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Soup of This Day #176: And Makes The Sun Come Out Again

May 3, 2012

Tanka after a bath
Tanka the dog, post-bath and released from the yellow lead that was there to keep him in place while drying. For a dog who loved diving into a Gascoyne River channel he was strangely hydrophobic when it came to the bath afterwards – Photo: Longworth72, 2005. Image cropped by Longworth72. Dog bathed by Longworth72. Doofus grin by Tanka.

If I had to nominate 1 piece of sporting equipment to take with me to a deserted island it would not be a football. Nor would it be a baseball. And no, it wouldn’t be a volleyball either.

Instead, and brace yourself for this, for me the undisputed champion of sports equipment is the tennis ball.

But wait, I hear you say, you don’t like tennis Longworth72.

No I don’t.

Tennis you see is not for me. Have never liked playing it and watching a game either in person or on TV is slow torture. I guess though that my dislike of the sport just emphasises the respect I hold for the tennis ball. This is because the tennis ball is not just for tennis.

Think about it’s shape, it’s dimensions and it’s properties and you’ll begin to understand my admiration. It’s a spherical ball so it rolls – You can kick it or hit it and it will travel over most surfaces a decent distance. Try that with a Rubic Cube.

It’s not too large that you can’t hold it with 1 hand easily and it’s not too small that it is hard to pick up in flight and easy to lose.

And it bounces. Not stupidly high like those little rubber balls you get and not frustratingly low like a squash ball. Nope, a tennis ball is designed to bounce at a nice convenient height for humans.

The upshot of all of this is a that a tennis ball is great for a whole lot of activities – There’s sports where you need to hit the ball – like cricket, baseball, softball, croquet, golf, hockey and yep, even tennis. Sure you’re on a deserted island with no shop-crafted Louisville Slugger but that’s ok – All you need is a little imagination and a tree branch or a conveniently mummified fish.

It needs to be a decent size fish. You can’t play golf with a small perch.

Then there’s the sports that require nothing but you to propel a ball, like handball, football, volleyball, rugby, basketball, dodgeball (If you’re alone you’ll need a surface to bounce the ball off. You’ll also need to look surprised if you hit yourself.)

Finally, you can throw the ball for your dog and he can bring it back to you. Assuming you brought your dog along.

I would have brought my dog along. And if I’d got stuck on a desert island any time the past 9 or so years that dog would have been right there beside me.

As it happens my dog and I ended up as dog-and-owner because I threw a tennis ball for him so us being on that island with a fuzzy green bouncy ball would be fitting.

We’d met in 2003. I was moving out of an inner-city flat and following my love (and eventual wife) up to Carnarvon. Where there was a backyard and lots of country to play around in. Which was great because I’d always wanted a dog of my own, not a family dog – A specific Longworth72 dog – and part of the deal in me moving up there was that I was going to choose me a dog.

So we went to the RSPCA pound and I looked at a lot of dogs. 1 of them caught my eye early – He was a big, boof-headed dog that looked like a German Shepherd crossed with a Rottweiler. He did this thing where he turned his back to you and then pressed it up against the front of his cage – An invitation for a scratch maybe.

The problem was that we weren’t looking for a dog that big. He looked like he could pull a fair-sized cart.

And the horse attached to the cart.

He just bespoke a solid momentum that would surely pull my love off of her feet. If she was already off of her feet he could’ve pulled her on to them and then right off them again for good measure – His centre of gravity was so low you’d pass it on the way to the Earth’s core if you came over all Jules Verne-like and were headed that way.

So on we went, looking at more dogs.

It was no good. I just kept getting drawn back to the big dog. It took a while but eventually I convinced my other half to let me at least meet this dog. The RSPCA folk were obliging and took us into a yard area where they left us to get acquainted.

I don’t remember much about that enclosed space except there was a tennis ball.

I threw the ball and the dog retrieved it, bringing it back to me. My wife threw the ball. The dog brought it back to me. The RSPCA staffer threw the ball. The dog brought it back to me.

And that was that. Tanka became my dog and I became his dude.

The early years were not easy. The Big T was a re-homed dog whose past was a mystery. Whatever had happened to him he was a little fearful at times and this caused some not-so-nice reactions. We worked out that he was a dog for just us – Not for others. He needed to be kept segregated from other people for his protection as well as theirs.

This made life awkward. I had to modify the fences so that he couldn’t jump them. Without handyman skills this was a challenge but I persevered. At 1 point the thought came out that maybe we’d be doing everyone a favour if we had Tanka put to sleep.

I couldn’t do that.

Not because I was scared too. Nope, just because that’s not me – That dog chose me and I wouldn’t give up on him. I remember announcing through the tears that I wasn’t ready to give up. There was no ‘yet’. I just wasn’t ready to turn my back on my friend.

So I built higher fences. 1 of them featured a pine lattice frame that stretched to cover the gap between the carport roof and the top of an existing fence. I was proud of that construction.

So proud that at it’s completion I arranged a demo for my wife. I stood out front of the house with her and whistled for Tanka. Tanka liked to go for a walk. There was no way he could resist but with my handy work there was no way he could make it out. Or so I figured.

I was wrong.

There was a crash and what in my memory was a Tanka-sized hole in the lattice. Trailing bits of pine the big woofer came bounding up to me with an innocent expression of joy:

‘So we’re going for that walk now boss?’

I rebuilt the lattice. I reinforced it even. And Tanka learned to stay put. Learned that his domain was that yard and that the only way out was a supervised walk.

Did I mention that he loved a walk?

His favourite was a walk down on the Gascoyne River. The riverbed was mostly dry, with acres of soft sand, great smells and often a channel of water or 2 that Tanka could swim in. We’d take him out there, to a couple of islands in the middle of this expanse of sand and when we were sure that there were no other dogs or horses (Really big dogs in his eyes and therefore worthy of a serious challenge) we’d let him off to run.

My favourite game with him was Hide-and-Seek. We’d make him wait at 1 side of the islands and then 1 of us would hide at the other. When released he’d come charging after you, like some sort of canine human-seeking missile. He’d find you too – More by sheer willpower than bloodhound-type skill – And he’d race up to you with this happy expression on his doofus face, a look that would say:

‘I found you boss. You went away but I found you.’

Yeah you did mate. You found me.

Here’s to tennis balls. And here’s to dogs that decide after just 1 throw of a tennis ball that they’re yours and you’re theirs.

Gonna miss you big dog – Love ya mate.

Tanka, the dog of: Longworth72, Wife of Longworth72 and The Noah, c2001 – 2012.

And Makes The Sun Come Out Again

  1. God Bless Tanka, who now has access to more tennis balls than he ever imagined existed…and will be playing with them all…long after you are reunited with him.

    • Thanks – Has been a hard loss to take but remembering 9 good years and believing that he’s gone to a better place helps.

  2. I saw this post as one of the recommended ones under your most recent offering. I took the opportunity to reread it again and, after having a horribly challenging day at best, the reading gave me some peace knowing you and Tanka had…no…HAVE the relationship you do. The US Tennis championships are underway and I keep thinking about the true importance of a tennis ball. Priceless they are…

    • Horribly challenging does not sound good – Hope tomorrow is better.

      I still think of Tanka as my dog. We do have a family dog now & she’s great. Just not my buddy the way Tank was. I’m coincidentally sitting waiting at the dog grooming place for Scout – Tanka would have not accepted grooming.

      Have been peripherally following the US Open – Promising Aussie lad Nick Kyrgios is doing well.

      Take care & thanks for the comment ( And prompt to remember the big dog)

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