Filed under: Dogs, Philosophy, Ranching | Back to:
. . . with the dogs. My four blue heelers, cattle dogs, and I try to play ball every afternoon. At first, I did it for them, but over the years, I’ve realized that it’s for me too. Ball playing mid afternoon has become a habit and even if the animals don’t start barking, I know when it’s time to play. For several years when there were only three dogs, the hierarchy of who usually got the ball remained the same. The big mama dog, Cheyenne, had her bluff in on the other two and if she and another dog arrived at the ball at the same time the other dog receded and Cheyenne came back with it. Yet, as she has gotten older and arthritis has set in she has gotten the ball less and less. This is not because the others are now less afraid of her, but because she doesn’t run hard after every throw like she used to. She carefully selects when it is prudent to run and two or three times each day, she runs flat out even though she comes back limping. When she tries this hard I secretly hope that she has retrieved the ball. Hurray for Cheyenne, pictured at the very bottom. She feels good if she actually beats the others but doesn’t seem to enjoy it when I throw it directly to her.
The fourth dog, a male named Bruno, is the puppy who entered our game about a year ago. He’s rough and tough and often acts like a bully. When the older dog, Dixie, the first dog shown below, gets the ball, he chases her and nips at her all the way back to me. I’d whack him if I could catch him, but I can’t. After about four months of this, little Dixie has had all she can take. Yet, instead of giving up, she is becoming the aggressor. The other day when Bruno got the ball, Dixie nipped at him all the way back to me. Hurray for Dixie! Now when Dixie catches the ball and Bruno tries to bully her, she just stops and walks slowly back to me. Smart Dog!
The third dog, Frosty, is Cheyenne’s daughter and Bruno’s mother. She is the smallest and the fastest of all my dogs. She leaps high, has a good eye and runs like the wind. Of the four dogs, she is the one that doesn’t display any transgressions other than being wimpy when her mother growls at her. Good dog Frosty.
When Cheyenne gets the ball and is too tired or hurt to run for it anymore, she takes the ball in her mouth and goes into her dog house with it. She will not come out and bares her teeth if I come close or try to reach a stick into the house. The other dogs and I just look at each other. We’re not going in there!
I usually keep a second ball in my pocket for when Cheyenne steals the first one and goes to her house. The other dogs appear to appreciate this and rather enjoy playing for a bit without her. Eventually she comes out of the house and we end up with two balls in play. The dogs have now learned that you can’t get two balls in your mouth at the same time. It’s very disconcerting to them and they can’t figure out what to do when arriving at the ball just thrown and there’s already one in the mouth. The dog with this problem usually just stands with the ball in the mouth pressed against the ball on the ground until I arrive to retrieve them both. Heaven forbid that some other dog should get their catches!
Finally, Bruno figured out a plan about what to do when Cheyenne takes the ball toward her house. Yesterday, she took the ball and headed toward her house. I ran to try and head her off before she got there and Bruno rushed ahead and got in Cheyenne’s house. Smart Bruno! Boy was Cheyenne surprised! She considered getting in one of the other houses, but I had them covered. Cheyenne ended up bringing the ball back to the yard and playing with us. Hurray for Bruno!
While there are far too many dog/ball episodes to share with you at this time, I can point out a few specifics that I’ve learned from the afternoon exercise.
- You can be hurt and still work flat out if you are selective about what you want to do.
- Even when you are old and infirm, you still want to win fair and square without any pampering.
- When there’s no one who can help you with a bully, sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands.
- Good problem solving pays off even if you have to move into someone else’s space.
- It’s not becoming to put too much in your mouth at one time.
If you have a dog, pay attention. You might learn something too!