March 1st, 2016
Fetching sticks is a major activity in our Newfoundland puppy’s life. I have learned that not all sticks are created equally in her eyes. Bailey is selective. There’s a science to her picking the perfect stick. She prefers the bushy branches of fir trees that have fallen from high winds and heavy snowfalls. Usually, they have numerous smaller twig-like branches shooting off from a thick main branch. I can’t for the life of me understand how holding a mouth full of fir needles is comfortable. Some branches even come with the pinecones still attached. Neither the cones nor needles seem to bother her. The length of the stick is also important. Bailey likes long ones around 3 feet or more. Not exactly a length conducive to throwing. I know because I have tried and tried. Although Bailey is not impressed with my attempts to throw these cumbersome sticks – landing only a few feet in front of us, she persists in bringing them to me.
I, on the other hand, seek out solid sticks that are about 12 inches in length with no needles or twig-like branches attached. “Boring sticks” in Bailey’s mind. However, I can throw these sticks a fair distance without wrenching my shoulder muscles like those ones chosen by Bailey. I am also selective. My sticks should be hard and thick enough that they do not easily splinter in Bailey’s mouth. Skinny sticks have short lives when faced with a newf’s large molars. She snaps them in small bits, dropping them as we stroll. Many of my sticks end up rejected. Bailey tries them out for a few minutes before dropping them on the path and moving on. However, should she like my stick, that’s when our game begins.
Over the past month, our region has received quite a bit of snow which has made stick selection challenging. Just when you think a perfect stick has been found, you discover it is still attached to a tree buried under the snow. Poor Bailey gets so excited – prancing around in anticipation of the stick being thrown. My failed attempt to retrieve it dampens her spirit but only briefly. Soon she takes matters into her own paws and takes over finding “the stick”. Eventually, one is found and the fun begins. I love to throw sticks into the deep snow and watch Bailey as she springs like a rabbit to fetch it. She’s just not graceful – more like a snow plow. This scene will play over and over again until one of us tires. If it is me who stops playing first, Bailey will try to keep the game going. She will take the stick and push it against the back of my legs as I am walking. In doing so, she gets my attention. More often than not, I stumble as the stick slips in between my legs. Bailey likes to approach me from the right side and sometimes the end of the stick will catch the fabric of whatever I am wearing. Thanks to Bailey, I have several pants with holes in the right knee. This is why I like shorter sticks rather than her longer ones.
Stick storage is another problem for us. Once our walk on the trails comes to an end, we carefully select a spot to leave the stick. We are careful to not make it obvious as numerous other dogs and their owners use the trails. Bailey and I have hidden many perfect sticks too well. We can’t find them again. The new snow does not help us. The two of us are left to find a new “perfect stick” and resume a friendly game of fetch.