The Owner and I were having a wonderful time playing with the Ball this morning, when she lost it. One minute it was flying through the air, a glorious vision of fluorescent lime, damp with the morning dew and ever-so-slightly slobbery. The next minute there was the Owner prodding with a stick in a pile of dense brambles and saying, don’t worry, Hergest, we will find Another Ball.
I will just repeat that for the Benefit of those who Root for the Moral Dog. We will find Another Ball, she said.
There is no Other Ball, I say. That Ball was Perfect. Its lime green-ness was just the Perfect Shade. It’s Slobberiness gave it just the right level of Tackiness to the Touch. Its sense of being Once-Abandoned gave it an air of Gratitude at being subject to the Throw and Fetch games of the Moral Dog. It was a Ball with Soul, a Ball with Heart, a Ball so Perfectly in Tune with the Moral Dog that, if it had been music, it would have been the Rough Island Band, if it had been a Toy it would have been Squeaky Cat and if it had been Another Dog it would have been Caspar. It was a Moral Ball.
You only found it this morning, says the Owner. In the grass next to the Tennis Court.
But it was My Ball, I say. If a Ball could be a Soulmate it would be that Ball, I say. Not that I want you to feel bad for Losing it, I say.
Balls are not Moral, says the Owner. You are anthropomorphising the Ball. The Ball is one of many similar balls. They come in packs of three and are sold to tennis players. They are Clones of One Ball.
You are only saying that because you lost it, I say. I could not feel like this is the Ball were not Moral.
If the Ball was Moral, says the Owner, then it is only because all such Balls are equally Moral, since Philosophically they are All the Same Ball.
I will just repeat that, too, for the Benefit of those who Root for the Moral Dog. Philosophically, she said, they are All the Same Ball.
Moments later Dom, a Labrador known for Thinking he is Cleverer than Everyone Else, heads towards us. It is immediately clear that Dom is carrying The One Philosophical Ball.
Obviously I take it back immediately. Why would I not? I had it first.
Excuse me, says Dom’s Owner. Your Dog has taken our Ball.
Hand it Over, says Dom. Not your Ball, Mate.
The Ball is The Philosophical Ball, I say. As such it is just as much Mine as Yours.
Talk to the brains Mate, says Dom. There may be One Philosophical Ball but I Had it First.
Give it to me, Hergest, says the Owner.
Obviously I give it to her. The Owner and I have a pact. I give her the Ball and she Throws it. It is the kind of Pact on which the Moral Dog-Moral Owner relationship has been based since Time Immemorial. Since the time that the First Wolf stepped into the Glow of the Campfire and offered Half a Primeval Rabbit in return.
The Owner, with the callous disregard for history she occasionally displays, encompassing a pitiful lack of Awareness of the Reliance of her Very Existence on Past Primeval Rabbits, holds out the One Philosophical Ball to Dom. Dom snatches it in a Manner which I consider, frankly, Ungentlemanly. Ow says the Owner.
Sorry, says Dom’s Owner.
Come on, says the Owner. We are going home. She is rubbing her hand.
Do you have a sore hand? I ask.
I do, she says. That Dog snatched the Philosophical Ball with a clumsy disregard for the fact that there was a hand wrapped round it, so I have a Grazed Thumb. I think he is part Rottweiler.
A Red Mist comes before me. I look at the Owner with her Sore Hand. I look at the Park Gate with its promise of My Breakfast and warm cushion just beyond, the Cushion on which Squeaky Cat waits for my Affection. And then I look at the Immoral Dog who thinks he is Cleverest, but who has in fact indulged in a Power Grab to Snatch a Philosophical Ball whose Common Ownership should not be in doubt, from the Hand of the Innocent Owner. I do not have my Superdog Cape but it does not matter. I will Avenge this Wrongdoing. I tear down the hill after Dom, and I snatch the Ball back with Considerable Panache, then I race back to the Owner again.
Oy, shouts Dom, give that back you Oik. Accept the Fact that you Lost to the Cleverest Dog.
Oy, says his Owner, your Dog has Our Ball again.
I give the Ball to the Owner. Some people, I say, were not Elected Cleverest and have done Nothing to Deserve Control of the Philosophical Ball.
It doesn’t matter, says the Owner, it is Alas his Ball according to Ball Convention. She puts me on the Lead. But thankyou for defending me. Shall I throw the Ball for your Dog? She shouts to the Other Owner.
You wouldn’t, I say, shocked.
Give me Credit, says the Owner.
Yes please, says the Other Owner, Dom likes a Challenge.
The Owner hurls the ball with All her Might. Unaccountably, the ball flies into a patch of dense bramble. Oops, she says. I am so sorry. I am not so good at Left Arm Throwing, but my Right Hand Unfortunately seems to be a Little Sore.
That is certainly a Challenge, says the Other Owner. Your throwing is indeed terrible.
The Owner and I walk away. As we leave the Park Dom is still trying work out how to get into the pile of dense Brambles to retrieve it. Actually, she says, when we are out of earshot, I think my throwing is much improved.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.