Zipper Plays “Fetch”

It is satisfying to see some self-determination and self-reliance in a dawg.  But to see such a thing could allow you to run the risk of hoping it is a sign that they will some day grow up and move away, though such motives do not normally inhabit the minds of most pet owners.  That a dawg will do well on its own bares consideration when you reflect on the plight of most strays in urban situations: those who do not find a keeper often lead difficult and rather short lives.

Even so, the hope that my dawgs will grow and develop the skills of self preservation so as to make a comfortable living for themselves on their own would be a delusion, as they certainly have it made here.  In some ways, they have the kind of job a lot of folks think they want, except that the restricted freedom of travel might grow tiresome for those of us who like to mosey about.  I’d say it is a given that those who lack wanderlust for random pathways are not likely to be reading this, so I figure you understand what I mean.

Here, the “puppies” (as they will remain in that state for the rest of their lives) have a routine.  Other than eating, sleeping and licking their privates, they have toys.  Lila is partial to the tennis ball, but Sir Benson Zipper Dee Doo Dah just likes to chase.  He will chase anything that moves: squirrels; rabbits, birds, a paper cup or plastic bag blowing across the yard, me, Brenda, and his kennel-mate, Lila Bea, who will always make the most out of a good chase.  But for her, it is just a way of getting attention.

My sons insisted that learning to retrieve tennis balls must be a part of any self-respecting dawg’s education along with catching and retrieving a Frisbee.  Somewhere along the way, I’ve gone to listening to the advise of my children with all the fees associated with their experience taking mine.   Schooling began with all of the successes you’ve learned to expect from my endeavors: they ate the Frisbee.

Earlier, I’d mentioned that they eat the jackets off the tennis balls, and they do.  But first (again consistent with what I’ve told you), they play a very rough version of football not sanctioned in any conference or league.  I throw the ball (equivalent to the kickoff), and they run after it.  The first one there tries to go all the way with it while the other dawg tries to tackle them.

The way they interpret the sport, all fumbles and interceptions are fair game, and there is never a flag on any play.  The game goes back and forth across the yard: sometimes Lila has it; sometimes Zipper.  Nobody keeps score.  Whenever they bring the ball to me, I pass out a dawg biscuit and kick off again.  This continues until either the dawgs or I get distracted.

If you throw anything, Zipper is on it, especially a ball or a stick.  If a storm were to knock down a tree, I’m certain he would retrieve it and drag it all over the yard.  “Fetch” is an outdoor game, but Zip brings it inside.  It makes no difference that we block the entrance for sticks, bones and other yard toys: Zipper has a stash of other playthings inside.  His favorite toys are two hard rubber balls that are kept in a toy basket by the living room sofa.

We’ve found it necessary to only purchase the rugged harder chew-toys as they will eat the softer ones right away; medium hardness takes a little longer, but not much.  A rubber chicken with an imbedded “squeaker” met its demise shortly after being introduced to the dawgs: they chewed off and ate its head and neck, and the feet looked like those of an extremely weary traveler.

As soon as Zipper is let into the house, his first order of business is with the toy basket.  Barely slowing down from a full gallop long enough to snag one of the balls, he’s off again like a mountain goat putting feet on every piece of furniture in the house.  He jumps, bounds and prances like a spirited race horse doing everything he can to coax others into the game.

This has set a precedent: caution must, and therefore is required when placing anything (coffee cup, flower vase, a pair of glasses, etc.) on any surface lower than eye-level (ours–not his).  That it is required means that we don’t always do so, and consequenses occur now and then.

There is now a well worn path across the den floor, up the stairway, zigzagging transversely over all carpeted and linoleum surfaces, end tables, coffee table, chairs and sofas.  After he has exhausted the games expected out of his toys, he will take one of the hard, slobber-coated rubber balls to my bed and buries it there to aid and improve my sleep-comfort.

Do not get in his way.  He ignores all proper road signs, taking a fairly flippant attitude towards stop bars and signs at all intersections and junctions.  He’d fit right in with Atlanta traffic, because here, all laws (regarding speeding; reckless endangerment, use of signals, observance of posted signs, following too closely, and other common courtesies set to code) are only mere suggestions, unless you manage to inconvenience someone with a badge.  The risk is increased exponentially where fines represent a significant percentage of local revenue.  Otherwise, drive as you wish (which seems to be the practice of most, including those with badges).

Sometimes trucks need to turn right or turn left.  It is to be expected; most vehicles—even motorcycles face that now and then.  Junctions and intersections supervised by stop signs and traffic semaphores often have a “stop bar” notated by a highly visible solid white line painted across the lane.  The intent of the device is to have vehicles stop behind it leaving ample room for turning cars and trucks, and in many cases to keep vehicles from blocking dedicated pedestrian crosswalks.  Besides being the law, it is a courtesy; both law and courtesy being generally ignored by other than a few.

Recently while driving a large truck, I faced a situation requiring a left turn.  The light was green, so I proceeded to a point where I had to stop, thus blocking the entire intersection.  This is customary when you drive a truck, because if you wait politely until everybody else goes home, you’ll get nothing done unless your workday only consists of between 2:30 and 2:45 AM, and then only on some very lightly traveled side road.

There was a car in my way that was fully passed the stop bar.  It was inches from being directly under the red light facing that lane.  It was a police car.  I looked down and smiled as soon as eye contact was made.  There was nothing conciliatory or apologetic in the face of the other driver: she just looked up at me and signaled with that sigh of disgust so visible that hearing it wasn’t necessary.  Then, with barely a glance rearward, the policewoman threw it into reverse and lunged backwards not an inch any further that she had to.

Slowly I eased by, being ever-so-careful not to hit her car, and looking for renewed eye contact so I could nod a “thank you”.  She never looked back up.  As soon as my truck was able to make the turn, she immediately (with maybe an inch of clearance to spare) pulled forward right back into the previously held position in front of the stop bar even though her light was still red.  While I did not break the law, I fully expected to get some kind of citation for having inconvenienced her.  But I didn’t get one.  I know such events are rare, but I am living proof of an exception to the norm.

I thought a lot about that sigh all day.  You often see it gushing forth from people you feel no empathy for whatsoever: their circumstances being routine, and their pathetic plea for sympathy superficially rendered.  I mentioned it to others, and everybody I talked to did recognize the behavior right away, and understood exactly what I was recounting.

Though both men and women in these conversations attributed the behavior to be noticed more often in women, I’ve experienced it to be cross-gender.  People actually seemed to enjoy talking about it: the pitch of their voices would rise, and most offered accountings of their own familiarity with the situation.  Descriptive nouns for those who regularly used such expression came up: spoiled brat; selfish and impatient (person), and others.

I deliberated more on the subject the next day.  Between thinking funny thoughts and slurping coffee, I gave thought to the possible origin of this phenomenal set of manners (or lack of them). I kinda wrapped up, without waiting for any conclusive statistics from epidemiologists or other folks who study genetics, that  it is likely to be a learned trait rather than an inherited one.

My supposition (therefore not necessarily an axiom) is that the roots are in early childhood.  Most learn it from their mothers who are multi-tasking to the 7th or 8th exponent when the phone rings just as a dirty diaper walks into the room wrapped around a toddler who is supposed to be taking a nap.  Others learn it from fathers who otherwise should want to be attending to their own offspring, but are coveting a quiet personal moment with a drink and a newspaper story about other people playing games and getting paid for it.  It is no wonder why so many children grow up with such narcissism dominating the attitudes they often show to those around them.

My dawgs obey few stop signs unless vocal tones are intensified.  This has been pointed out to be entirely our fault since any idiot would know a dawg can be trained to obey an entirely silent set of signals.  Evidently, I’m not just any idiot, because these puppies think if my hand is up for any reason, there must be a biscuit in it.

Brenda reacts quickly whenever she  sees them about to jump on her (especially if her clothing has less than the appropriate amount of dawg hair on it).  With confidence, she’ll hold out her hand to imply “stop”, and yell with the experience of maternal authority:


For some reason, it works better for her than it does me.  My irresistible charm goes unnoticed by people generally, but dawgs sense it right away: I must smell like something they’d like to roll in.

Gestures and words are commonly used together in our culture. That hand signals dovetail so nicely with verbal expression sometimes makes you wonder how anybody with a cell phone can drive a car at all!  Well, guess what?  Some can’t.  Around here, it is normal to see a store that sells cellular phones, and an automotive body shop located in almost every commercial block.  Additionally, you’re likely to find a retailer selling pet supplies or grooming services within that same block.

There must be a correlation here, but it isn’t between the phones and the pets.  Dawgs don’t ever use phones; additionally, they are seldom cited for driver error when a wreck occurs (though frequently victimized in them).  A crazy segue here would be that maybe we should let the dawgs drive.  But if mine ever get behind the wheel, I’m staying off the road…especially if it’s Zipper.

Sir Benson Zipper Dee Doo Dah rushes head-strong through all intersections without regard for oncoming traffic or right-of-way.  It is particularly true if his little red rubber ball is in play.  He will bring it to you, and you are to throw it again and again as often as he retrieves it.

This will continue until you stop, at which time he will carry the ball to the top of the stairs…and throw it for himself!  I maketh not this up: he throws the toy down the stairs; runs to the landing and retrieves it back to the top of the stairs where he repeats this over and over fetching it each time and retrieving it to himself.  He is the only dawg I know that can, and chooses to play fetch solitaire.

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Betty on March 8, 2010 at 2:31 am

    Hurrah!!! You’re lucky! Smokie is selfish…. He will not bring the ball back to you. He keeps it! Don’t dare try to get it back.He says” it’s mine!”


  2. Posted by little d on March 8, 2010 at 2:46 am

    “Never underestimate the ability of those who under spell of good times, continue to have them.” ( Sir Benson Zipper Dee Doo Dah & Lila Bea & company )

    Tequila for example never acknowledges the cost to the worm, but is included in the price nonetheless. The salt and lime were then necessarily sacrificed in good taste …

    In the world of wrinkles Van, I’m impressed.


  3. Posted by Wayne Casasanta on March 8, 2010 at 3:13 am

    Van, you must be very proud to have such high functioning pets as part of your family. I would actually prefer a stuffed animal that does not drool. I do enough of that, while I am sleeping or also while waiting in line at the Beacon.


  4. van, i think u should check into becoming a contributing columnist for magazines or newspapers.
    Very entertaining!!!!


  5. Reckon they have a good dental plan?
    I am sure my teeth would be gone in short order with that kind of activity.
    That kind of energy may be nice to have, but it would probably be difficult to take a nap in the afternoon.


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