal from the pain of loss of my Snoopycat some three months before. It was a magical time. I didn’t want it to come to an end. But reality came crashing back upon me, and I knew I would soon be leaving for school once more with little Peanut in tow.
Near the end of that break when the restart of the semester was fast approaching, my dad told me a secret to lasting happiness with Peanut. It was a secret I would never forget. Peanut and I were cuddling; all smiles and messy hair and fluffy fur. It was early morning, and we were avoiding the responsibilities of the day. Peanut and I would be packing up our things and heading back toward campus together. I wasn’t looking forward to leaving, but in my heart I knew it would be different than it had been before. This time I would not be alone in my little home away from home. I relished the idea of having my new little love with me, especially with as hard as the first part of the semester had been.
The truth is, sometimes our daydreams don’t always fall in line with our reality. I felt gushy holding Peanut in my arms in the safety of my real home, far away from the stresses of school, but my father knew me. He knew I was hard-working, focused, driven to do well. He knew how stressed I had been when I had come home and how very near the breaking point I had come. It wasn’t enough for me to have a distraction to take my mind off of my school work. I now had a commitment to Peanut, and the choices I made as a result of that commitment would determine how our relationship would develop from that day forward.
His words were simple. “You know honey, Peanut will spent the rest of her life waiting for you. Every ounce of love and devotion she has will be yours from now until the day she dies. It will never waver. It will never end. The least you can do is try to give her your best in return.” The secret sounded simple, but it wasn’t until I was in the midst of the worst series of exams that I got the meaning of it all.
I arrived back at my apartment after a grueling 4 hour exam. I had less than two hours to eat, rest, and prepare for my next exam which was threatening to be worse than the one I had just left. I was frazzled to a bare, bloody nub. Peanut sensed my stress the moment I walked through the door. Her old soul told her I needed her. We went for a potty walk, but that was all I “had time for”. Peanut, in her miniature, infinite wisdom, knew better. Playtime was always the best medicine. She brought me a toy from her corner of the bed. It was her favorite toy. Her giant elephonky. The one that was three times as big as she was. She dragged it over to me and began to gut it with great enthusiasm, right on top of my textbook.
My nerves were raw. Couldn’t she see I was busy? Couldn’t she see I was stressed? I was too stressed for her games, so I set her on the floor with her toy and gave her a chewy stick. Certainly that was enough.
Then I saw it. The secret my father shared with me slipping away from me as two shiny black eyes stared at me over the edge of the bed. Two wise little eyes that had only wanted to help make things better for me. Two hurt little eyes that didn’t understand why I had rejected her. Now it was my turn as I watched little Peanut….to make a decision about which path I would take. Peanut had chosen me when she was no more than an infant; now here was my chance to choose her with all my adult years to guide me.
I closed my textbook, laid it aside, and slid to the floor with my little furry miracle. Peanut and I played for a long time together. We ate lunch on the floor, nibbling from the same plate. We cuddled for some time, and I studied with what time was left over; while Peanut slaughtered an assortment of over-sized stuffed animals against my thigh. It was a great afternoon; the best of that semester. I can’t remember how I did on the exam that day. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. My greatest lesson and hence my greatest gift was found in the eyes of my wise little girl.
Peanut and I have weathered some pretty hefty storms together. Some worth mentioning; some not. One thing I will say is this. I made the right choice that day. I continue to make that choice every day I have with Peanut, and I listen to the silent wisdom that comes from her shiny black eyes. I am long since out of school, but there are still times when I work from home, whether slaving away at my day job or crafting away at my novels. Regardless of which avenue I am pursuing, Peanut is always there to remind me it is time to take a break and play. I have yet to turn her down. I have yet to say no. The giant elephonky is still her favorite toy of choice.
I guess you might say, with Peanut, life is never dull, but then again, I chose to never let it be so from the day she walked into my life. I let her love be my comfort, and I have yet to regret that decision. May the same be said of all the relationships in my life that matter – that I never fail to put them first in my heart or life and that I never forget to make room in my day for “play time” with the ones I love the most.