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"My gosh, how old is she? Isn't she nine or ten?" my cousin Sarah guessed in awe.
I tossed the ball again, "She's eleven and a half," I replied as June emerged victoriously from the stairwell with Sully in close pursuit. She set the ball, covered with dog slobber, in my hand.
"Woof, woof," June spoke with excitement, "Throw the ball again, Dad, I'm ready" I tossed the ball down the stairwell to the lower level of the house. June and Sully both took off chasing the ball; June was two full strides in the lead.
This game of catch had been going on for nearly four hours, with only short breaks. Sarah shook her head, "I think June is wearing Sully out."
Sully is a two-and-a-half-year-old, handsome Golden Retriever. His picture-perfect appearance is typical of his breed. He has those big, brown puppy dog eyes that will melt your heart. His soft reddish-brown coat is wavy and features stylish cowlicks. Whisps of longer blonde hair trail on each of his lanky legs, flowing down to his toes. When Sully wags his tail, the longer hair flows like the groomed mane of a show horse, cantering through the breeze.
Sully stands half again taller than June; he weighs thirty pounds more and is physically fit. June, nine years his senior, still carries the girlish figure of her youth; she refuses to act like a dog in her senior years.
Age consideration aside, the two dogs get along well. June will often yield way to the larger canine; not because of the size difference; June just plays smarter. You might say she chooses her battles wisely - unless there's a tennis ball involved. Both dogs love to chase and catch the ball and become quite competitive when the yellow fuzzy sphere appears.
I threw the ball down the stairs again, June took off in the lead, Sully followed close behind. June was just getting ready to start down the steps. Trying to turn the corner while running, Sully slipped on the ceramic tile floor. He went sliding by, feet first, like a baseball player trying to beat the ball to home plate. Sully crashed into June's rump as he passed. June was launched down the steps like the runner who crashed into the catcher. She tumbled for a bit before regaining her footing. Sully quickly caught up, and the two charged across the family room.
One of the dogs bumped the ball with their nose. The ball ricocheted off the stone fireplace and bounced down another set of steps going to the lowest level in the house. Sully was in the lead but slammed on his brakes, stopping short, allowing June to fly by, down the steps. June returned to the living room with the ball.
At the top of those steps was a white round disc on the floor; I thought it was a smoke detector that had been removed for some reason. My cousin Andy explained, "The cat food dish is down there, and he'll clean it out every chance he gets. If Sully gets too close to the disc, he gets a little tickle from his collar, so he doesn't go near those steps."
I learn new things every day. That also explains the smoke detector on top of the cat box upstairs; all this time, I thought their cats must eat some bad things if Andy felt it necessary to mount a smoke detector on the litter box.
Although June came upstairs with the ball, Sully had the ball a minute later. He held it between his teeth, making a lump under his lip; he looked like a baseball pitcher with a big wad of chew tucked in his cheek.
June turned to me with despair, "Sully has my ball."
"Well, how did he get it from you?" I explained like a coach, "You have to protect the ball, cover it up; you can't let your opponent take it away like that. It's his ball now; possession is everything in any game using a ball."
Sully laid down, gnawing on the ball, unwilling to give it up. Sully is bigger, but June plays smarter. What she did next amazed me!
While Sully laid with the ball in his mouth, June went to his pile, bringing me one of Sully's favorite toys. I tossed the object into the dining room. June flinched, stomping her front feet as if she was going for the toy. Sully dropped the ball and ran to retrieve the toy before June got there. As soon as he ran, June calmly walked over, picked up the tennis ball, bringing it to me. I laughed but was indeed amazed at her thought process.
At first, I thought June's ploy was just coincidental until she did it again and again! The next time June baited Sully, Sarah also witnessed it. "Come on, Sully! June is bluffing for Pete's sake, and you fall for it every time!" Sarah shook her head, "Sully, you’re so gullible." I was proud of my crafty little girl.
The following day, June and Sully were looking at my computer screen while I went for a refill of coffee. I had started writing a story titled 'June and Sully.'
"Why is your name listed first," Sully demanded to know? June pushed a few keys on the laptop, bringing up a different page I had opened.
"Look here, Sully," June explained, pointing her paw at the screen. "According to the American Kennel Club, Golden Retrievers are the fourth smartest breed of dogs. Do you know which is the smartest?" June pressed another key, scrolling the screen, "It says here, Border Collies are the smartest breed." June gloated to her playmate, "That's why my name is listed first."
June went to find a ball; Sully climbed on the couch to nap in the warm sunlight coming through the front window. Watching this exchange between the dogs, I said, "June, that's not exactly correct."
"I know," June said, smiling, "You obviously listed the names in alphabetical order." Then she presented a tennis ball covered with dog slobber, "Can you throw this for me, Dad?"