On Teaching a Dog to Fetch

Mom came home from work one day in the summer of ’84 in a rush.  She saw a sign on her postal route:  “Free puppies, half retriever/half Siberian Husky.”  We jumped at the thought of a new dog. 

“It can play with Puddles.  Since it’s summer,” I said, “I’ll probably teach it to play fetch, and then catch a frisbee.  And I’ll take it on walks every day.”

She continued, “It’ll be golden or white, blue eyes probably and pointy ears.” 

Jake squealed with joy.  “Since it’s summer, I’ll probably teach it to jump and lick me,” he said.

She came home the next night with a small, all-black dog with floppy ears and brown eyes.  “We’ll call her Ebony,” mom said and I went to work training her. 

Puddles and Ebony. If you look closely at this picture, you can see my leg swinging from the treehouse.

I threw my favorite tennis ball for her.  And then went and picked it up.  I threw it again, it stopped right next to her, but she didn’t even sniff it.  I picked it up and took it inside.  I dipped the ball in a bowl of fifteen bean soup and brought it back outside.

I let Ebony sniff the ball.  She licked it.  I threw it, but Ebony just looked at me.  I threw it a couple of more times as the dog jumped and licked Jake.  I took the ball back inside. 

I asked dad that night over a bowl of soup for ideas.  “Just keep working,” he said, “she’ll get it.”

The next day, I put peanut butter and jelly on the ball.  I took Ebony outside.  I threw the ball and she just looked at me.

Each day for almost two weeks I worked upwards of five minutes trying to teach the dog to fetch.  I tried new flavors for the once-green tennis ball:  butter, ranch dressing, and Kool-Aid (cherry and fruit punch).  She would lick the ball when I held it in front of her, but she wouldn’t chase it.

The last week of August, I was sitting in the living room watching He-Man when I noticed Ebony run by the sliding glass door.  She had something in her mouth that looked like our cat!

I ran outside as she was digging a hole.  There was an smelly animal next to her with white, wiry hair and a long, hairless nose.  The animal was soaked from Ebony licking it.  I picked it up to get a closer look.  It had long teeth and half-closed eyelids.  Ebony jumped at me, whimpering.  I threw the animal as far as I could, past the next orange tree.  Ebony ran after it, picked it up, and brought it back to me.  She set it down and began digging again.  I picked up the animal and threw it again.  She trotted off and brought it back.

I left the animal next to the hole and brought Ebony in so she wouldn’t bury it.  I called dad at work and told him about how good Ebony was doing at playing fetch.  Dad said, “Don’t touch it, I’ll be home for lunch in five minutes.”

Ebony in much later years, after Puddles died and we got a new puppy, Pippi. Pippi actually could fetch non-carrion things.

Dad came home took one look and said, “That’s an opossum.  Go get my reading glasses and the horse racing form from last night.”  I ran and got them.  I came back out.  “Put the form down on the washing machine.” 

Dad put the opossum on the racing form.  He put his glasses on the opossum’s long nose and ran inside.  He called mom at work.  “Micki, I have a surprise for you.  I left it on the washing machine for when you get home.  Don’t guess!  You’ll ruin the surprise!” 

Dad went back to work.  Jean, Jake, and I checked on the opossum once every hour or so, excited to hear mom scream.

Mom came home and ran toward the garage.  We stood in the kitchen waiting to hear her reaction.  She opened the door and looked at the washing machine.  “Huh,” she said, “why’d your dad leave his racing form on the machine?”

Zach has a new way of reacting when I chase after him.

First, he looks at me and laughs.

Then he crawls as fast as he can for two or three seconds.

Then, he plays possum, laying his head down and freezing.  He hopes I won’t tickle him.


About Jimmy

The stories herein are about a sentimental 80s child who cried at every showing of ET (the sad part where he was lying in the wash) and his families, then and now. His wife, son, parents, and siblings play their parts well. They have their exits and their entrances. Sometimes their exits are sad, but not as sad as ET.
This entry was posted in Elementary School, fatherhood, He-Man and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to On Teaching a Dog to Fetch

  1. inkline says:

    Poor Mom!!!
    I think Zach secretly hopes you WILL tickle him.

  2. Susan Okaty says:

    Great story and very funny. We used to throw a ball for our yellow lab, Abby, and she’d fetch it. Then we got mean and just pretended to throw it but kept it in our hand. She’d run to pick it up and search for it, then look sadly back at us as if it were her fault she couldn’t find it.

  3. Mom says:

    Sometimes fiction is better than real life. I could have strangled your dad that day.
    Stop tickling that boy!!!

    • Jimmy says:

      For those of you reading mom’s comment, the real life was that the opossum was still on the washing machine when she got home. Dad had placed it so the animal was looking right up at her.

      We made fun of her scream for years afterward.

  4. LOL! Enjoyed very much….we have one that fetches and one let’s her while she watches.

  5. Dianna says:

    Love your story – as always.
    But the video…..warmed my heart and made me smile. Precious times; I know you’re savoring all of them.

  6. projectwhitespace says:

    Ha! He fooled everybody! Love it! 🙂

  7. Dor says:

    What a hilarious story! Ebony was obviously a favorite pet, even if he would only fetch dead things. And Zach – Well, Zach’s adorable!

  8. marjulo says:

    Great story! My dogs always rolled on dead things, including canned escargot!

  9. inkline says:

    If we got a dog, I’d probably say something like…
    “Since it’s summer, I’ll probably teach it to run away.”

  10. Jane says:

    Every time the movie of Zack finishes, Chanoch asks me for more. His expressions range from quizzical to worried to shock to smiles…every time we watch it. 🙂

  11. 1smiles says:

    We scared my mom with a rubber alligator that we hid behind the milk carton in the fridge. When it got touched, it’s mouth would open and close.
    We were all grounded for a week.

  12. Maxi says:

    The video made my day; I think Zach is lovin’ it. As for Ebony, every dog has his day…

    Blessings – Maxi

  13. I came to visit because you read my Sunday Post on Pleasure and “liked” it…I love your story! Thank you so much for sharing. We had dogs (and cats and bunnies and gerbils) all the time our children were growing up…and training the dogs was always a challenge…some learned faster than others…but all were loving loyal companions.

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