When I arrive home after being out of the house all day I am always met at my front door by my small (but extremely loud) pack of fur children (I swear the whole neighbourhood knows when I get home). Molly will run in circles barking at the top of her lungs. Mabel will wriggle, grin her lop-sided grin and yip excitedly . . . and then there’s Maudie . . .
Maudie comes at me like a doggie-sunami, sweeping aside anything in her path (including her sisters). She will shriek with excitement, hopping about on her back legs and waving her front paws wildly in the air, and then, quite suddenly, she will realise something is missing. She will skid to a halt, do a complete about-face, and hurtle headlong back into the depths of the house in search of that missing something. She’s forgotten to bring me her ‘Ball’ . . .
Ball is one of Maudie’s 300 words for love. It is her comfort and joy. (Think Linus and his blanket.) She takes her ball to bed with her in the evening, and it is the first thing she looks for in the morning. She takes it outside to sit in the sun with her and it has its own special place beside her on the sofa in the evenings. The only time I ever see her really upset is if Mabel steals it from her and refuses to give it back. (This causes such a ruckus that I usually have to intervene on Maudie’s behalf. Mabel can be a real little *&#% when she wants to be . . . )
Unfortunately, Ball is now in imminent danger of being loved to death. Comprised of some sort of dense squishy foam the constant and unyielding onslaught of Maudie-love (along with Mabel nibbling pieces off it occasionally just to stir her sister up) has seen it begin to disintegrate at an alarming rate. It used to be the size of regular tennis ball, but has now shrunk to the size of a (weirdly shaped) golf ball. What happens when Ball crumbles completely and Maudie is left bereft doesn’t bear thinking about. So for the last few months I have been quietly searching for some kind of replacement. It has proved no easy task.
It’s not that Maudie doesn’t love a new toy—quite the opposite. Every new thing I have brought home for her has been a joy and a delight. For about five minutes. Then it has been gently discarded and rarely looked at again. Nothing (so far) has come close to competing for her affections. I was beginning to despair. And then a couple of weeks ago I came across a site selling cat balls. (That doesn’t quite sound right. Perhaps I should have said ‘ balls for cats’ . . . )
Anyway, these seemed to be about the same size as Ball is now and made of the same squishy material. (I couldn’t get a green one but I thought (hoped) that she might be more concerned with the taste and texture than the colour.) In fact, so convinced was I that these balls were exactly what I was looking for that I bought a bunch of them (6 balls for one dollar. Woo Hoo! ‘Hey big spender . . .’ )
When they finally arrived early this week I was so excited to show them to Maudie that I gave them a huge build up. I worked her up into a frenzy of anticipation as I slowly undid the wrappings. And she loved it. Her eyes grew wide and she yipped excitedly and pawed at the packet. I held up one of the new balls and she launched herself at it, grabbed it and took off running. She ran twice around the house in glee—yay—a new ball! She threw it in the air and caught it and threw it again. She took it outside and showed it her favourite sunny spot in the back garden. She rolled it around in her mouth and chomped on it and even rumbled a warning at Mabel when she wandered too close.
Feeling very pleased with myself and confident I had at least found a contender I took myself off to do a couple of chores and make myself a nice cup of tea. When I returned I found the living-room littered with shredded wrapping paper (I should have seen that coming) and a scattering of small, brightly coloured balls.
And there was Maudie—fast asleep and snoring happily on the couch . . .
. . . and nestled safely between her two front feet was . . . you guessed it . . . her old, decrepit, smelly, beloved Ball . . .