It is what it is: A whole new ballgame

It may seem from my last couple of columns — and from conversations with people I meet, social media posts and every other interaction I have — that I have puppies on the brain.

Actually, it’s just one puppy. But the first step is admitting you have a problem, and I’ll admit that since Lucy, a yellow Lab puppy, joined our family in January, she’s certainly been the center of attention.

Part of that attention has involved finding toys for her to play with. Every year, a new survey comes out that says people are spending more and more on their pets, and I can safely say I’m contributing to the trend. Over the past few months, I’ve spent lots of time — and a fair amount of money — in pet aisles and pet stores looking for things that Lucy can tug, chew or chase.

Puppy toy buying has been challenging, because anything we get not only has to amuse a very clever little puppy (she’s already figuring out how to open doors and drawers) but also hold up to our 10-year-old Lab Max, who can disembowel your typical puppy plush toy in about 10 seconds. We’ve tried a bunch of different things, from the various store-bought toys to some home-made contraptions, with mixed results. The first batch of plush toys was a good reminder as to why we never used to get plush toys for the dogs. The more durable toys haven’t seemed to hold the dogs’ interest, while the more interesting toys just haven’t held up.

Then I found something at one of our local warehouse stores, and it has been a game-changer — literally — because it’s led us to invent a new game to play with our dogs. The ball has a softball-sized, flexible shell with some holes in it. Stuffed inside is a plush toy with a squeaker. The aptly named product is called a Slobber Ball, and at least with my dogs, it only takes a minute or two for the ball to be covered in dog slobber. The dogs love chasing the Slobber Ball, to the point where they won’t even look up if we try to toss any of the other various balls we’ve acquired for their enjoyment.

Anyway, the game involves tossing the ball from our living room area, down the hallway and into our master bedroom (we don’t have hang ups about playing ball in the house with the dogs, but the kids are another story). Because the dogs enjoy chasing the ball down the hallway so much, and have become somewhat insistent that if we’re home, we ought to be playing ball, I started giving myself points for certain shots, kind of like bocce or horseshoes: 1 point for being able to get it through the bedroom door (which is trickier than it sounds with two dogs chasing after it, especially once the ball is loaded up with slobber); 2 points for getting it in the gap between the puppy’s training kennel and my dresser; and three points for getting it into the kennel.

There’s also trick shots, such as making it bounce at a right angle into the bathroom, or getting it to land on top of the kennel. But you also lose points if you toss the ball anywhere near the hallway light fixture, or if it bounces over the puppy gate and down the stairs.

There’s also some strategy. For instance, if the dogs knock the kennel door shut, you have to place your next shot so that they’ll knock it open again.

I jokingly told my wife about my scoring system, but I didn’t think anyone else was picking up on it until I heard her brag about hitting a 3-pointer.

Not all of dogs love the new game. In fact, our pug is not at all thrilled about 110-plus pounds of Labrador retriever galumphing around the house. Her strategy is, if you can’t run with the big dogs, stay in someone’s lap.

And I’m not sure how enthusiastic some of our guests have been when the dogs have insisted that they play, too. I guess not everyone enjoys a dog drool-covered ball being shoved on them.

I’m thinking that to take the game to the next level, we’ll have to keep a running score and institute a time limit — say, 10 minutes. That would put some more variables into play — when Max gets the ball, he brings it right back, but Lucy is still learning the retrieve part of the game, and when she gets it, she likes to run laps around the loveseat while Max chases her.

We have a dry-erase board mounted right by the “field of play” that would make a perfect scoreboard. It’s supposed to be for phone messages, but the kids don’t answer the phone anyway.

In the spirit of the season — it’s March Madness time — we could even put together a tournament bracket. The possibilities are endless.

All of this sounds pretty elaborate just to keep a puppy amused for a little while, and maybe I need a little profession help for my current puppy problem. But for the time being, I’m just going to play ball.

Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at

More in Life

Dillon Diering and Sarah Overholt dance while the Tyson James Band performs during the 45th Annual Moose Pass Summer Solstice Festival in Moose Pass, Alaska, on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘We’re about community’

Moose Pass throws 45th annual Summer Solstice Festival

This summer salad is sweet and refreshing, the perfect accompaniment to salty meat and chips. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Fueling happy memories

Fresh salad accompanies an outdoors Father’s Day meal

Minister’s Message: The way life will be

“Is this the way it was all meant to be? Is this what God had in mind when He created us?”

Photo provided by Art We There Yet
José Luis Vílchez and Cora Rose with their retired school bus-turned-art and recording studio.
‘It’s all about people’

Traveling artists depict Kenai Peninsula across mediums

Promotional Photo courtesy Pixar Animation/Walt Disney Studios
In Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Fear (voice of Tony Hale) and Disgust (voice of Liza Lapira) aren’t sure how to feel when Anxiety (voice of Maya Hawke) shows up unexpectedly. Directed by Kelsey Mann and produced by Mark Nielsen, “Inside Out 2” releases only in theaters Summer 2024.
On the Screen: ‘Inside Out 2’ a bold evolution of Pixar’s emotional storytelling

Set only a year after the events of the first film, “Inside Out 2” returns viewers to the inner workings of pre-teen Riley

Calvin Fair, in his element, on Buck Mountain, above Chief Cove on Kodiak Island, in October 1986. His hunting partner and longtime friend Will Troyer captured this image while they were on one of the duo’s annual deer-hunting trips. (Photo courtesy of the Fair Family Collection)
The Road Not Taken: A tribute to my father’s career choice

For the first 40 years of my life, I saw my father professionally as a dentist. Period.

Edward Burke is ordained a transitional deacon by Archbishop Andrew E. Bellisario at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, June 8, 2024. (Photo provided by Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church)
Kenai’s Catholic Church hosts diaconate ordination

The event was attended by roughly 300 people, nearly a dozen priests and deacons and the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau

Rhubarb custard cake is ready to be baked. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Rhubarb and running to lift the spirits

Frozen rhubarb just won’t do for this tart and beautiful custard cake, so pick it fresh wherever you can find it

Minister’s Message: Prioritizing prayer

I am thankful I can determine to pray about choices and circumstances

Most Read