Sunday, July 18, 2010
The Vortex Football
By the fall of ’97, Abby was fully mature but still growing, or should I say ‘expanding’. Abby was not shy around food and loved to eat. She was the type of dog that would keep eating until all of her food was gone which made it difficult to feed Father. Father ate only a few times a day and didn’t like an audience when he ate. Their contrasting eating styles made it hard to ensure Father was adequately fed but that Abby wasn’t overfed.
Abby also began to show signs of laziness, and her enthusiasm of the fetching games waned by then. For example one day in the front yard, Abby was sitting 20 or 30 yards from me when I threw a Frisbee at her. It was a perfect throw going within inches of her mouth. All she had to do was open her mouth and grab the Frisbee. Did she do it? No. Instead she watched the Frisbee go by her and turned her head tracking it go down the hill and saw it come to a stop, after which she looked back at me with an expression that read, “What did you expect? Don’t do that again.” And with that, the fetching games came to an end, or at least for then.
As the fall progressed and Abby’s activity level dropped since we the pool was closed, she began to put on some pounds and broke the 100 pound mark. Abby is big boned so for a dog like her, her ideal weight was around 90 pounds. It was time for me to find something, anything, to pique her interest. She bored so easily making it a challenge to keep her interested in playing. I should have taken her for walks, but by the time I arrived home, it was dark, and our neighborhood could be unsafe at times, for example one time someone threatened to shoot me one night while I was out running a mile or so from home. I should have driven Abby downtown where it was safer and quieter, but it was a ‘V-8’ moment “Wow, why didn’t I think of that!” Hindsight can be so clear at times.
My solution to keep Abby active was a toy, a Vortex football. Basically it’s a nerf football with a stem on the end which has fins on it for aerodynamics stabilizing the ball subsequently allowing the ball to be thrown for impressively far distances. In addition to this feature, the ball had a ‘whistler’ on it which would make the ball make a sound eerily similar to a bomb in those WWI movies. I swear to god it sounded like a bomb was about to go off. That whistle drove Abby and Father nuts. The first time I threw that ball, they took off after it with the greatest of enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, they never tired of that toy. On the box of the toy was a claim of how far the ball could be thrown, and in this case, it was actually a modest claim. I could throw that ball a country mile! If I could have thrown a real football that far, I would have been a QB in the NFL. One time I went to a football field at a nearby high school to measure how far I could throw it. I was able to throw that thing over 80 yards! Abby enthusiastically ran after it and brought it back.
There was something about that whistle on that ball beckoning them to play and whipping them into a tizzy. Because I could throw it so far, Abby would have to run quite a ways so after a fifteen minute session of playing with this ball, Abby had accomplished quite a work-out in these sessions. This new toy contributed to Abby’s toning down to 90 pounds over the following six months. I was proud of my Baby Girl.
The only drawbacks to this toy were that it was fragile and it hurt my throwing shoulder. In the first few sessions I threw this ball, I over did it and aggravated an old injury I sustained while swimming when I pulled my right shoulder out of socket during a race. That shoulder hasn’t been the same ever since and would flare up once in a while such as when I threw toys to my dogs a few dozen times without warming up. I could alleviate/avoid the pain and keep playing with them by either throwing left-handed or side armed.
The other drawback of the toy was the delicate construction of the fin. Obviously this toy wasn’t meant for dogs. Abby and Father would usually get to the ball about the same time and they would grab a different end and run back to me. While running back, they would be tugging back and forth trying to wrest control of it so that after a while, the stem would snap and the toy was ruined. I could still throw the ball, but not as far. At least it still made that bombing noise when I threw it. They would go through a couple of these Vortex’s a month, but considering how much fun the babies had and how effective the toy was keeping Abby active, fit and trim, it was well spent money.