I wished I loved anything in the world as much as my current foster dog loves this one janky, busted-ass tennis ball.
Mocha has a plethora of toys at his disposal, including several he’s gutted in a spree of delightful destruction that have since been retired to the trash can. But I can’t trash this ball, because for some reason, in spite of its having lost nearly every trait that makes a tennis ball entertaining, it’s still his absolute favorite toy in the world.
At first, its appeal made sense: Mocha wants to play, Mocha gets the tennis ball and brings it to us, we throw the tennis ball into the hall, he retrieves it and the whole thing starts over again. Sometimes we throw it in one direction and it bounces into the bedroom. Sometimes we throw it in another and it caroms into the kitchen. Thrown at full speed, it can lead a dog that’s chasing it across pretty much the entire length of our tiny little house. Whether I’m working or watching TV with the husband, this game is something we can play with Mocha ad nauseam, which is merciful because Mocha has some serious bursts of energy and our two senior dogs are not down with being his roughhousing buddy.
But the tennis ball is no longer what it once was.
In addition to its service as exercise tool, it’s also played the role of chew toy when we’re not available for fetch games, and as such it’s been slowly and methodically stripped of all of its fuzz in several mysterious grooming sessions. A few especially emphatic chomps split the ball straight down the middle about a week ago, so it now hangs open by one last, tenuous seam like a clam that’s been stepped on. When we throw it now — which Mocha still insists we do — the ball no longer bounces and caroms delightfully down the hall and into various rooms at a speed that invites happy chasing. It just kind of thunk-womp-womp-wobbles to a spot a few feet away and then lies there like a slug.
Mocha still dutifully runs after it, as much as he can in the few feet it’s rolled, then turns tail and brings it back to us so we can toss it again. When he gets tired, he lies down and continues to meticulously destroy it just a teensy bit more.
I totally don’t get it, but I don’t really need to. He gets it, and he clearly thinks it’s awesome, and that’s good enough for me. In this — as in so many things I won’t get into because I am a crazy dog lady and could talk about lessons our dogs teach us for forever — I believe there’s something we can learn from our four-legged friends.
In Defense of the Things That Make Us Happy Weirdos
Much like Mocha’s sorry-looking tennis ball, we all have things we love that other people are somewhat mystified by. But unlike Mocha’s unabashed enthusiasm for an object the rest of us see as questionable, we tend to keep our unusual loves a secret only we (and possibly a few close friends who already know what weirdos we really are) know about.
Whether it’s a love for an unconventional hobby, an un-hip band or a cheesy reality TV show, most of us try to keep our stranger passions to ourselves. If we indulge in them, we do it behind closed curtains and behind the facade of the more acceptable, cooler interests we present to the world at large.
But here’s the thing: everyone else in the world at large is secretly a weirdo, too. (Tweet!)
That super-poised colleague who intimidates you at work? She psyches herself up before big meetings by listening to Katy Perry’s “Roar” on her earbuds in a stall in the bathroom.
That hipster friend who sneers at anyone who has anything to do with mainstream culture? He has a secret collection of Walker, Texas Ranger DVDs — and he doesn’t watch them ironically.
That Crossfitting, Paleo-proselytizing sister of yours has had a secret addiction since she was a kid, one she still dips into when she’s had a particularly rough day: Cap’n-Crunch-and-Pixy-Stix sandwiches, smushed together just the way she saw Ally Sheedy do it on The Breakfast Club, where she first picked up the habit.
None of us is a 100% “normal” human being, because “normalcy” is a shadow term that means, at best, “what most people tend to do (as far as you can tell), which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good or bad, just that most people tend to do it (as far as you can tell).”
So screw your secret shame over your oddball hobbies, habits, loves and fandoms. Screw feeling embarrassed about the things you think only you “get.” Because as long as you “get” them, then they are awesome, and that is all that really matters.
What weird things make YOU secretly happy?
(I’ll get it started: I love juggling sock balls while folding the laundry, dancing like a fool to any form of old skool hip hop, and sniffing the tops of my dogs’ heads the way normal people sniff babies’ heads (which, let’s be honest, isn’t any more “normal” than sniffing a dog).)
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