Play Ball

030My Seeing Eye ® dog, Dora, is panting at about 10 pants per second, not because of the hour long walk we just took, or the hot weather, but we just played a round of ball in the back yard. It goes like this. I sit on a lawn chair, but I don’t get too comfy. Dora drops the ball into my lap. She lets go of reluctantly, but she knows if it’s going to go anywhere, she’s going to have to give it up. “Drop it,” I say, and she finally does. I stand up and throw it as hard as I can, but it doesn’t go very far, because I throw like a girl, and my back acts like an old woman. But Dora doesn’t care. She races after it and often catches it before the first bounce. Unlike any other dog I’ve had, she then rushes back to me, slamming into my knees, as if she’s going too fast to stop, like sliding into home plate. Then I coax her to drop it into my lap again, pick up the slimy thing again, stand up and pitch it into the back yard. Each time, she barrels into me with the fervor of a 9-year-old making his first home run. We do this routine about 50 times before she begins to slow down. It’s amazing to me that this creature who acts like her very life depends on getting that ball back to me in record time is the same creature who guides me safely across the street. But everybody needs a break from the seriousness of life. Even the President of the United States gets wrapped up in a soccer game. What is it about a man and a ball or a dog and a ball? I know, I know, girls like ball games too. But aside from wiffle ball, when I was a kid, I’ve never been very excited about team sports. Skating, skiing, cycling, and hiking have always been more to my liking. But I have to say that playing ball with Dora brings me a whole lot of joy. When I fasten the jingle bell onto her collar, so I can hear where she is in the back yard, and I say, “Want to play outside?” she gets so excited, she can hardly contain herself. It’s not the ball itself. It’s not watching Dora run free. It’s the interaction between us that’s just for fun.

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