Jerico is a good dog. We’ve been friends from the moment we met at the RTR (Rubber Tramp Rendezvous). He jumped up and put his paws on me, which I usually hate, but he was so cute, I didn’t even care.
The Man trained Jerico to protect his camp. One night when we were in the tent on New Mexico BLM land, I heard Jerico growl from under the blankets. Even though he was completely covered, his dog senses told him someone or something was out there. The Man unzipped the tent’s flap and saw a nonpredetor creature (he wasn’t sure exactly what it was) on a ridge above our camp. We figured we were safe, so we all went to sleep.
Now that Jerico and The Man live with me, the dog considers the van his camp and is very protective of it. The times people have knocked on the van in the night, Jerico’s come flying out of the bed barking and growling at the intruders. When we leave him in the van to go into a store, we know he’s protecting our van home.
What Jerico loves most in the whole world is playing ball. Actually, that is an understantment. It is more
accurate to say Jerico is a fiend for playing ball. He’s obssessed with playing ball. He wants to play ball every waking moment. I suspect his dreams are filled with playing ball.
Of course, it’s difficult for a dog to play fetch alone, so Jerico needs a human to play with him, He doesn’t care what human plays, and he thinks every human he meets is a potential ball thrower. Any time a new person enters the van, Jerico think the person should be throwing the ball for him.
Jerico has a technique for getting someone to play ball. First he brings the ball close to his target. Then he stands there and looks from the ball to the person, back to the ball, then back to the person, rapidly and repeatedly. If the person does not understand his/her role and throw the ball, Jerico begins to bark loudly. You’re so bossy, I tell him often. If the person does not throw the ball, Jerico might pick it up in his mouth and move it closer to his mark. If that doesn’t work, he’ll try the looking, then the barking again.
He’s a master of intention, The Man says of Jerico. He knows eventually the ball will be thrown.
I imagine he’s attempting mind control on the humans. Throw the ball. Throw the ball. Throwtheballthrowtheballthrowtheball, I imagine he thinks until someone does.
If one is sitting and has been able to resit throwing the ball this long, Jerico tries another tactic. He picks up the ball in his mouth and deposits it gently in his target’s lap. He is totally stealthy, and I (and others) usually don’t notice what he’s doing. Suddenly the ball is in my lap or in the bed between where The Man and I are lying, and I never even saw it happen.
When someone finally (finally!) throws the ball, Jerico is all focus. No matter how far anyone throws–or hits with a racquet, as The Man does–the ball, Jerico is going to keep hunting until he finds it.
Be careful where you hit the ball, The Mantold me when we were on New Mexico BLM land. I had started hitting the ball with the racquet too, but my aim wasn’t as good as The Man’s. If it goes into a cactus, he’s not going to stop. He’ll dive right in and end up full of spines. He’d jump off a cliff after that ball.
When we went back to Northern New Mexico, we visited a friend who lives out in the middle of the sage, at least a mile from the nearest neighbor and ten miles from the nearest place to buy a candy bar. It’s a great place for The Man to whack the ball for Jerico, except for the pond.
The Man didn’t mean to send the ball into the pond. I didn’t see it happen, but I suddenly heard The Man yelling No! and Stop! and Don’t! Of course, Jerico didn’t heed any of those commands because he was after the ball.
By the time I made it over to the pond, Jerico was out of it and rolling around in the dirt in an attempt to
dry himself. He jumped up and shook, and I saw he was shivering in the cool March morning breeze. He was, of course, filthy.
He cannot get in the van like that! I told The Man.
The Man and I formulated a plan. We lured Jerico back into the pond with the precious ball so the water could rinse the dirt and mud from his body. As soon as he pulled himself out of the pond, I grabbed his collar so he couldn’t roll in the dirt again. The Man had a towel ready to dry him. When water no longer dripped from the dog’s fur, The Man carried him over to an empty, stationary van our friend has on the property. We isolated Jerico in the van (windows open!) where he could shake off the water to his heart’s content and dry out of the wind. When he was dry, we let him out.
The man promised to be more careful about where he hit the ball, but a couple of months later, he caused a similar–but worse–situation.
We’d spend the night at a truck stop and in the morning The Man took Jerico to the empty lot next door to play ball. The Man hit the ball down a small hill, and Jerico disappeared from view. He came back–ball in mouth–wet and coated in a slimy, greasy mud. The Man brought the pup back to the van and asked for my help in cleaning him up.
I fetched water in the dishpan we used as Jerico’s water bowl. The Man had to use soap this time to remove the nasty mud. Thank goodness for Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint! The Man soaped Jerico, then I slowly poured water to rinse his fur.
We couldn’t even be mad at Jerico as we cleaned him because The Man knew he would chase that ball into any situation. If a ball’s thrown or whacked or otherwise propelled through the air, Jerico is going to go after it. The humans have to be careful of where they send the ball, or they’re going to end up with a dirty dog.