Friday, March 18, 2005

Chapter 5: Golden Deceiver

Dogs never get tired of playing fetch. Or tug-of-war. Baring their fangs, buried in a rag or a rope or whatever -- this is non-stop animal amusement. If a dog has its way, a tug-of-war could go on longer than Vietnam, the 100 Years War and the hype for the latest Star Wars movie combined.

I’d often find myself laying on my back, using minimal effort to entertain Max as he shoved his squeaky toy into my left hand and growled, demanding we go to battle again. Call me crazy -- or lazy -- but his slobbery mouth in my palm was not how I wanted to spend a Sunday afternoon. So I’d switch, put the toy in my right. Max -- being bred from a champion jumper -- would leap over me and try to snatch it back.

As spry as he was, I transfered the toy to my other hand faster. He’d leap over again, and a new game was born -- keep-away.

Back and forth. Back and forth. Max didn’t get bored with this either.

Until -- he stopped.

He took a moment, and looked upward, away from the object of his obsession. Max didn’t go anywhere; he was still in position to get the toy, but no, he was glancing away, off in the distance. So nonchalant.

“Oh, I guess you don’t want this anymore,” I said, and flexed the toy in a staccato -- Sq-sq-sq-sq-squeeeeak!

Max’s eyes turned in his head, trying not to look. Expressive eyebrows still feigning disinterest.

Though his nose was still pointed elsewhere, he didn’t fool me. All I had to do was watch the way his body weight shifted. It was subtle, but I could see him slowly, stealthily, lean on his haunches, back, back...

Pounce! He slammed onto my wrist, locking it down with his two front legs. My hand would sway wildly, but he had limited its range of motion. In a frantic flurry of fingers and fangs, Max came away with the squeaky toy.

Sure, I could’ve easily switched hands again, but the dog had worked so hard to match wits with his master. Look at him -- struttin’ around with his tail in the air on one end and his prized toy in mouth on the other.

The best part was, that swaggering would go on for a few minutes. I got to enjoy a little quiet time ‘til he’d shove his smug snout in my hand again, ready for round two.


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