Keep An Eye On the Ball

Blue Heeler dogs are common on ranches because of their desire to have a job to do. Our dog Pepper is no exception. She loves to fetch.

Pepper is a Blue Heeler/Border Collie tennis ball fetcher. Baseballs and softballs aren’t chewy enough and footballs, basketballs, and soccer balls are hard to retrieve.

Our dog makes up her own rules for the game of fetch. The most important rule being that no other dogs are allowed to play with her. She lets them know that fetch is a one-dog game around here.

Pepper will use any means necessary to get someone to throw a ball, such as dropping a dirty, slobbery ball on a person’s shoes or lap—regardless of their attire; their lawn chair, or in a basket of clean, line-dried laundry. She knows that eventually the person will get annoyed or mad and throw it.

Chewing and slobbering on the ball for at least twenty seconds before dropping it for the thrower is part of the game. It’s how she breaks in new tennis balls but has become a habit with old ones. Equipment such as the “Chuck-It” is permitted since it ensures more ball-throwing. The Chuck-It is a hand-held, far-flinging, hands-free-from-touching-the-slimy-ball, arm-saving, ball launcher, and is rated number one among ball-throwers; especially females.

Tennis balls are game-worthy regardless of their condition. It can be split open, hanging by a piece of felt, and not able to bounce, but as long as it can be thrown it’s allowed.

Pepper will give herself a head start anytime someone’s hand moves toward a ball. Fetch can be played any time of day and she will try to get a game going anywhere. Her favorite places are where someone’s trying to work, like flowerbeds, flowerpots, the vegetable garden, the shop, or the kids’ sandbox, and a game lasts until the thrower gets tired.

If the ball hasn’t moved in a long time and Pepper feels a thrower is stalling, she permits herself to pick it up and drop it repeatedly in order to get a person’s attention or to remind them to throw it. If it gets deliberately buried in the sandbox or covered up with dirt, digging it up is acceptable and anytime the ball gets bumped or rolled out of the way, it counts as a throw.

If ball throwers play dirty and put the ball where she can’t reach it, she will sit, wait, and watch the spot until someone gets it down or the ball drops. Balls are found in hanging flower baskets, the porch swing, the hole in the center of the outdoor table, wedged between tree branches, and in folding chair cup holders.

Pepper calls her own time outs and will take the ball with her under a vehicle until she’s rested but if someone grabs the ball before she’s ready, she has to fetch it. A thrown ball can never be ignored.

She keeps a ball at the ready 24/7 in case there’s new blood to recruit. Once a visitor is deemed harmless to the family, she’ll initiate a game. Her favorite recruits are naïve children and politicians, new UPS or Schwan’s guys or people oblivious to the game. Pepper loves tournaments wherein several people are around to play fetch because what’s most important to our ranch dog is that she has a ball.

This column was originally published June 27-July 3, 2010

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