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My fetching monster

My rotator cuff hurts. Shooting pains when I work out. Razor-thin stabs when I sleep. I blamed a mistake during a workout, until the real cause crept to mind. My shoulder hurts because I play so much fetch with Lilly. And, here’s the thing … As a pup, Lilly hated fetching. So, it’s entirely my fault.

At first, she simply didn’t understand the game.

With the disdain only a smart dog can muster, Lilly looked at me like I was a complete idiot. I swear she thought, “I just brought that back. Why did you throw it again?”

When our first obedience trainer recommended fetch as the perfect way to burn off an active dog’s excess energy, he conceded that some of us quietly thought, “Great. My dog won’t play fetch.”

Add in a few expletives, and that’s pretty much defines my inner dialogue that day.

Fetching Food

His solution? Play fetch with food. No, the dog doesn’t actually bring back the food. But throwing it sets up the pattern of running back and forth. Over time, you introduce the ball (or whatever) and trade it for food on the return.

The process, he reminded us, also introduced the chance to train several commands:
– Fetch
– Come
– Drop it

It worked. So, if your dog won’t fetch, I highly recommend it.

Granted, the category of item Lilly deigns to fetch is limited to a very special foam-filled ball, certain stuffed toys, and (I kid you not) sticks, including kindling she steals from the wood pile.

My girl, who once turned her small black nose sneered at even the idea of fetch, now simply won’t stop. She’s relentless in ways beyond enumeration.

I’m lucky in one respect. While she waits me out, staring intently in hopes I might throw the toy, she is mostly silent. (Like right now, she’s quietly fixated on my every move.) My husband, however, isn’t so fortunate. She’s figured out how to bark until Daddy gives in. And, he always does.

He’s Captain Chaos to her General Disarray (full credit to “South Park” for those hilarious puns).

But, I too throw the ball. I throw, and throw, and throw.

We even play fetch with snowballs sometimes.

fetching - happy dog face

Lilly, after paintball poisoning day 8

Fetching – Applied Math

Lilly drove me to applied math theory to our fetching efforts. Using fetch to tame Lilly’s bottomless energy requires intricate calculations:

12 tosses x hilly terrain = 1 hour of peace

25 tosses x flat pasture =  1, maybe 2, hours of quiet

50 tosses x any surface = an evening off

Now … if only I could teach her to throw the ball herself. (My shoulder needs a rest.) The person who invented flyball must have had the same thought about making crazy fetching dogs happier.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.