It is the simplest of activities. Someone throws a ball; a dog chases it, grasps the orb in his mouth, and returns it to start the procedure again.
I used to watch Pocket perform this act with our dad, and I never got the joy of it, for either, since it involved wet hairy balls, and I had my full of them as a want to be Mom.
That was until I met Rex.
It was along the river. A man was throwing the ball in the river, and Rex, a Yellow Lab, splashed into the water, retrieved it, and brought it to the man. It was a pleasant show.
When they took a break, I asked Rex if his dad was throwing the ball, and he sadly said no, because he had to leave his dad behind. His grandad, who had taught his son the perfect technique to throw a ball for a dog, was doing it until they were all reunited.
Rex’s granddad scratched his ears and told him he had to check on his other dogs. He had two dozen dogs throughout his life, and now they were with him and his son’s dogs, Rex being the latest addition.
They lived in the southwest, near a beach, and each day, work his dad walked with him to the beach, and they would play ball until the sun disappeared into the waves.
It started when he was young, that magical time when the song is before you, with thousands of notes and uncountable stanzas, seemingly eternal, but soon, without realizing it, half the song was over, then it got slower with bigger pauses until it faded away.
One day Rex was a puppy, happily splashing in the water, and the next, he was old, struggling to get back to shore. But, when he did, he dropped the ball at his dad’s feet, “just one more, Dad,” his eyes said, “while we still can.”
The day came when Rex watched the ball disappear in the waves, slowly rolling out to sea.
Rex’s dad knew there was a place the dog could be sent to play again: It was the Bridge, and before he went home, he helped Rex at the beginning of his journey, knowing that by sunrise, Rex would be romping in the water again.
The following day Rex’s dad went to the beach with the remaining tennis balls and wood, from which he made a sign with Rex’s picture on it, saying he was the most goodly dog in the world and he wanted other dogs and humans to play fetch in the waves in his honor. Sometimes acts of giving are the most heartbreaking.
Rex will make sure that his dad has a new partner to throw the ball to like he has his granddad, but it won’t be the same as it was the first time Rex and his dad played and bonded.
But he won’t be alone when his dad does, as he has inspired dozens of people to play fetch at the beach with their dogs.
In memory of Rex and his Dad.