For some time now, I have meant to bring a camera with me again on the morning walk. But I am already loaded down with stuff--house key, mutt mitts, tennis ball, treat bag, Rosie--and before you know it I am out of pockets.
But it turns out that I was, once again, being quick to judge and completely wrong. Chuck-its are great because of their throwing power. When I throw the tennis ball by hand, it only goes so far. Rosie is so fast she overshoots it, has to put the brakes on, kicks up dust, circles back. She barely gets a head of steam going when she has to stop.
But the Chuck-it--man oh man does the tennis ball fly. So in the mornings now we have been walking over to the ballfields in the park (where it is illegal to have a dog off leash, and where Doug and I once got a very expensive ticket from a swaggering Park Policeman when we were playing ball with Toby). Rosie knows what's going to happen; she gets squirmy excited. I unhook her leash, stuff it in my last pocket. Grab the Chuck-it in both hands and let fly. The ball absolutely sails, and so does she.
Agility was not Rosie's thing. She gave it a good try, she had some fun, but there was no passion there; she was dutifully trying to please me. But chasing the tennis ball--that is her thing. She tears across the field after the ball, scoops it up, races back. We are still working on "drop it"--sometimes she does, and sometimes she does and then grabs it again before I can pick it up. And sometimes she just hangs on. So I give her a treat, and she lets go, and I up-chuck the ball (you know what I mean--pick it up with the Chuck-it) and send it sailing down the field again.
Rosie is not Toby. Toby was part border collie, and so he was a little bit obsessed. He would chase the tennis ball single-mindedly, no matter where he was. He ignored other dogs, people, cars, food, rabbits, squirrels. The ball was his prey.
(He even chased a ball off a cliff once; here's the story.)
Rosie would never chase the tennis ball off a cliff. Rosie gets distracted; there is often garbage on the field, and she must examine it. This morning there were seagulls, swooping and screaming at the far end, and she ran down to say hello. A few mornings ago a young man was kicking a soccer ball the perimeter of the field; she kept glancing at him as she ran and finally could stand it no longer; she ran down and dropped the ball for him, and he petted her on the head and threw the ball my way, and Rosie ran back to me, satisfied.
Earlier this week, the sun was just rising as we played; in the golden light you could see the steam rising off her black fur as she pelted toward the bouncing ball. It would have made a gorgeous picture. Lately we have encountered a solitary turkey as we head out on our walk after playing ball; he trots across the path from one patch of woods to another, or he scuffs along in the dead leaves among the trees. We see hawks: a sharp-shinned hawk zooming like a dart across the path right in front of us; a puffy red-tailed hawk perched on the pergola by the frog pond, waiting for prey.
No photos. No camera. You will have to stop and imagine the pictures in your head, these lovely images from these golden autumn mornings: A hawk in a tree. A gull wheeling and screeching above an empty soccer field. A turkey waddling through the underbrush. And a little black dog, running for all she's worth toward the rising sun.