Kimber has a wonky leg. It all began a few weeks ago when she tried to chase someone else’s ball. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, or of my cartoons, you may already have an inkling that Kimber is very fond of a ball. She has two favourite kinds of ball: a hollow one with holes in it that we use inside; and her absolute favourite kind of ball, which is a squeaky Kong tennis ball. Apparently the squeak provokes an ancestral memory of when dogs killed their prey. I prefer to think that she just likes to make a lot of noise. Anyway, in the absence of her favourite kind of ball, any ball will do. Any ball in a storm, so to speak, for Kimber.

Because of her obsession with the ball – now there’s an example of how blogging is more relaxed than the kind of writing you’ve been trained to produce – not only have I started a sentence with ‘because’, but a paragraph no less! Anyway, because of her ball obsession, I don’t take a ball out on our walks. If I did, all she’d do is walk backwards with her eyes on my pocket. And if I actually threw the damn thing, that would be it for our walk; I’d spend the entire time throwing the ball, and she would ignore other dogs, forget about sniffing all the good smells, and basically not be a dog. So I don’t take a ball, I just take my dog for a walk.

Now what I don’t understand is when people stopped just taking their dog for a walk. No, actually, I do. It was when those bloody ball launchers came into existence. You’ll have seen them if you’ve seen more than three people walking their dogs, because at least one in three dog owners seem to use them. They’re plastic sticks with a wee ball-shaped crevice at the end. You put the ball in the crevice and swing the stick above your head so that the ball goes for miles with very little effort required on the part of the person who threw it. You don’t even have to bend down to pick up the ball.

I swear that if more people had to bend down to pick up the ball, or use their arm muscles to throw the damn thing, fewer people would throw a ball for their dog, and more people would simply walk their dog. Which to my mind would be better for everyone. Especially for Kimber. Because then maybe she wouldn’t have a wonky leg.

When I’m walking Kimber and she sees a ball, she will generally want to go and chase it. If it’s just in the mouth of another dog, I can get her to walk past it, but if someone is right in front of her and throws the ball, she’s going to chase it. Especially if I don’t realise that’s what they’re going to do. I’m usually very good at spotting someone who might be about to throw a ball, and asking them to wait until we pass. Which we can usually do without incident. But a few weeks ago I had a lapse of both observation and judgement.

We’d come across a gentleman and his lovely cockapoo, Henry. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.) Kimber had spotted Henry coming up behind us, and waited for him, so we stopped to have a chat. Henry had a ball, and his owner had a bloody ball launcher. I explained that I didn’t bring a ball because Kimber was so obsessed, and he reassured me that Henry wouldn’t hand over his ball to her for anything. Normally at this point I would have made it really clear that if he was going to throw the ball for Henry, could he please let me know so that I could walk away with Kimber. But I didn’t.

I think my reticence was partly due to an experience I’d had a few days earlier. I’d asked a man (I was brought up to call men ‘gentlemen’, but this man doesn’t deserve such a courtesy) to please wait until we’d passed until he threw his ball for his dog. He ignored me. Kimber chased the ball, caught it (she’s really good at that), and brought it back. I asked him again to wait a few minutes so I could walk on with Kimber. Again he ignored me and threw the ball. He did it four times, and each time I asked him not to. His wife was embarrassed, and had to help me get Kimber so I could put her on her lead and walk her away.

On this occasion, however, I knew that this particular gentleman would have gladly granted my request. The problem was that I thought Henry still had his ball. I should have known that his owner had it, because Kimber was now sat looking at him intently. Of course if he’d bent down I might have seen that, but he didn’t need to, did he, so I missed the fact that the ball was in the bloody ball launcher. And just as he raised his arm to launch the ball, Kimber turned and launched herself to chase the ball. Except that we were in a field, and the ground is really uneven, so while her body turned and launched, one of her legs got caught on a mound of earth.

The shriek she gave out was bad enough. Carrying her for a mile wasn’t much better. But on the last time I put her down for a rest, she tried the leg out and seemed happy enough to walk on it. We kept her to a couple of short walks the next day and she seemed to be back to normal. But three days of normal walks later, and she was struggling on the stairs and waiting for someone to lift her onto the bed. The vet reckons she’s pulled her cruciate ligament, but won’t rule out a partial tear. This has resulted in poor Kimber being confined to short walks – no more that five minutes of walking – and no ball play for pretty much the last three weeks. If I’m honest, I think she was fully recovered a few days ago, but we’re being cautious and careful, and putting up with the sad face until the vet gives us the all clear. But it’s tough going. She’s soooooooo very bored. Which means she’s constantly looking for attention and will only settle if I sit on the sofa. This means I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing in notebooks, but not publishing anything because I can’t get more than ten minutes at the computer, which is obviously taken up on Facebook. But the husband’s working from home today, so she’s downstairs with him. So I’ve had enough peace to write this. I can hear them coming up the stairs, which means my peace is about to be shattered. But that’s okay, I kind of like snuggling on the sofa with my poor wee soul.

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