Dirt-encrusted toy still makes my pup—and me, if you can believe it—smile

If you’ve been reading this blog for any stretch of time, you know that its star, my beloved German shepherd mix, Katniss, is ornery, to say the least.

One of the things she loves to do—aside from stealing our socks, wanting to play at 4 a.m. or flipping the covers off our bed—is try to sneak her orange rubber ball into the house from outside.

One of her original toys, Katniss’ ball has seen some rough days.

Said ball—one of the first toys we ever got her—has gone from a shiny tangerine color to looking more like a crusty meteorite that Katniss dug up in the back yard. It’s dirty, smelly and definitely doesn’t belong in the house. Kind of like me once I finish doing yard work.

Katniss and her ball, in their younger days, warm up in the sun.

That ball has been outside for about a year now, enduring the occasional rain, seemingly eternal brutal Texas sun and whatever abuse Katniss has dished out. How it’s even in one piece is surprising to me—it looks like how I feel most days.

Yet despite its rough condition I am hesitant to throw the ball in the trash and buy her a new one.

For one, Katniss loves to run around with that ball in her mouth, and we play fetch with it occasionally, too. It still serves a worthy purpose, so why discard it just because it’s dirty?

The original name tag that Katniss had on her collar was rather unglamorous.
The original name tag Katniss had on her collar wasn’t exactly glamorous.

Also, I am really hesitant to throw away anything of Katniss’—aside from endless bags of dog poop and clumps of fur, of course—because I’m afraid I would be throwing away irreplaceable pieces of her. I hope that’s not how hoarding begins.

I still have her original name tag that the animal shelter affixed to her little pink collar—which I also still have—not to mention the second collar we bought her and an expired registration tag. I may even have a baby tooth of hers around here somewhere, which even I’ll admit is a little creepy. OK, a lot creepy. These small items don’t take up much space, but they just sit in a drawer and serve no purpose. Yet I can’t bear to get rid of them. They’re priceless.

The ball, however, unlike the old collars, is still a useful item despite its wear and tear. I wonder if Katniss has the ability to recognize that it is the same ball she has had most of her life? I suppose we’ll hang onto it until it finally breaks—and maybe even beyond that, if that’s what it seems like she wants. That crackling, dusty ball seems to make Katniss happy.

I swear I can actually see her smile when she trots around with it. I think she knows we’re watching her from the windows and laughing sometimes, so she’s putting on a show for us.

Anyway, it’s time to play fetch.

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