My dog is teaching me how to throw a Frisbee.
I’m not that good at it, but he is very patient. Every day I’m learning something new, like a dog on a walk, sniffing.
I first saw a Frisbee about 50 years ago. My friend Stewy got one as a gift and we played on a little patch of asphalt, that had sliding ponds and swings, in a city lot that someone had decided to call a park. My throws were mostly errant, oblique to the horizon, sliding out of the sky, this way and that. Stewy got a good work out, and then got disgusted with me. Since then I’d only thrown Frisbees on rare occasions, with usually the same result.
Last year we bought a border collie mix. My old dog was lonesome, and the day before, my wife had been diagnosed with cancer. I’d read that Lynn Redgrave had credited her dog with saving her life in a similar circumstance, and so that was the idea.
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Like all dogs, border collies are special. They focus intently, love to play and give lots of doggie kisses. Every day, during the months of her chemotherapy, as her hair fell out and her body weakened, my wife would go out in the yard with a plastic ball and bat, and play fetch with little “Rango.” He did all the running, and she would just have to swing her arms. Every morning when I opened his crate door, Rango would bolt out, and jump on my sleeping wife’s head, bathing her with kisses.
So my wife is better now, and I’m still playing with Rango. We go out a couple of times a day, when I’m tired of sitting at my desk, and I throw him the Frisbee. He runs headlong, full speed, to and fro, tearing up the lawn as he slams on the brakes for a descending disk. I don’t have to mow anymore, I just throw the Frisbee in the direction of overgrown grass; and after bringing up some divots, Rango returns it to my feet, waiting for another throw. He doesn’t care how I throw it. It can bounce on the ground or go up in a tree. As long as it’s moving, it’s a good throw.
So over the weeks, I’ve figured out that Frisbee throwing, like most things, “is all in the wrist.” You’ve got to give it a good spin and it will likely fly straight. Nowadays, I can hit the chain link gate at 20 yards pretty regularly. And when the dog gets dirty, I just throw the Frisbee so it lands in his kiddie pool. He dives in and gets a bath.
So, like I say, the dog has been a good teacher, particularly in the way of energy and patience. Sometimes my neighbors complain, about the state of my lawn, or the occasional barking serenade; but hey, it’s a small price to pay.
John Wurzelmann is a physician who has lived in Chapel Hill for 25 years.