One of my earliest memories of Carlin is his trying to get Cooper to play with him. He’d grab one of Cooper’s rubber balls, put it on the ground several feet away, and push it toward Cooper with his nose. He did that over and over, but it never worked.
It broke a place in my heart. Carlin so admired Cooper, but Cooper never would have anything pleasant to do with the upstart brat.
So, last night, years later, when Carlin started that game up with me, that little place in my heart started to heal.
For many years, I’ve been asking Carlin to give me his ball so I could throw it for him. I don’t demand it. It’s not the same thing as throwing a bumper. The bumpers are mine, and when I throw or hide them, Carlin must return them to me.
The many rubber and plastic balls, however, belong to Carlin. I never force him to give me his ball, but occasionally, if I find one near my feet, I’ll throw it.
Then about a week ago, I changed something. It used to be that when I came home, Carlin would run off to grab a ball to show me. He’d parade it around, prancing with his head and tail up, for all the world a sign that says “Look at what I have!”
Several days ago, I just started trotting after him, not trying to overtake him, or catch him, or take his ball — just follow him.
Eventually, after leading me around in circles and figure-8s around the furniture, he’d flop down on his dog bed and let the ball fall out of his mouth. Whereapon, I’d grab it up and toss it for him.
Then last night, I was sitting on the living room floor watching a new Netflix series, and Carlin put his ball on the ground, and nudged it toward me with his nose. I tossed it, he ran to get it, and then lay down on his bed again.
Then, a few minutes later, I saw the ball rolling toward me again.
This time, I stood up, asked him for a Twirl (move in a counter-clockwise circle), and then threw the ball.
Same routine again, except this time I asked him for a Spin (clockwise circle). And again with a Sit, again with a Down at a distance, and lastly with a Heel Backwards along the wall.
I have no idea if this game will go on, or whether it was a one-time fluke. But I had a fabulous time, and I think Carlin did, too.