The dog’s name was Roger. I had tried, several times, to get him to pick a more dog-like name, like Spike or something. But he was called Roger, and when I tried to call him something else, he refused to answer me. So, I gave up and called him Roger.
It got us some looks at the dog park, but he didn’t care. He mostly thought owners were dummies, so them throwing us disapproving glances didn’t bother him much. He never told me directly that I was a dummy, but I’m pretty sure he must have thought it occasionally. He could be a bit of a jerk.
He was a mutt, which I never thought suited his personality very well. He had the hauteur that you would have put with a pure-bred something or other. but he pointed out that the pure-bred were some of the dumbest animals he’d ever met. Like European royalty, they’d been breeding with each other for so long that they couldn’t think straight anymore.
“Even an absolutely average mutt is much smarter than a Dalmatian. That’s true for most breeds. Poodles are the exception. Very smart, but they have serious rage issues instead.”
That’s why I knew that it must be serious if he was telling me about the lost ball. He generally kept that kind of thing to himself, since he didn’t want to feel like he was in my debt about anything or that he’d had any sort of mental failure at all.
So, I also knew that the ball must have been missing for a while. He never would have told me about it directly when it happened. He would have spent some time trying to find it himself before telling me. He would have racked his brains before he came to me.
But he couldn’t figure it out. And there was no denying it, the ball was gone. He had had it with him at the dog park, on Tuesday, and by Friday he still wasn’t able to find it. He wondered aloud if some other dog had stolen it. Or maybe some dimwit had just taken it by accident.
I admitted that it might be a possibility, but I pointed out that most of the other dogs had also had balls of their own and therefore no need to steal his. And even the dumbest ones seemed to know which ball was theirs. It was pretty much essential to playing “fetch,” which – as he had pointed out – was all they were capable of anyway. So, they’d have had be really defective to not be able to recognize their own ball.
Roger grumbled a little that it might still be possible, considering how stupid some of the other dogs were. But he basically left the idea alone after that, so it was clear that he took the point.
I asked if he remembered putting it down at the park at all. He had spent a bit of time sniffing around one of the trees there. Perhaps he had put it down to investigate the tree, and then forgotten about it?
He had thought about that, but he remembered having it after that. He had brought it back to me, and then gone off to look at some of the cars that had arrived. Perhaps it was, in fact, me who’d lost it, and he wasn’t responsible for it at all? Did that seem possible?
It didn’t and I told him so.
Instead I suggested that he recount what he’d done after I’d given it back to him after he looked at the cars. It wasn’t for sure, but there seemed to be a good chance that it was during that time that he’d lost it.
He gave me a look of disdain, as if that were an obvious measure, but then he got a look of surprise on his face before he grudgingly trudged into the next room. He came back unhappily clutching the ball in his mouth and set it down on the rug in front of me.
“I forgot that I’d put it down by the bookcase. I had thought that if I put it in such an obvious spot, there’d be no problem remembering it. I was wrong, obviously.”
He retired to the other room again, leaving the ball in front of me on the carpet. There were some standard things I wanted to say about the mind going a little bit when you got older. He was almost eleven, and so he really didn’t need to beat himself up about forgetting where he put things.
But I kept my mouth shut. I knew that he really wouldn’t want to hear it, anyway. So, I left him to fall asleep in his comfy spot, and just stayed quiet. And just accepted that he was going to become more forgetful. I’d accept it even if he didn’t.