A unified theory of dogs jumping into leaf piles
A warm October across North America pushed back this year's fall foliage season by several weeks, meaning we've had to wait longer than usual for the corresponding spate of videos of dogs jumping into leaf piles. But at last they have arrived in all their glory:
Like pumpkin spice, dogs joyously flinging their bodies into leaf piles with no apparent concern for their physical wellbeing is an essential part of autumn. The videos of this activity are addictive, with an allure that goes beyond your regular run-of-the-mill dog video, even surpassing the venerable genre of dogs-greeting-their-owners-after-they-return-from-war. Watching dogs throw themselves into heaps of dry foliage is to witness a singular kind of unfiltered ecstasy, the levels of which we cannot replicate on our own.
To be blunt, part of what makes watching dogs jump into leaf piles so great is that jumping into leaf piles, as a human, is pretty awful.
The experience of jumping into leaves is mostly gross: You end up covered in rotten vegetation or spiders, and if the leaf pile isn't sufficiently gigantic, you just belly-flop on the lawn. Such outcomes do not concern a dog, though, which will toss its body into a leaf pile with enviable abandon:
After all, don't we wish we enjoyed jumping into leaves as much as these good boys? Leaf jumping is the kind of idyllic fall activity, like apple picking, that seems great in theory and maybe even looks fun on television, but turns out in practice to kind of suck. First you have to rake up all the leaves, then hurl your body into the assembled pile (which will inevitably not be padded well enough), and then after all that effort you have to rake back up the leaves you displaced.
Let me stop you right there, leaf jumping apologists. Yes, you still have to assemble and then reassemble a leaf pile for a dog's enjoyment, but the payoff is far greater than the handful of bruises you'd receive for jumping in yourself. Just look at these pups and tell me you'd rather be the mammal doing the plunging:
On the subject of pile size: Some of the best videos involve dogs being entirely subsumed by leaves. Certain dogs will even spyhop like whales, poking their heads out of the pile to look around. This proves to be both amusing and another pleasure not afforded to humans, who would find wading through a 10-foot pile of leaves to be rather scratchy:
There is even a leaf jumping canine celebrity, Stella, who went viral again last week. There are clearly few things this Maine-based lab loves as much as leaves, and a scroll through her Instagram feed turns up dozens of videos of her posing in piles, swimming through piles, and popping out of piles over the years. Part of what makes Stella's videos so special is that for two years she was unable to enjoy leaf jumping because of a knee injury and TPLO surgery. Even though I can personally think of several thousand things I would prefer to do than jump in a leaf pile, it is heartwarming to know that Stella was able to return to doing what she loves.
Watching a dog flop around in a pile of decaying photoautotrophs, you can't help but admire how simple their lives must be. Perhaps the videos will even take you back to your own childhood, a time before you ever hurdled yourself into a leaf pile, when you had only yet imagined how great it might be: The potential ecstasy of the leap, the soft cushion of the landing, the rush of the woodsy smell of autumn.
There is a moment in these videos — when the dog is in mid-flight, its legs tucked, its tongue lolling, its goofy eyes anticipating impact with a wall of dead leaves — that I even forget jumping into a pile of leaves is kind of terrible. In that split second, I am just like the dog: suspended in happiness.