Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another Post About The Dog

One of the things Tilly loves is chasing a tennis ball. She'll run after it in the house. She'll drop it out of her mouth, let it bounce and catch it. If she wants you to play, she'll walk up and plop a tennis ball soggy with dog spit right onto your lap--or your face if you're lying down and that's quite a wake up call, I must say. If she can't guilt you into playing with her, she is quite content to careen around the house chasing after the ball like a doggy version of the ball in a pinball machine. What I'm getting at is the dog is a wee bit obsessed with chasing a tennis ball.

The only time these days that she gets off the leash outside is when I'm throwing the tennis ball to her. She has her game face on the minute she hits the patio step. She walks forward, but is looking back at me, intently focused on the ball in my hand. She is single-minded. When I throw it, she is off like a shot after it. Sometimes she anticipates the throw and beats the ball to its destination and then turns around in tight little circles looking for it. She is fast, y'all. Now, the shelter put her down as a Lab mix. (Better than half the dogs we saw in the listings were listed as part Lab. Either those Labs are really gettin' around and gettin' their freak on, or the shelter people are just looking at a dog and saying "Put Lab mix on there. Everybody likes Labs! It'll move the dogs out quicker if we say part Lab.") I can see a bit of it in her coloring and her ears, but I don't know, she's mostly mutt, I think. After watching her run and looking at her body shape, however, I'm inclined to think that there is Whippet somewhere in her (quite shallow) gene pool. So mutt+Whippet=?? Yup. I've taken to calling her a Muppet. Somehow it fits.

Anyway, Tilly the Muppet Dog chases the balls, catches them and promptly returns them to me. Every time. Then she waits, tensed, for me to throw again. There is very little that distracts her when she is playing tennis ball outside. She has never run off while we were playing ball. Uh-huh. You all know where this is leading, right?

Saturday, I was playing tennis ball in the back yard with her and she had just dropped the ball at my feet for the umpteenth time and was ready to run again, when all of a sudden, she cocked her head and ran! And of course, her favorite place to run to is the one neighbor that can't stand her. Fortunately, the Fates were smiling on us. No children were outside to chase after her, Patrick was on a ladder in the front yard painting the trim, and I had not only the precious tennis ball, but several treats in my pocket.

Pat saw her running and from the top of the ladder just started calling "Tilly, Tilly, Tilly," in his soft and silly Let's Play voice. Meanwhile, I squatted down at the upper edge of our driveway, calling Tilly and waving the tennis ball. She was stopped on the sidewalk two houses down and the look on her face was comical. She was all "Wait a minute, this isn't how we play this game! What's going on? Why aren't people running after me? And what's that in Crazy Bag Lady's hand? A tennis ball!? Oh, I am so torn! I want to run and prance merrily all over the neighborhood with a parade of people behind me, but--tennis ball!!"

And then, a bona fide miracle occurred, folks. I mean, the heavens opened, angels sang, little white doves where flying madly about. She came back! On her own. She started running for the tennis ball that I held out in my open hand. When she got to me, I gave her a treat and petted and praised her. And then I threw the tennis ball eleventy bajillion more times as a reward. Seriously. I am sitting here typing this one-handed because my arm fell off from all the ball flinging. Totally worth it too. Shoot, I'd let her fetch my arm if it would keep her coming back. (I wrote that to gross out my mother. I know it did too, because that's how she's wired. I shall be receiving a phone call later and hear about it. Heh.)

Now if this is any indicator of what the future with this dumb dog will be like, then I'd say, let the celebrating begin. Let's start by taking her out to "do her business" without a leash. But I'd like to think that my IQ is at least a point or two above the dog's, so she'll be staying on the leash for everything but playing tennis ball. But at least now I know to take a ball with me if when she runs away again.

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