Steve and I have a name for one category of dogs that we have lived with: the ball brains. Pearl, our last dog before we began raising CCI puppies, was perhaps the penultimate of this type. I recognized it in her on the day we brought her home. When I rolled a ball in her furry little 8-week-old presence, it mesmerized her. Later she could be relied upon to chase balls and bring them back, over and over and over again. She probably would have done this till she dropped, had we ever had the patience to test that.

Several of our CCI puppies have also been ball brains, if perhaps not to the same level of fanaticism as that of Pearl. Yuli was a ball brain, as were Brando and Darby. Tucker, our first CCI dog, whom we kept after he was released from the program, never was terribly interested. But we could still have fun with him and our current trainee down on the field. He would chase the ball — once in a while — and if he never could muster the enthusiasm to bring it back, Yuli or Brando or Darby would. So the game could continue.

But now we’re in trouble. Dionne may have less interest in balls than any other dog I’ve ever had. Once in a while, when she’s really bored, I can entice her into running after a tossed ball. But bringing it back is counter to the spirit of her most favorite game: keep away.

She can be very, very good at it. I’m not even supposed to know that about her.  The CCI puppy-training manual adjures, “You should not allow the puppy to play keep away. If the puppy picks up the items but refuses to return to you, simply end the game.”

Easy for them to say! When the puppy has snatched your iPhone and carried it off in a wild dash, the urge to race after and reclaim it is overpowering. I know what we’re supposed to do: grab something that’s even more interesting than the snatched item and tell the puppy to Drop. This works well — assuming we have a) a treat at hand and b) the presence of mind to control our natural impulses.  That’s not always the case, and so more times that I should admit, we’ve gotten tangled in comedic scenarios chasing her around the legs of the dining room table, the compost bins, in the backyard, the island in the kitchen.

Whatever the setting, Dionne finds it spectacularly amusing.

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