It was all quiet on the eastern front. I’d been flinging the Green Ball into the ocean for Kemba to retrieve for a good 45 minutes now, and he was happy to follow my command to “read and relax.” I was comfortably leaning back in my sand chair, book spread open on my lap, and my good boy had dug out a neat little nest right at my feet. Just a few beats later I noticed his ears perk up in high alert; then he sprung to attention. Which could only mean one thing: Grace had leaped over the dune, and was on the way!
And I know, all too well, that the next skirmish in the Battle for the Green Ball, which has been raging all summer, is about to begin.
Reacting to the approach of his adversary, Kemba snatches up the squeaky Green Ball, which — prior to Grace’s arrival — he was perfectly content to leave sitting some 10 feet away in the sand. Now, however, that same Green Ball is the most important thing — the only thing — in his world. I try to get off one throw before the competition is upon us, heaving it toward the surf, but Grace, who has the closing speed of an All-Pro NFL cornerback, somehow emerges with the ball despite Kemba’s 30-yard head start.
I manage to re-capture the ball from her jaws, and this time I give Kemba a different kind of advantage: I heave the ball deep into the surf — way out there. Both dogs are strong swimmers, but Grace is a touch more cautious about diving in, and that tiny hesitation allows my boy to retrieve the next three tosses. But enough of this hanging back, is what Grace is obviously thinking: From that point on, she’s leaping the waves before Kemba has even hit the water, and once again, it’s no contest.
But it’s what Grace does after securing the ball that’s remarkable. She prances around in the sand, with her dainty pure-bred gait, circling right in front of me, then right in front of Kemba, with the Green Ball protruding temptingly from her jaws. And then she sets the Green Ball down in the sand and begins digging a hole in which to hide it. She is so clearly saying: Come and get it boys, if you dare. If dogs could be flagged for taunting, Grace would easily lead the league in penalty yards.
Grace — did I mention? — is a Vizsla belonging to our next door neighbors, John and Malcolm. (You met her last summer in a “My Pals” post by Kemba.) And
Vizslas just happen to be the third fastest dog breed in the world — right behind Greyhounds and Salukis. So there’s no shame in Kemba losing a footrace to Grace. But does she really have to rub it in like that?
Her owners are constantly apologizing for her sassy behavior. “She’s a spoiled, only child,” Malcolm will say. “She really needs to learn to play well with others.” John will fake a throw, getting the speed demon sprinting in one direction, and then gently toss it in the other direction to Kemba, who’s in on the plan. But Kemba and I both recognize this for what it is: a “pity throw.” Not fair. No fun.
You might ask: Why not bring one ball for each of them? Why not bring several toys? But if you think this’ll work, then you don’t know dogs. I could bring down a hundred balls. But to Kemba and Grace, the other 99 will be invisible. Only one ball exists. The Green Ball.