Wednesday, October 5, 2011
My dog Ginger has this orange and blue ball that she LOVES to chase and retrieve. Or I should say “had.” Let me start over:
My dog Ginger HAD this orange and blue ball that she loved to chase and retrieve. Two days ago we were at Edgerton Park and I was throwing grounders and line drives designed to speed by her head. (She seems to get most into the game when I can get the ball to pass within inches of her open mouth—or maybe that is just something I do to keep the game interesting to me?) Anyway, two days ago I was using our Chuckit! Ball thrower with Ginger and our other little dog, Lotti, when disaster struck.
Another thing Ginger likes is when I throw the ball high up into the air. She often loses sight of the ball, but over time she has developed an outfielder’s instinct for where the ball should come down. She does the instantaneous calculations ballplayers do and, based on the speed of my arm, the angle of the ball thrower at point of release, the wind speed and direction and the million other factors that determine trajectory, Ginger is able to position herself very near the spot this orange and blue ball will come down and begin its bouncy trip into her mouth.
Monday afternoon we were in the upper field at Edgerton when I let rip a high, arcing throw designed to take the ball over a 70 foot white pine and down on the other side. Ginger was already on the far side of the tree and she saw me launch the ball. Lotti was halfway between me and Ginger and she also saw the throw and, being a puppy and new to ball throwers, she had a rudimentary sense of where the ball might come down. THAT it would come down she had no doubt. Neither did I and neither did Ginger.
Yet, the ball did NOT come down. I had not put quite enough muscle into the throw and the ball entered the top branches of the tree and somehow stuck there. It was simply, silently, and tragically swallowed up by the tree. The three of us must have looked pretty comical with our heads back at 50-degree angles and our mouths agape. I knew what happened right away and Lotti had no idea at all. But poor Ginger. As a five-year old with LOTS of ball experience, she knows a thing or two about gravity. She also knows about object permanence. Mostly, Ginger knows that what goes up MUST come down.
It was clear from Ginger’s reaction that her faith in the laws of physics was shaken that day. She sat staring up at that tree for a long time. Then she started walking around the field, sniffing for the ball as if maybe it HAD come down but she had just missed hearing or seeing it. Every once in a while she would stop and look up with the oddest expression on her face. When it was time to leave the park she kept looking back over her shoulder with the same quizzical expression.
She has not been the same since that afternoon. She has always been a confident dog, moving through the world with grace and ease. Now, there is a hesitancy, a seeming loss of faith in the order of the universe. Because one day, her favorite ball went up into the air and IT NEVER CAME DOWN.