19. Tobaganning

Dear Boomer,

            What wonderful weather for sleds and toboggans   The snow is packed and firm, with icy patches for those who want momentum before they hit the speed bump at the foot of the run.  The snow is firm enough, in fact, that tennis balls bounce and skitter, rather than bury into the drifts.  Now that the fence has been removed from the ward yard, there are more possibilities for sledding and chasing – chasing sleds, chasing balls, and chasing other dogs.(1)

            When the humanoids and their pups assemble at the top of the hill, they are all very willing to kick or throw the balls down the slope.  Maybe it’s their way of keeping us out of the way while the pups line up for their turns on the sled runs.  I sometimes like to tease them by loitering about in their path, but every self respecting dog knows enough to keep an ear cocked for the approach of a hurtling toboggan.

            Each year, there’s a new technology for humanoids to apply to the hill.  Last year, Alpha and the Pup’s favourite was the hard plastic “flying saucer.”  This year, humanoids seem intrigued by the possibilities of inflatable sleds, shaped like space craft, that whine down the slope with the sound of a strong wind blowing through a small opening.

            I think someone should come up with an idea of skis for four-legged creatures.  Maybe attaching the dewclaw to a safety binding.  I think I could get the hang of shifting my weight to carve a turn in the snow, or relaxing my stifles enough to take the impact as I schuss straight down the hill.

            In the meantime, I have been thoroughly enjoying the new technology the humanoids have developed for ball-throwing.  I’ve heard the humanoids call it a “chuck it” and it’s the greatest thing since sliced meatloaf.  It’s nothing more than a stick about the length of Alpha’s arm, with a claw-like cup on one end and a handle grip on the other.(2)

            Humanoids like the cup because it lets them pick up the ball without touching it.  They seem to have an aversion to dog slobber, these humanoids.  They need to get more in touch with their inner pup.  Some of the more senior of the species also like the chuck-it because they don’t have to bend down to pick up the ball.  It’s as if their arms can now reach right to the ground.

            And I like the chuck-it because it opens new vistas for exercise.  I still have to get the hang of this, however.  I’m still not accustomed to Alpha being able to hurl a ball over the hockey rink, over the kiddie rink and clear over the tennis court fence.  I go off in search of the ball, can’t find it, and am usually surprised to find that it has gone about twice as far as I had estimated. 

            This is good exercise for Alpha as well – not just the throwing, but trudging off to the far corners of the park to help me find a ball that has been launched well beyond my radar.  In the coming months, I’ll no doubt get accustomed to the new technology.  I’ll be able to calculate how far out and in what direction the ball has gone.  And in the spring, we will go out sniffing for all those tennis balls that Alpha and I have not been able to find in the snow.

            I’m looking forward to summer, when I hope Alpha will take the chuck-it out to the cottage.  I want to see if this new technology enables him to throw a ball all the way out to the little island where the herons scoop for minnows.  But that is still a long time away, and right now, I’m very happy looking for tennis balls in the snow.

                                                            Enjoying the winter of our content,


(1)  Recent scholarship confirms that the toboggan run Zoscha refers to lies on a slight rise near the west end of the park.  It continues to be enjoyed by dogs and humans alike.  See Martha S. Van Yard, “Places and Playthings: The World of Fun in Zoscha’s Chronicles,”  Journal of Canine Studies, Vol 2, No. 1, Summer, 2008.

(2) Ibid.