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Walter Scott: Who likes to play ball? Or hide the ball?

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Drakesville, Iowa.

Columnist Walter Scott

Billie, the standard poodle, seems to love to play fetch with his squeaky ball. It is either he thinks this is the greatest sport in the world, next to chasing squirrels, or he thinks I love to play ball and he is trying to make me happy. Whatever his motivation, not a day goes by that we do not have to play fetch until my arm is tired and his tongue is lolling out of the side of his mouth.

One morning last week, as usual, we were on the porch playing ball. I throw the ball as far as I can, he runs and brings it back as fast as he can. Upon his return, he squeaks it until I throw it again.

We have about 60 trumpeter swans that spend the night on the lake. They fly out each morning to eat in the local harvested grain fields and return in the late afternoon.

While playing ball, I noticed a large group of them were getting ready to take off for their daily trip. They get on the downwind side of the lake, line up, bob their heads and honk. When everybody is in position, they take off, slapping their feet on the water while taking flight.

If they circle close to the house, a person can hear the wind whistling across their wings. I wanted to catch this sound and spectacle on video.


I grabbed my phone and started shooting just as they were taking off. This was also the time Billie returned with his ball and started squeaking to let me know it was time to throw it again. I was able to get the sight of a large group of swans leaving, but the sound was pretty much lost by the volume of the squeaky toy.

Jag, the terrier, does not play fetch. This does not mean he is not jealous of Billie playing. If I throw the ball for Jag, he looks at me like, “you threw it, you go get it.” Though he does not want it, he does not want Billie to have the ball either. If either Billie or I forget to take the ball inside when we get done playing, Jag will take the ball and hide it.

I have never seen Jag pick up a ball, but when nobody is looking, he will grab it and run. He is also exceptionally good at hiding them. This spring, while plowing the garden, we turned up a ball that had been missing since last fall.

Now when a ball is missing, I go look in the garden. There is nothing there. I have no idea where his new hiding place is.

On rare occasions, when feeling unusually benevolent, he will bring one back after a month or two. Suddenly, a missing ball will be on the porch and Jag will be sitting there looking innocent. We are currently missing two balls.

Playing ball is part of our daily routine. Billie insists on it. He can bark at deer with a ball in his mouth, which causes the bark to be a bit muffled. He can also chase squirrels while carrying his ball.

It would make it difficult to catch a squirrel with a ball in one’s mouth, but I do not think the real purpose of chasing squirrels is to catch them. The important thing in life is to play ball.

A video of the swans can be seen online at ottumwapost.com . It is best viewed with the sound off as the sound of the squeaking ball gets really annoying.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Drakesville, Iowa.
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