As long as she gets to chase the ball, our 70 pound Labradoodle Chloe is happy. Reward her with a little treat and she’ll drop it at our feet so we’ll throw it out for her to fetch again. “Retrievers love balls,” our vet explained during a visit, “it’s a trait of the breed.” The need to pursue a traveling object, pounce on it, chew it and feel proud. The simplicity of her delight fascinates me.
It doesn’t matter if we throw that ball at the beach or across a meadow, she is after it. Some days I watch Chloe, now nine years old, first roll on her back and then sniff the ground and feel reassured that it’s the basics that matter. We don’t need a lot, just a walk out in the world and a few rounds of chasing the ball.
So many odors and smells. She stops at each corner to check out a new scent at the base of a boxwood bush or clutch of daffodils. It is spring and everything is blooming. Neighbors impress me with their plantings of yellow and purple pansies. The cherry blossoms are at their peak. The robins have returned and they are singing to their mates. I don’t know the names of all the shrubs, but I see red, pink and orange petals mixed in with the green hedges and patches of lavender creeping phlox in gardens. Does Chloe see the colors, or is smell such a predominant sense for her that the colors are insignificant?
I did a little online research and learned that dogs see colors differently from humans. They have what is called dichromatic vision and see only blue and yellow. Dogs, however, have more cells in their eyes than humans specifically designed for distinguishing low light and identifying moving objects. Moving objects. I think of that rolling ball. Like a color blind human who doesn’t see all the colors, to Chloe a blue ball and a purple ball look the same. Her strong sense of smell enables her to verify which ball is hers and helps her follow it into a thick patch of vines.
What ball am I chasing? The enigmatic perfect story? The right combination of words that flow together into a satisfying sentence? Often it is those times when walking, breathing deeply, listening and observing small changes around me that I get the best ideas.
I’ve gotten my two shots of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine and enough time has passed that it is safe for me to socialize with other vaccinated family and friends. Socialize. Sit at a table together inside. What a small thing to be grateful for and grateful I am. We’re not completely done with the global pandemic—yet. The New York Times reported on April 10th that coronavirus cases in the USA had gone up by 12 percent. 81,769 cases of Covid- 19 adds up to a lot of sick people. Deaths have gone down by 25 percent in the last two weeks, but 926 people dying is still too many. It’s tempting to pick up life as I remember it before March 2020— but instead I think I’ll take a walk. We’ll grab the leash, bring Chloe, and maybe throw that ball.