A Message from Callie

Callie says, “I’m ready to play soccer. See if you can beat me!”

Callie is a four-month old Golden Retriever puppy. One of her favorite toys is this under-inflated soccer ball. But how did she get the idea of playing soccer? Was it in her genes? It really was her idea. Since she was about two months old, the first thing she has done every morning, when she goes outside, is to run to the other side of the soccer ball and invite me to play with her.

Soccer with Callie goes like this: She runs and tries to trap the ball between all four of her puppy legs — under her belly. Then it’s my job to kick the ball out from under her tummy and to another place in the backyard. Sometimes, when Callie is trying to trap the ball, she ends up “dribbling” it, until she gets all four legs around it. It’s not easy for me to get it out from under her tummy, because she works hard to protect it. I guess it will get easier as she gets taller.

As you can see, Callie’s getting serious about the game. She would stand there for five minutes, if she needed to, waiting for me to kick the ball.

Now the game is on, and Callie is really into it. She doesn’t do “headers” yet, but she doesn’t mind using her head or her body to block a gentle kick. She loves to run and chase the ball and to play “keep-away” with her legs.

What does this have to do with My Doggie Says…? (www.mydoggiesays.com) My Doggie Says… is about tuning-in to your dog in order to understand its messages and to nurture it — to help it be the things it was bred to be and that it wants to be.

Five years of photographing Jamie’s messages (Jamie is the Golden Retriever subject of My Doggie Says…) taught me that the messages are subtle at times. You have to train yourself to know when your dog is saying something. In another post, I’ll write about one of Jamie’s messages that was difficult to decipher, but it was a very important Golden Retriever message.

How does a dog decide it wants to play soccer? Beats me. But dogs do decide these things. Callie’s decision to be a soccer dog is ironic, because Jamie, with one exception, didn’t care for balls. You could throw her a ball, and she would just let it hit her on the head. She didn’t care at all about balls.

Part of the message is that every dog is different (the subject of another future post) and that it’s important to “listen” to your dog and not just train it to do the things you want it to do.