I like to think that you can find a lot of happiness in very small things. I’ve been able to purchase it for $1.88, in fact…plus tax.
First, the backstory. I was still in the early stages of getting used to an “empty nest.” But it still wasn’t entirely “empty”–the last of the kids might have left for college, but the dog and the cat were still here and getting used to this new world order too. And I got all their focused attention as a result. The dog, Bandit, and the cat, Smokey, were getting a lot more conversation from me too, since they’d both be sitting at the top of the stairs waiting for me to turn the key in the door when I get home. I couldn’t sit down on the sofa at any time for any reason without suddenly finding an oversized sixteen pound cat that looks like a bear sprawled across my lap, purring. When I leave for work, I turn the radio on and tell them, “okay, you kids stay out of trouble while I’m gone!” Yeah, we’re probably all a little nuts.
Changes always bring new routines, and one of mine became spending a little time each day with Bandit, tossing a tennis ball outside for him to chase. Aside from standing on the sill of the bay window and barking at the world, that was pretty much his job. Just for the record, that little guy in the picture at the top of this blog isn’t Bandit, it’s my “grand-pug,” Golden Boy, but the working theory fits pretty much most of the dogs I know.
There’s a lot that can make a dog happy. A hunk of juicy steak. A rabbit in the yard. A squirrel on the back porch to chase into the woods. The words “good doggie!” But boy oh boy, did Bandit love to chase a tennis ball! Even more so since we started having “tennis ball time” as a daily routine. I figured out just how much it meant to him when I woke up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water, stepped out of the bedroom, and found him parked next to the bedroom door…with a tennis ball a few inches away.
So on the way home from work the very next day, I stopped off at a “big box” store and bought a can of fresh tennis balls for him. For starters, the old ones were covered with dirt and beaten up by the weather. Next, they were so old they’d sort of lost their bounce. Which wouldn’t be much of a problem, except for the third thing, which is the fact that I throw like a girl. A limp tennis ball doesn’t go very far when I pitch it down the driveway.
I got home, let Bandit outside, opened the lid and popped open the seal on the fresh fuzzy yellow tennis balls before I even got into the house. I held one up, and his eyes lasered in on the target. I gave it a throw, and off he raced in hot pursuit. The new ball, still clean and dry, bounced about six feet in the air the first time it landed, and it kept my old dog going much farther down the driveway, with a lot more leaps and a lot more fun. If dogs could smile, he’d have been grinning from ear to ear. Instead, he trotted back to me with the enthusiasm of a kindergartner kicking up a pile of autumn leaves. There was a fresh spring in his step, and his tail wagged back and forth like a metronome. He dutifully dropped the new ball at my feet, and we did it again and again and again…until my arm finally got tired of throwing.
So, the bottom line is, for about $1.88…plus tax, I got a very happy dog. And when I’ve got a happy tail-wagging dog, I can’t help but be a happy person too!