There’s a dog that lives a couple of houses down the road from us.
I mean, it lives with humans. It’s not in someway anthropomorphic and on the property ladder. It’s a pet. Of human people. Who live in the house. The dog lives with them. I think. Or maybe it doesn’t. Because it seems like a fairly new addition and there was a time a few weeks ago they were dog-sitting a pug. So maybe they are dog sitting this one. I hope they’re not though, and that it’s a permanent feature because it’s very entertaining.
The other night it was outside and just barked at me constantly. And every time it barked it jumped forward a little bit so while it may have thought it was in some way threatening what it was actually pulling off was amusingly cute. I mean, I was two gardens away. If I’d been next to it I might have been shitting myself, but I doubt it.
Today it’s been outside and there’s not been a peep from it.
There was some whimpering, though, during a period in which I became a silent supporter of the dog and its endeavours.
There is a small squeaky football which it plays with. This ball had been taken from the dog, who was alone in the garden, and placed dead centre of a garden table. The dog could see the ball, but the dog could not reach the ball.
And so began the ballet of dog and ball.
At first the dog just looked at the ball, from afar. It could see it, but it knew there was no hope of reaching it. There were pathetic whimpers of sadness, and then long forlorn looks at the back door of the house through which no human emerged. More whimpering, still no human. No bipedal method of ball recovery was forthcoming.
I could have gone and got it but it’s surely not my place, so I did what any good BBC Wildlife camera operator would do, and let nature take its course.
The dog then took to problem solving. It examined the table from all angles. The table was round. The ball was in the centre. No one point offered an advantage over any other. One portion was inaccessible due to there being a house in the way, otherwise all the table was open for the taking.
The table analysed, it then became an matter of experimenting with putting front legs on the table. What did that gain? Nothing except a better view of the ball the dog still couldn’t reach. Again and again the two-legged approach and again and again a disappointing result.
And then came the moment when my support went out to the dog.
It took a run up.
An actual run up.
And jumped onto the table. Which it turns out was glass.
I don’t know if you’ve heard a reasonably sized dog jump onto a glass table, but it is a scary noise, especially when you’re the only person around and fairly sure if anything bad happened you would be the one who would do something about it.
Luckily, the glass table survived the assault by the canine, who now stood upon the table with the ball in his jaws.
I wanted to fist pump and shout “yes!” and do all those sorts of things.
Instead I was left watching a dog whose plan for getting the ball had never covered getting off the table. It paced round and round and round the table. And it wasn’t a large table. Round and round, looking at the grass where it imagined itself playing with the ball. Round and round and round.
Come on, I was thinking, just leap down. Leap! Soar free.
Round and round and round and round and round.
Eventually it dared to jump off.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a reasonably sized dog jump off a glass table before, but it’s a very good – and heart-stopping – example of the whole equal and opposite force thing. Because that table shook like a good ‘un as it slammed into the house wall and I envisaged a moment where I was pulling glass out of a dog’s foot because surely there can’t have been anyone home if they didn’t stir at the sound of a glass table colliding with a structure.
The table, however, did not break.
And the dog and the ball took to the grass.
And every time it snatched up the ball, illiciting a little squeak of joy from the squeaker, it was hard not to think that life was good.