Sunday, 13 March 2011

The red ball

Last Monday was a beautiful spring day so Ellie and I went further than normal on our morning walk. On the outskirts of the village we met a man walking a wolfhound. Ellie and the wolfhound hit it off immediately and raced round and round the field together while the man and I talked. I told him about my experiences with the stuffy people at Branscombe at the weekend.
            ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘you want to go to Exmouth.’
            His dog was the same age as Ellie and wants to play with every other dog he meets.
            ‘It’s such good training there,’ said the man. ‘If you call them away from one dog there’s always another one for them to play with so because they remember that they’re more likely to come.’
            Er, yes. It still took us half an hour to prise Ellie and the wolfhound apart.
            Exmouth is not normally somewhere Frog and I would go. For us old curmudgeons, it is too trippery and built up. In fact the last time we went there was during the foot-and-mouth crisis in 2001 when beaches were the only places you could walk. Yesterday however, for Ellie’s sake, we decided to give it a go. She needs to learn how to behave with both other dogs and people.
            As soon as we got out of the car, Ellie began to whimper with excitement. The tide was out and dogs swarmed over the vast expanse of sand, catching balls, jumping through waves, and tussling with each other, while children and their fathers flew kites.
            For half an hour we walked eastwards towards Sandy Bay, while Ellie played with dog after dog.
‘Thank you for letting her play with your dog,’ we said cravenly to human after human, expecting her high spirits to be frowned upon.
‘No problem,’ they said. ‘She’s young isn’t she? What a lovely dog.’
As we left the town and the dogs thinned out, I found a red ball on the edge of the sea. I started to throw it for Ellie, watching her streak along the sand and then wheel round in a wide arc to come back to us. I could see her collie ancestry so clearly.
‘She’s getting too excited,’ said Frog.
So on the way back he gave her some much-needed lead training.
When we got back I left the red ball on the sea wall. It wasn’t mine. I’d found it. It was only right that someone else should find it and play with it. Then, as Frog carried on with the lead training along the esplanade, I stopped to read the notice boards: ‘The Jurassic Coast’, ‘What to do in an emergency’. A young boy came up to me.
‘Excuse me,’ he said nodding towards the sea wall. ‘Is that your ball?’
‘No,’ I said. ‘I found it on the beach. You take it.’
He went on to the beach with it and started throwing it against the wall and catching it. I wondered what he was doing on his own and why he didn’t have anything of his own to play with.
I passed him as I walked back to the car.
‘Thank you for the ball,’ he called.
‘No problem,’ I called back. ‘I’m just pleased to see you enjoying it.’
And I was. I really was.

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