When the retriever was nine weeks old he loved to retrieve, his fat furry body waddling, propelled by a stringy little tail.
By the time the retriever was nine months old, he would retrieve the green-gray tennis ball once or twice but, after that, would return - to within three feet of the thrower and settle down, ball firmly in mouth, big brown eyes looking up.
There was no question, simply an easily read statement of fact. OK now. You know I can do it. But, just between us, don't you think this is rather a pointless game?
Knowing full well he was a bona fide retriever, the additional fact of his being a dog who LIKED water had somehow never registered. Oh, he'd go in if he had to. And he might even swim, long distances even, but it was never something he enjoyed. The displeasure was obvious.
By the time the retriever was approaching three, he had moved from the outfield and become a catcher. He would relinquish his tennis ball only if one promised to throw it so it could be caught. If he missed (the pitcher had a notoriously poor arm and even worse aim) one repeat was eagerly permitted. But once successful he'd take his ball and trot off.
Important to prove the talent's still there. That's all.
Never one for unnecessary exertion, the lazy retriever discovered a pastime much more attuned to his physical demands and those of his intellect which, if curiosity is a clue, were great indeed.
The retriever became a watcher.
His people had many bird feeders. One, on the sliding glass door, always had birdseed rejects beneath it on the deck. Only, it soon became evident, many other birds came for those leftovers.
And then there were the geese. No doubt about that, he'd give chase if he could but his mistress wouldn't allow such sport so, once again, the retriever sat quietly ... watching.
There was a squirrel, maybe two, maybe more, who had learned to jump to the hanging feeders and the retriever sat and watched them too. No less intelligent, both recognized the safety in the panel of glass which separated them.
Best of all, were one to ask, the retriever watched chipmunks. Now denied a feeder of their own (some had thought it was there for the birds), the chipmunks happily came for the bits left on the deck. And once they were finished eating they would sit - or stretch out full length - no more than six inches from the retriever's watchful patient eyes on the other side of the window.
The retriever would have preferred to chase the annoying varmints and he did often try. But as the squirrel would climb the nearest tree, the chipmunks would dart underneath the deck and the retriever would stand flummoxed, wondering yet again how those little animals could simply disappear into thin air.
Watching. Yes, that was far easier all the way around. And, come to think of it, the results were the same too. Just a lot easier - particularly on a hot muggy afternoon.
In Memoriam - Major.
August 11, 1999 - March 24, 2012
Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.