The Bean Blog (currently on hiatus)

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Inconceivable Joy in the Open Field

He jumped out of the house and down the two stairs into the cool fall morning. He felt the air, brisk and strange, on the patches of his skin that had been made bare by a vet tech, preparing the areas for surgery. He blocked the cold air on his skin from his mind. He was very capable of blocking discomfort and pain from his mind.

There was a place where, months ago, he had gone every other day. It was two blocks from the house, and he pulled the woman behind him eagerly in that direction. Flashes of memories entered his mind. He remembered chasing the ball endlessly. He remembered hoping that it would never end, that the ball would keep going and going, and he would keep chasing it through soft grassy fields. Vaguely, he also remembered experiencing incredible pain in his right knee one time and another time in his left knee. Those events had not dampened his desire to chase the ball, and he remembered bringing it back to the woman, running on three legs. He remembered putting the ball at her feet and getting ready to chase it again. He remembered that she'd taken the ball, put on his leash, and said, "This can't be good."

After that, he'd been taken on walks, past the beautiful open field where his dream had been realized so often. He'd pulled on the leash, trying to go to the open field. He hadn't seen the woman pick up the ball, but surely there must be a ball there in his dream field. What was the point of the field without the ball? "No," the woman had said, resisting his pull. "We can't go there for a long time." And he had whined in his confusion and sadness.

As he got closer to the field this morning, the woman said, "I hope they're not really ticketing people for having their dogs off the leash now." He didn't understand her words, but he understood the slight anxiety in her voice. He felt anxious too. He felt anxious to start the game, and at the same time, he felt anxious that they would walk by the field as they had so many times in the past months and the game would not start at all.

As they turned up the driveway towards the field, the anxiety that they might not play the game faded away. He started raising his front legs up off the ground, nosing towards the little canvas bag on the woman's waist. That little bag held happiness in the shape of a yellow tennis ball.

And then they were there. They were at the field. It was open and wide and long. Its sole destiny was to have a ball sail over it, to have a ball bounce along its surface, to have a dog run on its soft grass and the leaves that had fallen from the trees.

The woman opened up the little canvas bag and pulled the yellow ball out of it. "You want this, do you?" she asked. He sat and quivered, his eyes locked on the ball. Trees could have fallen down around him. The earth could have opened up beneath him. Anything could have happened, but nothing could have shaken his focus on the ball.

She took the plastic thing and put the ball in it. His eyes raised 18 inches from her hand to where the ball now resided, yellow contained in purple. Then it was pulled back, and he turned and ran as fast as he could away from the woman. Seconds later, his eyes turned heavenward, he saw the ball descending in a beautiful arc 20 feet in front of him. The ball landed on the ground--bounce--and then it was up in the air again, and he was there, jumping, grabbing it in mid-air, and pleasure filled his body as he held the ball in his mouth.

His entire body relaxed, basking the in the joy that emanated from his heart. He turned around and headed back towards the woman. He still went at a good pace, but now that he had the ball safely in his mouth, he was not so frantic as before. When he arrived at the woman's location, he ran around her in a victory lap, sharing his profound happiness at having the ball again, before doing what he must do.

After a few seconds of thought, he put the ball down. He always looked up at the woman after that. He wanted the ball so much. He loved to chase it and get it and have it. But the only way to chase it and get it was to let someone else have it for a short time, and that was hard. After he placed the ball on the ground, he always looked the woman straight in the eye and he asked for her promise that she would throw the ball again. The game would go on forever, as long as she kept her promise. Experience had taught him that eventually, the woman--just like every ball-thrower he'd ever known--would break her promise and take the ball without throwing it.

He exacted the promise from her and then backed up a few steps, in the ready position. He watched her pick the ball up with that plastic thing, and then he felt anxiety overcome him as he waited to find out if she would, in fact, keep her promise this time.

Her arm went back, and his heart rejoiced as he turned to start running towards the ball. When he saw it again in front of him, descending from heaven, his tongue rolled out of his mouth, and he was thankful to be alive.

7 Comments:

  • Wow... the guy and the woman in this story have a really... special relationship. It's almost like "He" is a dog or something.

    By Blogger Newell, at 12:21 AM, November 07, 2004  

  • Yeah, it's almost like that.

    By Blogger Oz, at 2:45 PM, November 07, 2004  

  • Great narrative. I know it's a long shot, but I am still waiting for the day that my dear Miss Weenie figures out the nuance of the game of catch. We make it for one throw, and then she refuses to relinquish the ball. Game over. Slobbery ball, too.

    By Blogger Rita, at 10:11 PM, November 07, 2004  

  • I love reading your posts. Your quite an amazing writer.

    xxxoooooo

    By Blogger Vadergrrrl, at 11:14 PM, November 07, 2004  

  • Rita, I know exactly what you mean about a dog getting the ball but not bringing it back. I think they have to have that instinct bred into them. The problem of releasing the ball once they have brought it back has to be trained. When you think about it (and I tried to touch on this in my post) giving up the ball is counter-intuitive. The dog wants the ball, dies to get the ball and have the ball...so how can he be expected to just let it go? Alas, I got Chester from a shelter when he was 8 years old, and someone else had already done the work of teaching him to give the ball up, but I can still see the struggle he has with that part of the game. Finally, the reason I use the "plastic thing" (i.e. the Chuck-it! Jr.) is because of that slimey, nasty ball. The Chuck-it is designed so that you can pick the ball up with the Chuck-it and therefore you don't have to touch that disgusting ball of saliva. I can't recommend the Chuck-it enough--and then there's always the added bonus of the amazing distance you can throw the ball with it as well.

    Vader, Thanks, chica! I enjoy reading your posts, too. :)

    By Blogger Oz, at 8:16 AM, November 08, 2004  

  • I'm just curious, is that chuck-it thing to throw the ball further or what?

    By Blogger D.T., at 3:19 PM, November 08, 2004  

  • DT, It does two things. One is, yes, you can throw the ball much, much further. And that's great, especially with a dog like Chester who needs A LOT of exercise. But the best thing about the Chuck-it is that it's designed to pick up the ball from the ground, and you don't have to touch that nasty ball. I assure you, Chester works and works and works that ball in his mouth until it is literally covered in about a half an inch of slime. Not something that you'd want to touch.

    By Blogger Oz, at 3:44 PM, November 08, 2004  

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