Most dogs love to fetch balls. I have been thinking about this – I like it too, I like it a lot, but why? Sometimes I muse about things like this, when I am snoozing in my favorite chair.
When we dogs fetch balls, we experience a lot of different emotions and feelings. First there is anticipation. The human takes the ball into its hand and we focus on that: we see the ball, we know what is coming, we feel our muscles straining, ready for action. It is the sheer joy of knowing a human will throw a ball for us.
Then the moment is there: the ball leaves the hand of the human and flies through the air. This is when we start running, but not at full speed immediately. At least, that is how I do it. I run and look at the ball at the same time. I make sure I follow the orbit of the ball, adjusting my speed to the speed of the ball. While running, I calculate where it will come down. I enjoy the wind on my coat and in my ears, I feel the ground under my feet, I spread my toes for optimal balance and power. I experience all these sensations at the same time, which makes it thrilling.
When I have figured out where the ball will land, I accelerate. I love to use all the strong muscles in my body. I race towards the spot where the ball comes down, because I want to catch it before it hits the ground. I am most peculiar about this: the best way to do ball-fetching is catching it in the air. I want to do the same with pigeons, but so far they are flying too high – pity.
I stretch my long legs and jump.
Then, when I have catched the ball, another part of the play begins. My muscles relax a little, because full speed is not required anymore. I feel the gritty texture of the ball in my mouth – mostly we play this game on the beach, so there is always some sand involved. I turn around and face my human and I start running back to her, fast but not too fast. This is the moment when I enjoy the feeling of fulfillment: I have got the ball, I catched it flying, it is totally mine. Sometimes I savour this moment a bit longer, by digging a hole and burying the ball in it.
Then I take it out and bring it back to my human. And we start all over again (that is why I bring it back)!
All this: the anticipation, the speed, the part where we need to calculate which way the ball is going, the joy of catching it… all this is why we love to fetch balls.