Belfast Telegraph

Why dogs are right on the ball when it comes to getting most out of life

By Nuala McKeever

Last Thursday, I had a revelation in the park. (I don't mean someone flashed at me). I was walking a friend's dog - let's call him Ringo. Now Ringo, if he were a pig, and half-chewed ancient, filthy old tennis balls were truffles, would be in big demand in France.

That boy can sniff out a manky oul torn bit of once-green rubber that's been lying discarded for years in the undergrowth as if he were a trained boar finding a delicacy. It's a talent for sure. Just haven't worked out a way to make it lucrative. But it brings a smile to my face, so that's probably reward enough.

So, Thursday morning, Ringo's doing his doggy thing while I walk purposefully in the sunshine across the mucky grass. After a couple of minutes, he emerges from the shadows with half a ball hanging out of his eager mouth. Off he runs, tail going a dinger, ears flapping in the breeze, wee legs thundering across the playing field like a dog on fire.

His sheer exuberance makes me want to run, too. I run. My tail, if I had one, would be wagging, my ears, if they were long, would be flapping and my legs, if they were wee, would be thundering.

But, as it is, I'm a fairly unfit, middle-aged human with an arthritic joint in one foot, so my style of gay abandon on the playing field isn't ever going to match Ringo's exuberance. I just probably look slightly stiff and in pain. Which I am.

But walking seems so inadequate when there's this bullet of energy whizzing back and forward.

I want to do something energetic, too. So I call him over and persuade him to drop the disgusting, saliva-covered half ball on the grass. He does, eventually.

I pick it up (thank God for gloves) and hurl it as far as I can. Guess what? He flies off after it and brings it back, charging towards me, the fastest expression of pure joy I've ever seen on four legs. Oh, this is a good game!

He circles and circles, the ball clamped between his jaws. He loves that scrap of rubber. It's his. His! He doesn't want to let go of it, because if he does, he runs the risk of never getting it back.

But oh, how he loves it when this big tall dog on two legs throws it for him and he gets to chase after it and bring it back. But he can't do both.

In order to get what he wants (the chase, the capture, the return, the excitement, the play), he has to give up what he wants (the holding on, the owning, the security of not letting go, the safety of not risking losing). You can't have your ball and chase it. What to do? What to do? It's a big dilemma. And he's only a wee dog.

Of course, he drops it. Because he's learned that when he does, the big dog picks it up and throws it. The big dog doesn't run away with it and put it in the bin. (At least not until later that night, when Ringo's sleeping.)

Finding the ball is something he does by instinct. But trusting that it's okay to let go of it, is something he's had to learn.

And, anyway, if he wakes up and there's no demi-ball around, he'll always be able to find another.

Nothing is going to keep him from living his life, tail up, ears bouncing, tongue hanging out.

Thanks, Ringo.

Maybe priest needs head examined?

We've seen off the Ice Bucket Challenge, Frostbit Boy and 50 Shades of Endless puns. Oh no - it's a new week and there's no mad thing to share endlessly on social media.

How on earth will we pass the time in those social settings where actual interaction used to take place, but now we scroll down our phones?

But fear not. Step forward one Fr Roland Colhoun, Catholic priest and certified One Swing Short of a Thurible.

Yoga is evil. So's Indian head massage. And meditation, apparently.

It's not Bell's Theorem, but he does prove one point: when a loony vacuum appears, someone always obliges.

Still pulling them in at the Queen Vic

Thank God we know who killed Lucy Beale in EastEnders.

Now I can take part in casual chitchat again without having to pretend I had a baldy notion who, or what, everyone was talking about last week.

I've never really watched EastEnders. Always disliked the way every single character seems to preface every single line with a big heartfelt, depressed sigh.

Mind you, I gave just such a sigh when I heard it was 30 years old. Clearly recall the first episode and my da reviewing it, as it was on, from behind the Belfast Telegraph.

"Bloody rubbish. That won't last ... "

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