My friend Franklin is quite unusual. Basset hounds are different from most other dogs anyway, but Frankie is different from most , if not all, basset hounds. He likes ball. In fact, if you say the word “ball” his entire demeanor changes. He suddenly goes on red alert with his eyes open wide and his tail  upright and arcing. Yes, there are thousands of golden retrievers that behave this way, we all have seen it, but bassets? Every other basset hound I have ever known, and they are more than a few, would respond to a thrown tennis ball with half closed eyes and an expression that said, at best, “’re kidding, right?”

We had nothing to do with his obsession.  We adopted him several years ago and it came with him. Perhaps he had been sent to some suburban re-education camp and somehow been brainwashed or reprogrammed. Anyway, he’s good. He can handle the short hops. Our son has a dog that is incredibly athletic and also loves ball. That dog runs and leaps and has tremendous speed and reflexes, so he makes me think of Willie Mays at his best. Frankie makes one think more of Cal Ripken Jr. when he was getting ready to play third base instead of shortstop. He reads the ball off the chucker very well, has limited but sure range, and gives it all he’s got. It’s difficult for Frankie when my son’s dog joins us because his Edgar Martinez type speed is no match so it helps to send two balls in completely different directions. Otherwise, even though he’s a very good sport, Frankie loses interest when most of the balls are getting grabbed by the competition, sort of like playing right field when Sandy Koufax pitched.

I don’t think that it is necessarily fatigue, but after a few minutes of hard chasing, Frankie starts a friendly game of keep away. This is when it is just him playing,with no other dog competition. This is not entirely bad, because not only do I utilize the chucker rather than pretend to be Nolan Ryan or Roberto Clemente like the old days, but also the lungs ain’t what they used to be so I have a chance to catch my breath. He will put both balls in his mouth and pretend that they have become chew toys. If I walk up to him and act like I want them he will saunter off with both balls between his teeth like the captured rabbit they should really be and have a time out. Then, when we both are breathing freely again, he will suddenly drop them and sound off loudly. That lets me know that the game can resume.

It’s not like going out to the ball field with my young friend and playing for hours. Still, at this stage of the game, it is plenty good enough.

2 thoughts on “THE SHORTSTOP

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